Monday, May 12, 2008

Staying the Course

It's been a challenging day in the study: I won't say difficult, because that would imply things didn't go well, and ultimately they did. But getting there wasn't as easy as it might have been.

It's been a few days since I wrote: I had that big birthday weekend, and a heavy week leading up to it, and the rhythm I like to maintain in the study just wasn't there. That tends to spell trouble for me in the getting-started-on-the-page department, and even though I knew what I was going to write today, that's exactly what happened. For a couple hours things just didn't flow; I felt as if what I was writing was stilted and boring (and as you know, Bob, if *you* are bored with what you're writing, your audience has already turned on the TV); the phone kept ringing, with calls I had to take. During my less confident days as a writer, I would probably have concluded I was (ack!) blocked, let myself off the hook, and hoped tomorrow was better and the block was just a passing thing rather than the descent of True Creative Paralysis.

But I knew that the paragraph I was writing was there to set up data I needed in play, and that all I had to do was keep it short and move on; and I knew that, if I would just stick with it, I would become unstuck, and the words would start flowing. Because, if you are patient with yourself and you're honoring your characters, they will. So I stayed the course: accepted that I would be getting to my afternoon deliverables later than I'd hoped, but required myself to hang in there.

Now, I didn't chain myself to the desk: I wandered off and made myself some lunch, and shuffled laundry into the washer, the dryer, the piles of folded clothes; I sat down in the kitchen and read a book while I ate , and took my time with it. But then I went back to the study, and just slogged through another couple of paragraphs--and then Lesle walked through the door of the room where the action I'd planned was going to happen, and she and Edward started talking about things that needed to be discussed, and I forgot about feeling stiff. The muse just did his thing, and when next I looked up, the chapter was complete.

Those of you who follow the play-by-play around here may remember that just last week I was speaking out against the prevalent belief that one must produce at a consistent rate; this may seem as if I'm contradicting myself. I don't think so: what I'm saying is not that we must produce n pages per week or per day (although goals are useful)--but that we must be both patient and brave during those moments when we walk into our writing places with ideas we want to pursue, and it doesn't go easily. What's easy in those moments is to declare ourselves blocked, broken or inadequate as artists. What we need to do is be patient with ourselves.

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