Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Writer's High

I’m taking a break from writing about attraction today, mainly because I forgot to look up an article and because I just felt the need to write about writing.

I’m on Spring Break. While a younger me might have traveled (never to any place
Too fun, but friends’ houses in places like Ohio and Alabama, interesting nevertheless), this me is thrilled to be able to stay home and get caught up. And write. When I was in New Orleans, I lugged my laptop through airport security hell just so I could find snippets of time to write. After one such bout of merely revising the current WIP, I joined my colleagues/friends for dinner and was still on a writer’s high. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t help sharing what I was feeling with a friend who has never written a fictional word in her life.

The only way she could make sense of what I was saying was to compare what I was saying to other friends she’d known who were runners.

Yesterday, I decided to take the analogy further. Several people I know have talked about getting stuck in the writing process. One local friend said she hadn’t finished a project for almost two years. She just couldn’t get going.

So here are the ways runners and writers might be alike. If you haven’t jogged before, and you start, you’re going to be clumsy. You may forget to stretch. You may suffer from sore ligaments. More experienced runners may give you hints, if they’re kind, or they may laugh behind your back, if they’re unkind.

But here’s the rub, if you just put one front in the other, you’re going to get somewhere. If you read books about the sport, all the better. If you learn to stretch, it won’t hurt so much. If you just keep pushing, you’ll reach this place where it’s joyful.

I compare the joy to a mystical experience (one writer at a conference called it the woo-woo effect, I’m more traditional and call it a gift). You get stuck. That’s the problem. You try to solve it the way you’ve always done things and maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you’re in step one of the problem-solving process—preparation. If you get to the point where you just give up, that’s okay. That’s step two of the process-incubation. In this step, you need to let it go. You need to relax. Do something that totally takes your mind off the problem. Focus entirely on what you are doing, and don’t think of your writing.

You know what happens when you tell your brain not to do something? It can’t help rebelling. The brain is the ultimate adolescent.

This moment of insight is analogous to a mystical experience. Afterwards, you feel this thrill of wonder. Everything is fresh and new. You change, or at least your manuscript does….

The last step in the problem-solving process is verification. You need to double-check and make sure it works.

I still feel awkward writing about the process without having been published. But I know I feel content and thrilled. It could also be the beautiful spring weather.


Anonymous said...

I'm too lazy to run (and write, a lot of the time) so I ride my bike. You fight your way laboriously up the hills, reach the top and coast down and pick up speed going into the final stretch. At the end of the ride your legs are cramped and your butt hurts. Yep, sounds a lot like writing to me.


Evonne Wareham said...

Anything you want to do well hurts!

Lexie O'Neill said...

I know what you mean--I haven't even been able to bike for months--hurt my hips! I love the hills analogy--that's exactly like writing!

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks for commenting--and I agree!

Savanna Kougar said...

Excellent insights, Lexie. I used to be able to walk long distances. And it was great for my creative process.
There certainly is a high to writing at times. Especially when I finish, and am happy with the story. Or at certain points in the story where a scene takes on a life of its own, beyond how I'd thought of it. That happened yesterday when I had no clue what would happen next.

Pat, yep... it's the same, only different.

Reid said...

Lexie, thanks for you insight. I think the jogging analogy is great. I've found that if I fall out of practice with anything, whether it's riding a bike and the associated muscle memory or writing and the clarity from mind to page, it might be hard to start back up, but with practice, it gets easier and becomes more rewarding.