It may look like I’m staring into space…

because I am.
Most of my work right now is taking place in my head and so I look like I’m not being productive. Actually I’m not being productive if you take that word apart and try to find what I’m producing. Not many words, some vague ideas, some inklings and notions.

What I’m getting at is that I need this…this unproductivity, this lack of externally verifiable semblance of work. But I have to be careful to differentiate between moodling and flaking, active waiting and complete avoidance.

Every day it’s a challenge, to be honest. And it’s easy to be distracted (hello internet, how’s your day?) and easy to take the first thought-train that comes while I’m standing at the station, before sunrise and in the wind, waiting for a very specific, very variable and periodic locomotive with no predetermined schedule. Fickle, anyone? The driver of my locomotive, who has trained his whole life for the job might be justifiably let down when I’m off gallivanting with the driver of the train called “Weird Things People Make With Bread Dough” or the one headed toward, “Gee I Think I Need Another Gingerbread Cookie.” He pulls into station after station and only gets a glimpse of my retreating back.

I worked on GOTS through the first two or three weeks of NaNo and then realized I needed to sit with the story some more. Only I didn’t know it in exactly that term – I just felt stalled, like there was obviously something that needed to happen, but I didn’t know how to get there. I hadn’t done the level of planning needed for the mid section of the story and so had no idea where to go with it.

Attempts to just sit down and get it planned didn’t work either, for the most part. But rather than sitting down to focused planning time, I sat down and then did other things when brilliant ideas weren’t immediately forthcoming. And very few of those other things were productive, or if they were, they were productive of things other than my story.

I’ve stalled before, had creatively dry phases and times unpopulated by ideas or the drive to fulfill them. I used to worry when things went quiet, afraid there was nothing left, that the few things I’ve written, the scattering of handicrafts and small collection of drawings were all there really was, that there might really be nothing more I was capable of. Actually, I still do worry, only I think I’m getting better at my practice of letting the process go where it needs.

This week and next the kids are home from school and that does make it difficult for me to work.  I wish it weren’t so but I need space and some degree of undistractedness to write the way I want.  Perhaps a lot of my inconsistency comes from not being able to give myself the kind of situation I need in which to write – I have to really struggle to find it.  The dangerous result is that I pick up the message, quite clearly, that if real life isn’t aligning in my favor and if I’m not writing what I want, then it obviously means I am incapable of writing what I want and I don’t have any support in the matter.  In fact those are such distinctly different things, a logical fallacy that incorrectly links cause and effect, and I’m working on separating them, merely for my own mental health.

Just before the kids got out for Christmas break I stopped at the university library to see if it might work as a “studio,” and it looks like it might be a good option.  So, after the new year, I’ll be giving myself the courtesy of a schedule and a workspace so I can get back to my poor dangling story.

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Posted on December 30, 2011, in Writing Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Good luck with all your writing endeavors for 2012!

  2. I like the idea of active waiting. I find that to be so very true, because sometimes when I am away from the story it does grow without much attention on my part–a bit like leaving bread dough to rise on a warm windowsill. Eventually, though, of course one must come back to it to make it into bread. 🙂
    Have you ever tried writing morning words? I find those are a great place to get some ideas down with words in the absence of much structured writing time.

    • It’s such a challenge to find that balance though – sometimes I find my yeast expended itself, the story ran on autopilot-loop in my mind and I fear its life is over and other times it’s still sitting there, too cold to move.

      I’ve been sporadic about morning writing. Sometimes it’s been good to me, sometimes mornings are only full of school day preparations. It seems conducive to journal-style writing, not so much for story-making.

      Honestly, I think it all just points to how unstructured I am. I suppose I could consider that room for improvement.

  3. Phew! You mean I’m not the only one who dries up? Gets distracted? Berates herself for not being productive? And sometimes has the wisdom to trust the process? 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your process.

  4. Why is this so common? We all feel compelled to do this work and yet sometimes if I get moving it’s only by being dragged, kicking and screaming. Then of course I dream about how the ideal world should be catering to the creative process and “ah, if only…” which doesn’t get the writing going either. Just makes me feel bad about not living an ideal. Oh bother, the human mind is ridiculous fool!

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