I can’t get over the blank page. I want everything I write to be great. I need to give myself permission to create just to create and not put a label on it yet. This novel I’m writing for NANOWRIMO is harder than I thought it would be. My first novella was written in verse and just flowed through me. This novel I’m finding is slow and hard to write. I write scene after scene having no idea where this whole process is going. Dani Shapiro says to just write and eventually the flow will lead to a structure of the piece.
I went to a gentle yoga class today after months of not practicing it. I thought I would never be able to catch up with the flow and do the poses but I surprised myself. I learned that if you breathe and slowly do the pose almost any body type can do it. Yoga is about finding flow and appreciating the moment as you find it. Slowly conforming one’s body into the pose and following your breath helps you enjoy yoga more. Like yoga, I practice writing slowly. I used to be a deadline-centered journalist. But when writing fiction and poetry, I slow down and focus on themes, language, characters, and pathos in the story. I first learned to edit while writing poetry. Good poetry takes multiple drafts to find the right words, to make meaning out of language. Now, when I write copy for a client or a feature story, I pull myself back and think about what fiction and poetry has taught me. I’m still learning to find flow in my writing practice, revising it with each writing project. I suppose we’re all just beginners.
If you have a creative practice, tell me about it in the comments.
It was not easy at first. I skipped two days of word count. I had promised myself 1000 words a day for the next thirty. Now, I was faced with 3,000 words on the third day to catch up. The novel I was writing was the story of a father and daughter as they deal with the daughter’s bipolar illness. I knew this story yet somehow could only find the words to write the first paragraph. The words wouldn’t come…they just wouldn’t come. I felt pressured. As I sat at my laptop with a word processing page open, I found myself playing “inspirational” music on my iPhone instead of writing. I glanced at pages of my favorite books. I read a few pages of my library book, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of all Things. I called myself back to the process by putting in some Debussy into the CD player in my office. Words and images danced in my mind of my novel. I told myself that I don’t have to write the novel in order. I could start with a scene or a dramatic scene or just a scene. I could cut and paste later. Telling this to myself, a perfectionist, was like telling a child not to eat dessert first. Still, nothing concrete comes. Am I putting too much pressure on myself? Should I wait for the story to gel in my mind awhile more and when the moment is right I’ll just know it and begin? My mentor Dani Shapiro would tell me to just write. Write it bad, just get it out, you can always revise later. After all, revision brings you closer to the work. A journalism professor of mine once told me one had to write all the bad words out before the good stuff came forth. I’ll take that as true. So, I made a quick and simple outline and I began…to write.