Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Never Quite Finished

Novelists know the relief of reaching the last word of the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last page. It's a short-lived relief, because then the hard work begins.

But hard work need not mean unwelcome work. It's in the editing that I can get some of my best ideas.

Lately, however, after doing a spit-and-shine polish on a manuscript that had been cooling for a few months, I realized that material I'd cut a long time ago needed to be re-inserted. The story felt flat without it.

Crazy how that works. In the interest of keeping a plot moving along, I cut a scene here, a line of dialogue there. And then, in the interest of fleshing out the story, making it feel real, giving it depth, I go back and add new material or realize that the old stuff actually works.

Whatever happens -- deletions or additions -- my intention is to serve the story.

In the last few weeks, however, I haven't written much, and editing has been scant. Part of the reason lies in an injury to my right (write?) arm and shoulder just before Thanksgiving. Hard to compose when only one hand is available for typing, or when the pain meds make me fall asleep whenever I sit down.

But, even with physical improvements aiding my typing abilities, I haven't had much to say.

That's part of the composition process: down time. The brain needs a break occasionally. There are any number of articles written and speeches given advising writers on how to pound their way through writer's block, but a good old-fashioned mental vacation may be all that's required.

Life gets crazy, the day job requires extra attention, a clumsy writer falls off a wonky step stool and does terrible things to his shoulder: whatever's going on, sometimes something's gotta give. Though we're fed a fairly steady diet of "butt in chair equals pages written," or "real writers never wait for inspiration to strike," where's the "stop trying to write and just let your brain rest" kind of advice? Could be the precise prescription for improved creativity.

So, with an arm that's healing and allowing greater time at the keyboard, and with a few days off from work, I'm hoping the creativity will kick in, languishing stories will liven, and I'll experience the old familiar high of letting words fly.

Hey, a writer can dream.


Phy said...

Just wanted you to know I read everything you write on this blog, and concur with your sentiments here.

I know Walter Mosley says we need to write every day, every SINGLE day, to make writing a habit. I get that. But scripture always talks about the need we have for regular, intentional periods of rest. When I was writing my 2004 NaNo novel, I budgeted one day off per week. I was planning on making that a Sunday. But Saturday ended up being the day I really got the most non-writing resting done.

Hope your write shoulder heals up, and am planning on sharing more Thieves' Honor with a grateful planet!

Keanan Brand said...

Thanks, Phy!

If we listen to the conventional advice, it seems like writing has to be an all-or-nothing pursuit. And then there's advice about balancing writing with family, work, and other areas of one's life.

Just as there are seasons of the year, there are seasons of productivity and seasons of rest.

Problem is, I've been resting so long that I'm getting that fidgety feeling: time to start writing again. Kristoff and crew are waiting!