Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Apr 11 2006

When sitting in a car is like rafting

Lately I've begun several blog posts and then abandoned them in mid-production. This sort of thing is a definite pattern for me and it extends well beyond the scope of my writing life. I can go to the washer with garments, put them into the machine and then continue on to another room and another whole task without ever starting the machine. It's most flattering to think of it as multi-tasking, but the truth is that everything I do reminds me of something else I need (or want) to do. I live in a type of word-association world, where the socks going into the washer remind me that I want to order some new clothes and so I go back to the computer where my writing project is waiting and I start looking online for clothes stores and then my stomach growls and I remember that I haven't done anything for our dinner and I get up and go see what's in the freezer and cupboard. Then the phone rings and it's about a musical project we're involved in and I start looking for a list of songs. I start the washer while I'm talking to the person on the phone. The dinner preparations are forgotten and we end up eating out. Again.

The good news is that the original writing project is still simmering somewhere beneath of all this "noise". It's likely that I'll come back to the original piece with some new insight or slant that prompts me to either whip it into shape or see that it was a feeble subject in the first place and put together a whole new thought with quick results.

The problem is not so much writer's block as it is writer's unblock—a need to allow the meandering to take me where I need to go without losing sight of where I needed to be in the first place. But the answer to both problems might be similar. One article at Writing World mentions using particular changes when writer's block hits. It suggests switching from typing to using a pen, or meeting with another writer to write together in a neutral location. I have to say that, even though it doesn't work for nonfiction, I have often found it easier to create new fiction when I get away from home base and out of anything that could remotely be called an office. One of my best ideas came to me while I was sitting in a car for several hours a day, almost 500 miles from home, when I accompanied my husband on a business trip. I think it may have been because I wasn't close to the kitchen sink or the washer and dryer or the home phone or my hundreds of files and notes and books. None of those things could influence my thoughts.

I know it doesn't sound very logical, because we're told but writing is something that successful writers learn to produce by writing several hours a day no matter how they feel about it. And we're told that we must always be in a mode to gather facts and gather mental observations and that every life experience is a part of our research. But sometimes all the people-watching and the research and the tasks of other jobs and running a household are not only distractions, but subtractions.

Sometimes the river of creativity rushes to its ultimate destination only when we can't sense the banks, the bridges or the dams. It's just tough to come to grips with that when we also have everyday obligations that won't go away just because we need frequent raft rides down that rushing river.

posted at: 11:49 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Compare the cinema with theatre. Both are dramatic arts. Theatre brings actors before a public and every night during the season they re-enact the same drama. Deep in the nature of theatre is a sense of ritual. The cinema, by contrast, transports its audience individually, singly, out of the theatre towards the unknown.
--John Berger
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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!