Saturday, April 23, 2011


My creative writing students recently asked me about my work process.  I was flattered. It made me feel like an authority.  The funny thing is, although they seemed to be interested in what I said, I can't REMEMBER what I said.

The truth is, that process (whatever the heck it was) has been driving me crazy. I'm really good at sitting down, getting a bead on my work goals for the day, zapping the target dead center.  I'm dogged about revising. I'm obsessive about sending work out to magazines. But I was so focused on the frustrations of trying to get published, trying to accumulate readers, trying to finish the blinkin' endless novel, that I was turning into some post-modern incarnation of a WWII fighter pilot, who'd mark the plane with a red slash of paint every time he made a kill. (In my case, an acceptance. And for all my relentless diligence, there weren't many slashes.)

It's beginning to dawn on me that the writing-as-air-warfare model has nothing to do with why I started writing in the first place.  Being raised Quaker oughta kinda shoulda told me that my true inspiration might not be Mars, the God of War...?

Funny how we miss the obvious
Can it be that one sign that you're on the right track is: Are you enjoying the work?  No, I'm not talking about rejection letters, the financial uncertainty, the insecurity of wondering if the last revision was really an improvement.  You'd have to be crazy to enjoy these.  But the act of writing--or cooking, or whatever you do that you once found joy in doing.  Do you lose yourself in it, or does the work make your jaw tighten, your mind obsess?

I'm going to start small in my exploration of how creative work can be nurturing, not straining.  I'll begin with my body. As I work, I'll spend some time in silence, looking not into the screen of magic and disillusion, but out the window. Just look...notice how vibrant the grass is with all this rain. I won't push for a result.  My eye rests on something that causes relaxation to settle in my back and shoulders--at this moment, the motion of birds, the fast, gentle rain as it causes horizontal surfaces to dance with motion.  Words will come to me; they always do.

I'm waiting for the arrival of a new muse, a female one. A Quaker one?! :)

What about you? Can you take a moment away to refresh your body and mind?  If you don't have a room with a view, are there pictures you can rest with in a meditative way?  Does certain music reach below the tension?  If concentration is an issue, start small.  Don't pressure yourself.  Take a few seconds here and there.  Just look, just listen, just close your eyes and feel the air on your skin. See what happens.

No comments: