How We Write: When we’re not…

I’ve been frozen. My fingers have been still. But my mind has been racing. I’m a writer who’s been in one of those fugue states between projects that is full of thinking and planning and anxiously wondering, but not full of words. They’re not coming. They’re not my friends right now. They want to be now, but I’m mute. They’re jealous and needy and greedy and bitchy, and I’m not sleeping, the way I don’t when I’m on deadline. I can’t write. Not yet. But I will. Soon. Why can’t the words understand that?

i can and i will watch me

I stress about and regress into and resist these times between most every major project. I should be catching up on business and planning. I should be enjoying the peace and freedom of a deadline well met. But I’m angtsty instead. Writing is my natural state. I feel at loose ends and a little like I’m lazy when I’m not.  But I’ve delivered three books in a row in the last nine months, and my mind needs a break–whether it wants one or not.

People are waiting for me to get up-to-date on emails and commitments and plans for the rest of 2013. Friends are wanting to catch up, and so do I! But I’m still wanting to hide a bit. Okay, a lot. The pressure hasn’t let up, and I’m not sure it will until the next story is flowing. It’s not natural for me–this down time. But it IS part of my writing, and it’s time I accept that.

I need to conquer this state of letting go that renews and gives me direction and fills me with the hope (often unreasonable hope) that the next book will be magic, just as the last one was (you know, once I’d revised it like 100 times, because I was dreading working on it not to long ago, the same way I’m dreading the new words).

Let go of things

We need to trust the not writing parts of our creative process, the same as we do the writing ones. We need to see that we can’t always be ON, and that trying to force ourselves to be will defeat us in the end. Yes, I’m high-functioning and Type-A and all the other freakish cliches that really just mean I can do a dozen things at once and juggle a lot of interests and fly with the big birds (no, not the yellow Big Bird, but the bird/flying equivalent of running with the big dogs, because for some reason writers are more birds to me).

I want to be everything at once. All the words want out at once. Each story I’m planning to write is always more interesting than the one I HAVE to write next. And juggle that kind of dissonance and intellectual conflict can drive a not writing girl batshit crazy, once a deadline’s met and she pulls it together enough to look around and start to realize what’s been going on and piling up while she and the words have been in solitary together.

The reality of writing is that sometimes there is no writing. There has to be no writing. There’s so much else to this business–business stuff that I leave to others to go on and on about, because the internal stuff of being a writing is what comes to mind when I think about sharing my journey, not the hot-to-be-a-financial-success stuff that is all the rage on other blogs.

But the most difficult else for me and a lot of writers I meet is the quiet, emotional growing that we must give its due if we’re to weather the chaos of a long-term publishing career. We keep writing new stories, over and over again, by giving ourselves permission NOT to write from time-to-time, and by making as much of that flying time as we do the writing time.

So, I’ve been absent a lot the last few weeks, just as I have been the last few months. Because I’m not writing. I’ve been a void I needed to become, so I could face the craziness waiting for me when I come back. I’ve been alone in a very selfish way, so I can be open to inviting everyone and every character and every story I need to back into my mind and move on.

sometimes you need to be selfish

I’ve been mulling over several projects that have nothing to do with writing, plans for travel to teach for the rest of the year, a four-book proposal I’m about to pitch, and detailed plans for Mimosa Lane Book 3 (which readers are going to LOVE). All while some pretty cool things have been happening, while I’ve been eyeing them suspiciously from my quiet corner, resenting almost how they’re calling me back to reality–even if it’s simply to celebrate my good fortune.

These last few week, I’ve met with friends, even visited my mother, attended writing meetings, taught, reconnected with family, and cheered friends in their lives. But I haven’t written. I haven’t been as present as I could have been in my own career. I haven’t even cheered for the new good stuff that’s been coming. I needed to be quiet. I needed to be selfish. I needed to be alone in my mind and know that I could be. Just for a little while.

Which is a round about way to saying something very simple, if you’re following HoWW for a bit of guidance through your own publishing journey. How do we write when we’re finished with one project and staring down a dozen more and feeling overwhelmed? We don’t. Sometimes, no matter how much expectation is pressing down on us, we need to not create for a while, so that when we’re ready we can hit the next project out of the park.

The latter part of this last week and today, I’m beginning to feel myself again. I’m beginning to do again. I’m beginning to create and feel the words and see them come to life again. I’ve made it through the silence and am reconnecting with my voice. None of which was possible in early February.

Selfish time well spent, that’s my secret. That’s my latest advice. Not what you expected, no doubt. But it will help you fly, if you use your silent time wisely and surrender to your pockets of selfishness. You can. And you will. And you’ll know when you do that it’s just as important as the writing.

And when you do, I’ll be watching from the sidelines, likely on my next deadline, cheering you on!

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4 Responses to “How We Write: When we’re not…”

  1. Good advice well taken. Thanks for sharing that!

  2. Chicki Brown says:

    Wonderful post, Anna, and something to which I need to pay more attention. When I’m not “on” I feel useless, and I see that I shouldn’t. :D

  3. Emily Sewell says:

    Great reminder that we can’t always be on task and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Well said, as always, Anna. The embers still burn and will soon become a blaze.

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