“Did you write today?” a well-meaning, non-writer friend will ask me. This brings all my neuroses and self-doubt to the surface. My writing coach and mentor has learned to answer the question with,”You mean, did I type today?” Brilliant.
You see, typing and writing are two different things. Typing is sitting down to hit letters on a keyboard. Writing involves thinking. It can be done anywhere, even miles from a keyboard. Most folks are of the opinion that writers should write every day. That’s why I love this distinction. I don’t type every day. When a project I’m working on is going particularly well, I do. But otherwise, I may be doing any number of things. Like the laundry, walking the dog or re-organizing my fridge. But, I’m thinking about my writing all the time. Mulling over a phrase, searching for a word, dreaming up an ending. I’m here to say: that counts.
Also, the answer will probably come to you in the shower. Or driving. Or washing the dishes. Doing anything routine or repetitive allows the mind to stop thinking logically, or “how-to,” and start thinking creatively.
And the best way to ensure that the perfect phrase, word or ending comes to you is to stock the pond. I’m talking about “filling the well,” but that’s might be considered a cliche’ to people working in the creative arts, so I’ll use the less often heard “stocking the pond.” The idea, as explained by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a fan,) is that writers, poets, artists, or creators in general, use images from experience to serve as a muse for their art. Creating draws on this well of images. Life experiences fill it up.
Writer Richard Ford, in his New York Times essay, advises that living life comes first. Writing second. In fact, he likes to take large chunks of time between projects to recharge his muse. This can mean anything from watching daytime television to visiting an amusement park. Personally, I prefer the latter to the former for stocking the pond. Like Ms. Cameron, I would advise doing something, rather than nothing.
So, if anyone’s counting, that’s about 350 words for today. Tomorrow, I’m going to the movies.
May 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm
I love this! While a lot of people, I think, could use it as an excuse for doing nothing, I know it’s something I do a lot. I’ll go through a scene in my head ten times before putting pen to paper. Sometimes I’ll miss out on a creative turn of phrase that I might have had the first time, but most often, it’s much more refined. You keep a lot of slush out that way, too.
And it’s so true about an epiphany hitting when you really can’t write–I’m glad I’m not the only one!
May 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm
Amy, you’re so right. Writing is thinking. And rethinking. And it does count!
May 2, 2011 at 11:52 pm
I surely do love writing in my mind…