As of this morning, my latest story – tentatively titled ‘Two Turns of the Moon’ – is polished up and in the hands of some of my wonderful beta readers. That’s something I haven’t been able to say since – oh gods – July.
While I await their feedback, I’ll take another look at the story I was struggling with before writing this one. After a lengthy writing drought brought on by travel, job-hunting, and getting too caught up in expectations, I’ve been really pleased by my momentum over the last week, and I want to make every effort not to let that momentum drop.
Just a short post this week – some reflections on what it feels like to be back in the writing zone.
Writing by habit
As I mentioned last week, it’s incredible how much of a difference it makes to just be in the habit of sitting down and writing every day. It’s hard, now that I find myself I’m in this headspace, to understand how much of a struggle it was only a few weeks ago to make myself write anything at all.
When I’m on a roll, writing stops being something I have to think about doing; it becomes something I do. I don’t have to cajole and finagle and outright trick myself into sitting down at the computer, because I just expect that I will – the only questions to consider are what I’m going to work on and when to fit it into my day.
That still doesn’t mean I’m writing for pleasure. The process of writing is not something that brings me joy (and I’m far from alone in that); the delight, for me, lies in the editing and polishing, and the surprise and wonder of a finished piece.
But when I’m in the habit, writing is like brushing my teeth or washing the dishes: I may not particularly enjoy it, but I accept that it’s something I want to do every day, because I know it’s good for me. I know it will pay off in the long run.*
Writing on my mind
And ironically, when I don’t have to think about writing, I think about it all the time – not in the abstract I should be writing kind of way, but in that the story I’m working on stays with me without conscious effort on my part.
I go to bed brainstorming plot fixes and wake up with new idea fizzing in my head. Words and phrases pop up throughout the day, arranging and rearranging themselves in the back of my brain until I find something I like. Characters chat and mutter in my mind, finding their voices.
I’ve never been able to capture the mental state that writers and other creators (and psychologists) refer to as flow: becoming so fully engaged in the act of creation that you lose all sense of time, as the words/images/whatever pour out of you. But perhaps the kind of momentum I’m experiencing right now is its own kind of long-term, slow-motion flow.
It’s a good headspace to be in. I don’t think it’s something I can force, but with practice and careful brain weasel management, I hope it’s something I can maintain, at least until the next major life disruption.
*I chose the verb “want” here very carefully, over “need”. Just like washing the dishes, all the wanting in the world won’t be enough to motivate me when the brain weasels get nasty, but good self-care is reminding myself that I can’t always achieve everything I want to and that’s OK.