Thursday, June 04, 2009

Contradictions and the Creative Process

Art is this crazy mix of inspiration and drudgery. If you are a musician, you can't just get out on stage and play for your audience without the hours and hours and hours of scales and drills that support the performance. Photographers take hundreds of images before they find the one that captures their vision.

As a writer, I know I can't wait until the muse happens to light on my shoulder, whisper in my ear, and dictate the perfect novel. I've been writing long enough that I now the drill:

Backside in chair, hands on keyboard.

Write everyday, even if you start your next day by deleting yesterday's words. It's practice, it's craft, it's the writer's equivalent of scales or test exposures.

Now, you have to follow that discipline while holding to the creative spark, the joy that brought you to your art in the first place.

That balance is hard to maintain.

I have approximately 10,000 words to complete the first draft of "The Between." I even outlined the ending chapters. There are some 'candy bar' scenes in those chapters I've been waiting nearly a year to unwrap. Yet over the past few days, I've only netted a few hundred words. The thought of opening the file fills me with a sense of dread and I'm not sure why.

I do know that my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I'm just not sure what. Perhaps I've forgotten some important plot thread. Maybe my characters are rebelling against the book's conclusion. Maybe it's the background anxiety of knowing I have a manuscript in the hands of a bunch of publishers/editors and I'm waiting on their pleasure. For the most part, my conscious brain doesn't fret about things outside of its control. But tell that to my subconscious.

The one comfort in all of this writerly insecurity is that I've been in this place before with previous books. To be honest, all of them. There's a spot I get to where I'm convinced my writing is full of suck and fail and I should just hit the delete key and do everyone (and myself) a favor. I *know* this is fear talking. I've been able to move past the fear every time and come out the other side with a completed story I am proud of.

That's what keeps me from crawling back into bed with the covers over my head. For today, I need to take a deep breath, cross off some mundane items from my to do list, and comfort my subconscious to the point where I can put my hands on that keyboard and let the words flow.

The first step for me has always been to name the feeling. It's fear. There--now it's not locked up inside me, wreaking havoc and I can choose to let it have power over me or not.

I choose not.

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