Friday, January 13, 2012

Trusting your writer self

I have a couple of shelves on books on writing. Some are well-worn, others untouched although they looked interesting when I was in the bookstore or they were recommended by another writer. This morning while I was journaling, I noticed the spine of Courage to Trust on my shelf, a self-help book a friend had mentioned recently and one that I've skimmed. Then I saw John Lee's Writing from the Body, one of the untouched books, and opened it to a section called "Afraid to Trust." Okay, too many coincidences, so I read the section.

It starts with this quote from Wendell Berry: "One puts down the first trust that life and language are abundant enough to complete it."

I've been struggling with the early-morning novel writing the last few days, eking out 100-150 words in my allotted hour instead of the 300-400 I'd been averaging. That in itself is okay. I don't have a quota to fill each day. But I feel deeply unsure all of a sudden about where the story is going. I'm not unsure about all that I've already written. It's a solid idea, and some good writing, but I'm stuck with where to go next and I've grown suddenly timid. I'm not afraid of wasting time. Any writing experience is a good one and part of the lifelong apprenticeship I've committed to. And I don't think I'm afraid of making a mistake--that's easy enough to correct.

I think rather that I've lost trust in my relationship with Frankie, my character, and in my relationship with my muse, whoever and however that shows up. That all the communication we had built up over the writing retreat has dissipated in the face of just a few minutes to write each day and then onto paid work and commitments and my other life. And there's no help for that now, not for the next month or so anyway.

So I'm committed to taking a deep breath and recognizing that I'm overcommitted and relaxing around that and solving it as a very solvable problem. And I can shift into trusting my writer self to wait and be there when the time opens up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shifting gears from the retreat

For 8 full days, I was on a writing retreat. Other than some kitchen chores and occasionally checking emails, I had all my time free to write and be with my characters. I wrote each morning first thing for a good hour in my room, watching the light come up through the alders in the marsh. Then I moved to the kitchen and did my morning pages journaling for another hour over tea and breakfast.

Most days I went back and reread what I had written in the early hour and then planned to do something else for a while but the story and the characters kept talking to me and so I'd write a good while longer. Then I'd check email in the other building but while I was doing that, I was really thinking about what to write next. The same thing happened when I took my 2-mile walk down the road in the late morning. I'd be letting my mind wander but it always came back to Frankie and Lola and what was going to happen to them next and I'd come back and write some more and the day would drift away like that.

I wrote a lot, 10,000 words, and now I'm back full tilt into my other life of paid work and the gym on a schedule and fixing all my own meals and running my own errands and fielding client questions and talking on the phone to family and friends and loving on my cats. It's a wonderful life I have, but not so conducive to hanging out all day with my characters.

So I've been feeling a bit frustrated since I came back. I'm getting up each morning and writing for the early hour but it's a shift from the retreat, knowing I can't just drop in when I feel like it. I may have to sort out something in addition.