Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Photo by Fevi in Pictures .  licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
I've had a couple of really good writing sessions over the past couple of weeks. Before these sessions, I hadn't felt like I'd had a good session in quite some time. I'd noticed the feeling, but hadn't really reacted to it much. I just kept writing. I don't know if this was some flavor of writer's block, but I suspect it displayed many of the symptoms of it. The thing is, though, I never thought to myself that I had writer's block while I was experiencing whatever I was experiencing. I just knew I was writing with reduced efficiency and inspiration. When it comes time to edit, I'll have to take a careful look at the things I wrote during this period. My hope is they will prove to be of the same quality as I produced during the earlier parts of writing the manuscript. I am still excited by what I've written--I just wasn't as excited while I was writing it.

Maybe what I was experiencing was due to a lack of improvisation in the writing relative to the earlier books in the series. As much as I value spontaneity and allowing a manuscript to morph, the reality is some constraints are inevitable when writing a fourth book. So, many of the plot points and character developments had already been conceived prior to the writing. There's a certain "buzz" I get when I conceive an idea. It's a creative high. When I'm writing from the seat of my pants, that high is ever-present. But when I'm writing previously fleshed out ideas, the high has faded and what's left is a workman-like joy at realizing the concepts with good, tight prose. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that.

The ebbs and flows of mood and inspiration seem to be mercurial. Looking back, I can't put a finger on exactly why I had this down period in my writing and then pulled out of it. The cause could have been the lack of writing improvisation, or maybe it was a side effect of something else going on in my life at the time. In fact, I can't be sure it won't come back. When I was younger I used to become very discouraged by losing inspiration during a project. I'd often bounce from new project to new project without finishing anything. It was very frustrating. At some point I realized that it's nearly always better to finish a project than to abandon it--even if the project is no longer viable or inspiring.

Ultimately, projects are units of work, and work is often something we do because we feel compelled to do it. It's true that work can also be fun. Work is fun when the tailwinds of creativity and inspiration are driving us forward. But it isn't always fun. Sometimes we are becalmed and unmotivated. Sometimes we even have to work in the face of adversity, which is like headwinds holding us back and retarding our progress.

There's probably been a lot written about how to create writing tailwinds. Maybe I should read some of it. But, for now, my stubborn approach seems to be keeping me moving.

The Hemlock Book Four manuscript stands at about 50,000 words. I am now getting into the meat of the final part of the story. I don't mean that I'm at the end of the manuscript but rather that I'm writing scenes I had always imagined as being part of the end of the overall story arc. They are epic almost by definition since they will prove to be pivotal to the outcome of the tetralogy. Hopefully they will be as exciting to read as they are to write! How can I say exciting to write given my topic in this post? Writing is always exciting--it's just the degree of excitement that varies sometimes. Writing=good!

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2015! Thanks for reading.

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