Quick update from yesterday: I sorted my cards into piles, then typed out the story as far as I could (in very broad strokes) then talked the rest of it out on a walk. I realised I was lacking a rise in stakes for the final act, so I started brainstorming, and came up with a cool new development for the whole story. This is how a book evolves, my friends.
Today, I didn’t brainstorm (don’t know why; you’ll need to ask my gut). Instead I opened Scrivener and started writing Chapter One. I had fun. Lots of fun, actually. Well, not WOO HOO PARTY! fun, but just a quiet, solid enjoyment. It felt good. Really good. I’ll keep writing until I get stuck, and then I’ll go back to brainstorming.
Now, some writers can write their way through sticky patches. Their Muses fire up during the process of drafting. But mine doesn’t work that way, and I’m slowly coming to accept it. If I don’t know where I’m going and I keep writing, all I do is drain myself and make myself miserable. It’s not laziness, I promise. I know the difference. For whatever reason, my brain needs peace, downtime, and some scribbles in a notebook or rambles in a dictaphone to sort itself out and move forward once more.
Which brings me to the tired metaphor of writing books as birthing children. A woman can be young, fit and healthy, and do everything right during pregnancy, and still have a difficult birth. No matter how hard she pushes, no matter how much pain she can endure, the baby will not come out. It’s not her fault, or the baby’s. It’s just the unpredictable complexity of Life.
We can readily accept the role of chance in a physical process like giving birth, but it’s more difficult to accept it with regards to a mental process like creativity. Because we can manipulate some of our thoughts, we believe we’re in charge of our brain. Ha! That is a ridiculous notion. We’re in charge of some bits, but mostly, we’re just clinging on for dear life.
Back to writing. Sometimes we can set ourselves up for greatness. We can read widely, study grammar, free-write each morning upon waking, maintain proper posture, block out distractions, and we can write and write and write, even when it’s hard and painful, and still, despite all of this, the story won’t come. It’s not our fault, or the story’s. It’s just Life.
So if you’re like me, and your Muse doesn’t respond to ‘just push through it’, then that’s okay. You’re not lazy. You’re not weak. You’re not wrong. Take a step back. Seek help. Tend to that story and give it what it needs. More importantly, tend to yourself, because you can’t look after your story properly if you neglect your own needs.
And so ends my take on this tired metaphor. I’m gonna get back to writing 🙂