Bursting Through the Log Jams
Writing is a lot like rafting on a river. There are spots that are swift and exciting. There are other spots where there seems to be a huge log jam hindering any progress forward. To move ahead, we need to get out of the boat and remove whatever is blocking our passage forward. That’s where I’ve been as I prepare for the 2nd revision of the WIP I’m working on. I’d love to say, “I’m finishing up”, and in a way that’s true. However at this point, it doesn’t feel like that.
Editing and revising can be slow and tedious. At the very least, it’s not very creative. Add to that the technological difficulties that are part and parcel when using a computer. Sluggish modems, new unfamiliar software, and mysterious crashes and missing documents. Oh nothing major, but those moments when you can’t find what was just in front of you. It can be frustrating and disheartening. Not to mention being at the far end of a long process, I’m ready to be done.
I took a wee break and did some organizing and house keeping. I got out and did a bit of socializing, and read more than usual. I made some good healthy meals, and had some great experiences with yoga and meditation, and last night at meditation, it hit me. I was feeling as if I was never going to get the river unblocked. Logjams don’t happen very often with most of what I write. I might have to step away from a piece for a few hours or a couple of days, but usually find my way to the end in a relatively short period of time. What was different?
One problem I had was I was counting. That’s right. When I finally got myself back into the daily routine of revising and editing, I began keeping track of how much I’d finished. That was probably a mistake. Three chapters in one day, two the next, and then ten. The Ten Day gave me lots of energy, and then also gave me permission to ‘take a little break’. Taking little breaks when you’re working on getting momentum going, is also probably not a great idea. Pushing on is better, if only because if I finish up a day’s work feeling like I’ve accomplished something, then I have more energy for going on. Oh, this all sounds so well thought out. It isn’t. I’m simply looking for explanations that help me understand my resistance to doing this part of the work.
The only other times I remember feeling like this was when I was completing my thesis and then my dissertation. The researching and writing part of those two projects was grueling and long. When I got to the end, I was so relieved but also tired. It’s not like the rest of life stops so you can write a graduate thesis. It’s not like you don’t have mounds of other responsibilities to do in addition to getting that dissertation done. Yet, I found myself at this time of the year many years ago, feeling as if I might never get to the end of the work. At that time, I had a fabulous dissertation advisor who helped me all along the way. She even flew all the way from New Zealand to spend a week helping me over the final stages of the dissertation–in essence, helping remove the log jam that was blocking the flow of energy at that time.
Last night in meditation as I listened to people talking about what they were each dealing with, I recognized the log jam factor. The point in any journey, situation, condition, relationship, or stage of development when we just know we have to get beyond something that is keeping us stuck. The point when knowing that, we still don’t know how to do it, or we think we don’t. On my refrigerator is a quotation I posted years ago. The crumpled, white piece of typing paper with the big block letters is faded and splattered with spaghetti sauce and other flying debris. The quotation is from author, John Hersey
It reads: “To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone–just plain going at it, in pain and delight To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over.”
This quotation is held up by refrigerator magnets and reminds me every single morning, what my commitment is. And that is what writing is about. It is about a commitment to begin, develop, and complete something so that a portion of my story, a piece of a tale, or a bit of my observations of life are out of my head and imagination. The ideas and imagination have taken form through words, in the case of a writer, and are meant to be shared. Hopefully to be enjoyed and shared with others. And so I might not show up as often as others in public gatherings or in meetings or on committees or boards and the like. But I do show up every morning, at my writing table.
And when I show up at my writing table, I fight my way through all the voices and critics in my head that distract me from my mission. I stand firm in my own desire and commitment to do what I set out to do. In this case, to complete my first mystery novel. The fun part was the initial telling of the story. And I’m finding out that I can go back into the story and change things a bit here and a bit there, and actually make the story more intriguing or easier to read or more sensually alive. For two weeks, I’ve been struggling with the logjam that is not a physical block. It is a block of my will and determination that has talked me out of trying a little harder or pushing myself on. I keep telling myself, I’m not getting enough done. I’m not making much progress, and then sure enough, that’s what it feels like.
Part of the logjam has been my negative perspective on what I’m doing. Knowing that, will I change it? Last week I finished 7 chapters. This week I have finished 21 more. I now have only 56 more to go. Numbers overwhelm me, so let’s not count too often. Once a week, take stock, and know that we are moving right along. The flow is increasing. The time wasted worrying, fretting, or stewing is lessening. The numbers are growing in the right direction, and it will be done when it’s done. If I analyze my progress, at the rate I’ve been moving, I should be done in 4 weeks. Unless, that is, I get an influx of energy and have more 10 days than not. Then it can be finished sooner. After that, I’m leaving the copyediting to someone else because at this point, I no longer see what is on the page. It’s all too familiar to me.
In the meantime I have some plans to keep me from getting stuck in a logjam again. I’m doing other kinds of writing so I keep my creative juices flowing. I’m doing something creative that is not writing…not sure what though I’ve been playing with watercolors and pen and ink sketches. Maybe I’ll build something. When I finished my Bachelors degrees, what I longed to do was move to the Oregon Coast, find and old barn to disassemble and build a house. Instead, I cut my hair and bought myself a beautiful Rosewood guitar and I took some classical guitar lessons. I still play the guitar, and now have two–one here in Oregon, the other, the Rosewood, in San Francisco at my Daughter’s house. I play when I take time. Last night on the Full Moon energy, I turned music back on in my life.
It’s been months since I’ve enjoyed music. A good friend, musician Mark Josephs died right after the first of the year, and it’s been hard for me to enjoy music since his death. Music connects us to old loves, losses, and connections. Over a year and a half ago, my long weird wacky marriage ended, and so much of the music of my life is wrapped up in that lost love. Music brought me to a place of peace with my long-dead Father, and helped seal up a little more of the lingering rifts that separate us from those we love. Music is also what brings us to life, and so what came to me last night was it is time for some new music in my life. Something that helps me form new connections and new memories. Something that brings new life into my life. New meaning into whatever I do, including the writing.
Logjams can be found in all kinds of places in our lives. In our work, in our relationships, in the way we live, or the way we think. But what seems important to recognize, to me, is that it’s all about how we think about it. Our thinking makes it so. That’s a Motherism…probably a quote from the Scot poet, Robert Burns. She was always quoting Bobby Burns. For me, the cool stillness of the early morning, is where I have found my sweet spot, my time to write and ride the flow of the river of thought, imagination, and the mystical writing fairies who do show up, if I do. So I will just continue ”
to go at it, in pain and delight…and then [to do it] once moe, and over and over”.