Moods, creativity, energy, the tides. What do all of these have in common? Cycles. Up cycles. Down cycles. Ebbing and flowing. Becca wrote last week about resurrecting her writing. I’ve had that same feeling of panic as I grab my book mentors off the shelf hoping to infuse me with some inspiration. They usually include: Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Heather Sellers, Ron Carlson. I’ll also take books filled with prompts to the bookstore and write, write, write. Along with this panic there is also a dose of guilt. A thin layer of shame at wasting my time, my talent. These days I try to take a more holistic view. Every part of my life is part of a cycle. I couldn’t possibly write eight hours a day every single day. First of all, my cut-off is usually five hours and that’s if I’m on a deadline. My usual attention span is two to three hours.
When I let my writing go it is usually under the guise of housework, errands, etc.. But that is a choice I am making. Those dishes could wait. Everything can wait. When I realize I am avoiding my work I try to figure out why. It is almost always because I am lost. I don’t know what comes next whether it’s the next sentence, scene, chapter, or project. Having that downtime lets things mull in the back in of my mind. The thing is, there is a fine line between percolating and procrastination.
When I hear resurrection I think that the thing has died and I have to bring it back to life. I never let my writing die. Even if I’m not actively writing, I am thinking about it. There is always some tenuous thread keeping me connected to my work. For me it’s more like resuscitation. My project or chapter or page or sentence needs some CPR. But bringing some thing back is always harder than just maintaining it in the first place. I read somewhere how it’s easier to keep a rocket orbiting in space rather than launching it out there over and over again. Same with writing. Writing a little bit on a regular basis is much easier than starting from square one again and again.
So creative lulls are a natural part of the process. But the trick is not to let the lulls lull you into thinking that thinking about writing is as effective as actually writing. I love this quote from Heather Seller’s blog:
“You must always keep changing your process!” Maria Irene Fornes says. “Because there are two of you, one who wants to write and one who doesn’t. The one who wants to write has to keep fooling the one who doesn’t!”