Each time I sit down to write I show up at my computer like an excited pup, tail wagging, anxious to play, ready to retrieve the words my unconscious mind tosses out in my line of sight. But just like the dog, there comes a point in the game when the fun runs out. It’s then the thought of retrieving one more word makes my head sag, tongue droop, and my body long to plop down and take a nap for the rest of the day. After I run my little synapses off the romance is over, and I’d rather be anywhere than loping around inside the wordless void between my ears.
Some writers have a bigger challenge than others. I question my abilities when someone tells me they write 10,000 words a day; on my productive days I might pinch out 2,000 words and feel like a train wreck when I finally drag myself from my chair eight hours later. Maybe I’ve yet to catch the vision of free-flow writing. I labor over each word and try to make my phrases sing the first time around.
Call me a perfectionist. I am. And I'll take my punishment now, thank you very much.
Writer Anne Lamott reminds us that perfectionism makes us try too hard to avoid the big messes we'll have to clean up later. However, her point is this: clutter and mess show us “we are living life”. As we allow the unedited words to flow onto the screen, we find more opportunities to glean a treasure or two among the muddle. More importantly, this uninhibited process helps us avoid writer’s block and teaches us to write with more flare while having fun in the process.
Somehow we’ve all got to learn to let the dam in our minds go. Natalie Goldberg suggests participating in writing practice. Fill up notebook after notebook. She tells about the piles of notebooks she’s accumulated over the years. She admits that some of what she writes is trash, but other parts of the writing are some of her best work. The important thing about writing practice is to keep our fingers moving and to lose control.
After struggling with the void today, I’m anxious to try something new, something that might improve my productivity tomorrow. It sure can’t hurt. Who knows, I just might finish a scene or two and feel like I’ve accomplished something. Care to join me?