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Monday, August 10, 2009

Writing After Vacations (or Other Distractions)

From a Writer’s Digest cartoon:
First writer at cocktail party. "I’m working on my new novel."
Second writer: "Neither am I."
One of the hardest things a writer has to do is resume writing after a break, due to vacation, illness, or even something as seemingly connected to the creative process as hold a workshop at a writing conference. This year all three things happened to me at separate times, and, oh, the woe, before I could get into gear again.

What happens, I think, is that when we’re off doing something else, the usual "thought tracks" in the creative part of our minds change course. Or erode. Or something like that. Instead of thinking about what our characters are going to do next, we’re thinking about whether we’ll make our flight on time, if the nurse will arrive with the pain medication before we start hurting again, or perfecting the talk/workshop we’re giving next morning at the conference. So much real stuff is going down that our fictional "lives" fade into the background.

Then the day comes when we arrive home to face an empty computer screen. I don’t know about you, but for me, starting writing again after a few days’ or weeks’ intermission is even harder than starting from page one. My usual writing schedule (4 a.m. to noon, seven days a week) is off track, and I feel twitchy, not creative. Instead of pouncing gleefully on the keyboard every morning, I have to drag myself there.

But we drag ourselves there anyway, don’t we? That’s because writers write. Fortunately, after a few miserable days, the old schedule and the old joy finally kick in. We find ourselves recovered from our malaise, and not even the very real charms of the Sonoran Desert in full bloom or the purple heather of the Scottish Highlands can lure us away from the fictional exploits of our own heroes and villains.

That’s probably because every writer -- deep down -- is as nutty as a fruitcake. We not only build castles in the air, we move in to the damn things!
"Perseverance is not a long race; it’s many short races, one after another." from Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers, by Susan Shaughnessy

"They can’t yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him." Ernest Hemingway

"The most effective way to do it is to just do it." Anonymous


Patricia Stoltey said...

This is so true. I find that even a day off to go grocery-shopping and run errands stops the momentum, so longer breaks are a real problem.

But 4 a.m.? Really? I'm still a zombie at that time of the morning.

Betty Webb said...

Believe it or not, zombies can write!

Janette Rallison said...

Love the quote about castles in the air. So true. We also invent neighbors.

I'm glad to hear that you're getting back into a writing schedule!

L.J. Sellers said...

I really relate to that right about now. I'm just coming off a huge freelance project that kept me from working on my novel for a month. Now it's time to get back to it, and I feel lost. But after a few painful days, it will start to flow again.
Thanks for sharing.

Mary E. Trimble said...

I agree, Betty. Your daily writing schedule is impressive. I respond to American Red Cross disasters and sometimes I'm gone for as long as 3 weeks. It takes me awhile to get back into writing, that's for sure.