Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, October 28, 2011

Finding a Rhythm

Sometimes your rhythms are off.


Sometimes when your normal rhythms falter, you look around for new ones, and you find something works in a way you weren't expecting.


I woke up this morning and was not feeling it. Went to bed late. Woke up late. Drank green smoothie. Drove kids to school. Didn't exercise. Sat on couch with computer instead. Decided to try out Stephen King's writing schedule and ended up writing from eight to ten, ate a snack, wrote some more. Took a nap, wrote some more. I don't think nap was part of Stephen King's schedule. Felt good about the writing. Felt kind of gross about everything else.


Stephen King writes until noon, then goes for a walk. So at 12:30 I went for a run with the dog. Dog was sluggish. I was sluggish. Couldn't fall into a rhythm. Dumped the route and went to the park where I took off my shoes and ran barefoot with dog. Andre was tired after one lap. I squished around in the grass and finally found my beat. Kept my shoes off and ran home barefoot. What the heck? It didn't hurt. Last time my feet felt thrashed. One lady almost drove into a telephone pole while staring at me running barefoot on the road carrying my shoes. One bored-looking young guy stopped looking bored and cracked a huge smile. Is running barefoot really that weird?


I've been trying to find a new writerly rhythm. What I liked about Stephen King's: I got to use that just-awake time when my subconscious is close to the surface and my inner editor is far away. I also wasn't tired from exercise.


What I didn't like: I wasn't energized from exercise when I wrote. And the dog was mad at me.


But it worked for today.


I've tried working in my bed, at my upstairs desk, at my downstairs desk, on the couch, at the kitchen table, at the library, at the bookstore. At 2:00 am. At 10:00 am. First thing in the morning until late into the night, only stopping for food and bathroom breaks.


I heard Marilynne Robinson read from her beautiful Gilead and then answer questions last Friday at BYU. I love her writing, so I was interested when someone asked her about her revision process and she said she doesn't revise. She has to get each word right before she can move on to the next. 


Gary Schmidt
Gary Schmidt (Okay for Now), whose writing I also admire, writes on a 1950s typewriter to make himself slow down, because, as he says, writing is not about speed. He revises by cutting with scissors, pasting with glue. When he's done with a draft, he burns it in his wood stove and starts over.


I need to revise. I am not a genius like Marilynne Robinson. She really is. I have a typewriter, but I cannot compose on it the way Gary does because I make too many mistakes and it would drive me crazy. Also, I don't like glue. And I can't help revising as I go. I do like to give myself permission to write a crappy first draft. But maybe I will try slowing down this week. Giving myself permission to search for the perfect word before moving on if I feel like it. 


So I will not be churning out an entire novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) in November. What I will be doing in November is working on the first draft of my novel, slowly, in whatever rhythm I find works. I just have to figure out the best way to feel the music of words, one day at a time.

3 comments:

  1. sounds a little like what I'm going through. I need to find my rhythm again :)good luck with yours!

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  2. Hey Elena,
    I've decided I'm a conference junkie. One that loves New York, so yes I'm going.
    I read the last three posts and am intrigued by your barefoot running. But I really like your "writing for the fire," attitude. It helps me too.
    I look forward to reading your first book. Can't wait.
    Pat

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  3. Gaylene: It's always a juggling act, isn't it? And then sometimes it all just falls into place. Good luck back to you in finding your rhythm :) I'd love to see what you're working on these days.

    Pat: Hi! Oh, yes. Barefoot is lovely. Never been to NYC (driven past in a rental car on the New Jersey freeway), but I've been thinking maybe this is the year, since I haven't been conferencing in awhile. Let's make plans!

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