It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance. It’s been a busy fall, and what little time I have for writing has been focused on getting the book out, promoting the book, doing events with the book. There hasn’t been a lot of time to just sit down with a pen and a notebook and dream.
That’s why I was so heartened to read this lovely essay by author Elisa Gabbert, Am I Still a Real Writing If I Don’t Feel Compelled To Write?.
You should really pop over there and read the whole thing, because it’s sensible and reassuring and also has some really elegant language (I’m a sucker for great words!). But if you don’t want to, I’ll just sum up by saying that Elisa says that being a writer is about more than putting words on page. She asserts that the “write daily” rule that many authors swear by just doesn’t work for a lot of people, but that isn’t any reason to feel like a failure.
Instead, she suggests that there’s lots of things you can do to promote your craft without actually writing anything down: you can read, you can get out in the world have have new experiences, and you can just take some time to think. I just love these ideas – they are all things I love to do, all things I do believe are part of The Writing Life, and all things that I can always seem to make time for, even when the muse hasn’t been around in a while.
It’s the last one that I think is the most important. My writing fellows – Jen and Lee Ann – convinced me long ago that “simmering time” is just as important as the actual act of writing. If you have a story on the go, it’s in there, and some part of your brain is working away at it, even if it is unconsciously. One day, it’ll break free and burst forward like a firework and you’ll run to your computer and write and write and write. Until then, the embers are glowing, the fuse is lit, and it’s happening. You just have to trust it.
It is quite reassuring in today’s busy times that writers are still writers even when they’re not actively churning out word count. But eventually, you do have to actually put pen to paper, and I’m hoping to get around to that real soon.
In the meantime – ideas are simmering.
Lee Ann says
Love this advice, Lynn! Recently I’ve read similar advice from poet Mary Oliver: “Neither is it possible to control, or regulate, the machinery of creativity… one must be ready at all hours, and always, that the ideas in their shimmering forms, in spite of all our conscious discipline, will come when they will… ” And this, from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence… and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life…”
I am always surprised, but thrilled, at how much seems ready to flow onto the page, once I’ve taken some time to live, to read and to ‘percolate.’ It feels like magic!
Lots of advice here. I booked-marked all to read when I have time. And it’s so true…how impractical is it to write every day? Unless you include lists and forms you sign for school or homework help or an email or or or…
My book is on hold. I have thought about it daily and sometimes even make notes, but I’m not writing it in the physical way I should. But I will again. I know it will come back. This post helps to justify that hey, sometimes people have other stuff to do and the writing has to wait. 🙂
And also that, even though you’re “not writing,” you ARE writing – things are percolating and progressing, even if it is in the background. I know you’ll get back to your book when inspiration strikes – and it’s coming, sooner or later!