Or, what weight-training taught me about writing
You were on fire that weekend! And I think yes, this is definitely inspiring for generating new material. I wonder how long I could sit in the chair undisturbed for revision though. I’m finding that a much slower princess than I’d expected as I ruminate and digest structure, plot points, and depth of character.
Loved this! It makes me feel better that you had a quiet period before your recent burst. I'd assumed you just always generate mountains of pages. Instead, even you have a cycle for your creativity. But as you point out, the creativity is always working, even when it's not visible -- and then the writing comes in its own time. By the same token, it's not good to lift weights every day, right? You need to stretch and rest, to give the muscles time to rebuild. Then you go back and try again, and maybe try to do a little more each time.
I injured a nerve last summer, without knowing how. At the time, it seemed catastrophic. Suddenly I had trouble walking, and discovered new sympathy for people who take forever to get across the street. A doctor diagnosed the injury as potentially to the sciatic nerve. She recommended Motrin, physical therapy and deep stretching, perhaps yoga. At first, I actually had to rest because I could barely walk. It turns out most of us need to be walking around, up and downstairs, on all kinds of surfaces, in any normal day, more than we ever realize. Suddenly, I couldn't do any of it.
Finally, I dragged myself to a yoga class to groan through a series of horrendous"pigeon" poses using blocks, becoming a magnet for pity among the flexible. But they always tell you, "you do you" (e.g. no matter how stiff or awkward you are) and after a couple of sessions I was surprised to find myself feeling better. Miraculously, I also could walk better. I'm almost normal now, and can run again -- or jog, anyway. I still find the pigeon excruciating on my "bad" side, but (unbelievably compared to December) I am now able to do it, and getting better and better at it. There is hope and this is definitely progress.
Added bonus: the yoga teacher says all sorts of noble spiritual things, for example telling us that when we feel road rage about a person driving too slowly in front of us, or making the wrong turn, we need to tell ourselves, "that person in front of me is my greatest teacher, teaching me patience." I think the frustration one feels when working on finishing a piece of writing, when moving slowly or not at all, may be in the same category:it's another "great teacher." I'm hoping so, anyway.
Meanwhile, congrats on your incredible breakthrough and all that progress -- you certainly earned it!
Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly my process! This is why I switched to time. You're not only writing like an army reserve, it's all writing. A while back I wrote a post about having a huge breakthrough that took forty days and forty minutes. It's all writing--thinking, researching, banging your head against the wall, planning, drafting, revising. The reason I stepped away from a daily word or page goal is precisely because some days what I needed to do was think and freewriting and explore.
After several days circling a pivotal chapter (there was a lot of what if freewiring) I suddenly switched from what iffing to drafting the actual chapter. Same pen. Same notebook. But after figuring a sticky widget about why and how the final beat happened, my drafting self was busting for the starting gun and just started running.
I was told for years I was wasting time and procrastinating by doing this and I wasted a lot of time trying to be the good little words on a page daily dooby (doobie? doobee?) before I was like, fuck that, my way works, and it's no more procrastination than slowly mixing in dry ingredients into a recipe is.
Mind if I cross post?
Another wonderful piece, Henriette. We all crave the flow state, I think, and are disappointed and dejected when it doesn't come. The incubation state sometimes makes us feel like we're not writing and instead finding excuses, but it's so essential to writing. And the undervalued aspect of writing is what happens in the unconscious--those times where we literally sleep on it and brilliance (or at least non-dreck) flows forth. I think all 3 are such an important part of the writing process.
Flow is THE BEST feeling! And incubation is a huge part of the creative process! I wrote about it ages ago on the Grub blog...and thinking I should bust it out again on my own, b/c it's still so relevant. https://grubstreet.org/blog/the-importance-of-creative-incubation-in-the-writing-process/
Yes! This is so à propos for me this morning. Sometimes the measly 200-300 words I eke out in an hour full of struggle are, well, crappy. And this morning I managed 800 words in an hour of flow state. A conversation between two characters that just poured out of me. And I like it! I'm not even tempted to tinker. Whereas those earlier 200 words, ugh. I think they're just going to go. The "flow" state has been elusive for me for my first two books in part, I think, because they are historical fiction, and the flow keeps getting interrupted by questions like: what kind of bird would be flying overhead on its migratory path from the Himalayas in that month? What would the correct expression be for a person of that social class at that time? Ugh! Historical fiction is wonderful for giving me a skeleton on which to hang my story and saving me from the completely blank page. But when things do work with that blank page, it's super satisfying. I made myself stop mid-conversation so that tomorrow I can dive back in and start my writing time with something I know I can do.