Sunday, February 12, 2006

what now?

"You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started." - Anne Lamott

For a long time I wasn't writing. I now know it was because of two things:

1. I had written two books and they were sitting there telling me that they weren't really finished and they weren't good enough for publication yet, but I couldn't very well start anything else until I had DONE SOMETHING with them.

2. I wasn't a 'good enough' writer to follow some of the creative ideas I had, and since I wasn't good enough, writing was a waste of time.

So for years I would scribble notes to myself on pieces of paper. Characters would come into my brain and I would write their whispers down. Plot lines or first lines or even closing sentences would seep through, I would hear them, notice them, and write them down. Old school notebooks hold many treasures scribbled in margins. I will often open a book from my collection and find a tiny scrap of paper with a note to myself. The scary thing is that even years later I know exactly what I meant by '2 days on a bus.' I remember the whole story, the whole concept, and where I wanted to go with it. But I never did anything with any of those ideas.

Last year I finally DID get one of the novels out and finish it. I finally used all of the scrap paper scribbles I had made about the story and I finally summoned up the courage to send the thing off. The only problem was that by finishing something, by telling my inner voices that I could do it, I opened up a floodgate that I was not prepared for. All of the ideas that I had ever put off or ignored or tried to forget came back to me in a loud tangle. I found myself scribbling more notes to myself, getting out of bed to look for a note that I was pretty sure was filed somewhere, and putting off actually writing anything all over again.

I've never been struck with writer's block, I get stuck with writer's paralysis. I have three ideas right now for books, a website to work on and an intense urge to paint something. I am frozen in place, seeing all of the things that I want to do surrounding me and not knowing how to prioritize, how to get something done, and even how to start. I know I have to do the website, so it is getting some of my attention, but not the attention it deserves because I am wrapped up with the wanting to be doing something else.

So where do I go from here? How do I break the paralysis? How do I gather the courage to start something even though I don't know that I am good enough to finish it? How do I silence the voices that tell me that it is just a waste of time? How do I decide which direction to go, which pen to pick up, which scrap of paper to read? Does everyone else have this much trouble? I know it's about showing up at the page. But I am here. I am sitting at my desk, surrounded by beginnings. I've showed up. Where do I go from here?

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers


Frankie said...

I can totally relate to this post! Every project I begin inevitably leads to ideas for others, and so I make little notes to myself to remember those ideas, those bits and pieces of the creative process, but nothing ever seems to get completed. I sort of surround myself with thoughts of beginning projects and finished projects and can never face the middle of things. I think that you're an AMAZING writer, and you are fully capable of writing a beautiful and enchanting novel. You are fully capable of doing anything you put your mind to. Good luck with it all! I'm thinking of you!

Cate said...

This is why I love blogging--finding people like you! I so appreciated this post and am looking forward to spending the afternoon, scrolling through your previous entries. I'm so glad you stopped by my site!

Jamie said...

Hi Meg,

First, take a deep breathe. I want you to really know, REALLY know that you are a creative goddess. You have written 2 books. You see and feel inspiration in the world around you on a daily basis, and you share it. You are touching people right now with your words and your thoughts. This is who you are.

Trust that this gaggle of ideas demanding your attention like hungry children will wait for you while you attend to each one with the love and care that is a part of your soul. Some of these ideas have already waited for years, hidden in the folds of a book. They will not disappear if you choose one for today, for right now.

If you could trust that there would be time for it all, which would you turn to now?

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Meg! Your story here is so eerily similar to my own "creative history"!! And I'm sure there are many many more of us; it's comforting to know there are others out there going through the same things -- but I consider you way ahead of the game because you have finished 2 books!!! Wow! I also have a million ideas in my head -- I honestly visualize them, my characters, queuing patiently in my head waiting for their turn to be written - and I'm not a fast writer! It took me two and a half years to write the one I've just finished. But I know finishing it, and the lesson that I CAN finish a book, will make the next one easier.

I went through a major stage of fluctuation and paralysis when there were two different novels I wanted to write and I couldn't decide between them and went back and forth, basically rewriting the first chapters endlessly, The only thing that broke the cycle was a lucky chance of meeting an editor at a writer's conference who was interested in art I'd done for one of them, and who encouraged me to keep working on it -- having that actual interest was like gold. But now, I know that with or without it, I can do it. It's just a matter of choosing, and making all the others wait in line, and hoping they all have something good to read -- because I hate waiting in line without a book!!

Anyway, ramble ramble. The other important thing is that sometimes it takes a long time for the missing "piece" of an idea to fit into place, and if those ideas weren't stewing around in your brain together for months and years, they might not be "ready" to write yet! But you should just be really really proud of the habit of completion you have cultivated in yourself -- bravo!

Living Part Deux said...

SO many of us can relate to this paralysis. But you KNOW you can conquer it because you already have created a model. I send you enormous amounts of encouragement to focus lovingly on one thing while giving spare nurture to others. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing. Focus a day at a time - or maybe just an hour at a time. I'm giving you advice that has been given to me that worked! congratulations on what you have accomplished and what you WILL accomplish!

chest of drawers said...

When in doubt, grab a book!
The book "Creating a Life Worth Living" may help you on your journey...I think sometimes it´s just a matter of routine and staying open without being distracted.
isbn: 0-06-095243-1
Here´s the quote in the front of the book;
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium. It will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."
(Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille)