Monday, August 23, 2010

My Pot Boileth Over

I was talking to my dad yesterday, jabbering on about how happy I was to have completed another chapter in my new book and he said something along the lines of "I don't get how writers can just sit down and start writing. How do you go from cleaning the house to just sitting down and writing?"

I wasn't sure what to tell him for a second. Because the short answer is - you just do :D I did say that I try to treat writing like a real job. I'm on summer hours now, but once the kids are in school, I'll have a more set schedule of hours that will be exclusively for writing. But that still doesn't answer his question. Because he wanted to know how I could look at the clock, say "time to write" and just sit down and do it. How did I flip the switch mom/wife/whatever else to writer?

After I thought about it longer, I think it's because my stories are always bubbling right below the surface. I don't ever stop thinking of storylines and plot twists and characters and settings and scenes (or new chapters or tips or sections or books for NF). Even when I'm thinking of or doing other things, my projects are still there, just waiting for me to pay attention to them.

I don't ever stop being a writer just because I'm also being a mom, a wife, a pianist, a tutor, a referee, a maid, a nanny, a chef (albeit a bad one), a Sunday School teacher, an editor, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, or a friend. The writer in me never goes away.

So when I sit down to write, no matter what else I've done that day or just finished doing, it doesn't take too much effort to get back into the project at hand. Sometimes it needs a little coaxing, a minute or so while I reorient myself. But generally I find, even if I'm not in the mood to write, if I sit down and just start reading what I've already written, the project comes alive again. I find an error that needs fixing or a new scene or solution presents itself and I get sucked right back in.

It's not so much flipping a switch as taking the cover off a boiling pot. The water is boiling whether I'm paying attention to it or not (p.s. boiling water and I don't get along...mostly because I do have a habit of not paying attention to it) :D

How does it work for you? Can you go from being a "normal" person to writer person at the drop of a hat? Or do you need some time to acclimate?


Misha said...

I know exactly what you're saying. (Oddly I mentioned the same phenomenon in my own blog.)

It's as if my mind NEVER stops contemplating my works in progress - even when I'm in the middle of something else.

Then I just get to this stage where it feels like one story calls my attention. I jokingly tell my friends that my muse is calling, take out my book and pen and I get going.

On Thursday after class I felt this pull to the book I only write on weekends and decided to give in and write a single chapter. Yeah... riiiiiight. So falls the eternal optimist.

I ended up writing pretty much non-stop for eight hours, producing a staggering nine thousand words in one day. Sorry if this seems like bragging, but I have to keep repeating this to myself to believe I did that.

I have no idea how to create such a burst of creativity again though. Which I think is my muse's way to make sure I don't burn myself out.

So to answer your question: I go from zero to writer in 0.4 seconds because I haven't been normal since I've been born. However I do find that I get drawn into my story more as my writing stints lengthen.

I just want to add a warning to those wanting to try out a marathon session starting at four and ending at midnight: keep it to the weekends. It absolutely drained me.

Christine Fonseca said...

I'm the same way. I'm obsessive when it comes to whatever project I am focusing on - so I stew stew stew on that until I can find some time to write. The same is true, to a lessor degree, on the projects I have on deck, but may not be actively working on. So much goes on subconsciously BEFORE I write.

Nice post@!

C. N. Nevets said...

I don't really even think it's that strange. I've known a bunch of mechanics and carpenters who go straight from eating dinner or doing the dishes to working on cars or building things. Plenty of teachers who go straight from reading stories to their kids to grading papers. Plenty of IT guys who go from playing basketball to working on a server over VPN from home. And so on.

It's more strange to me that it seems strange to anyone that writers would do the same thing...

Michelle Gregory said...

what a great analogy! that's me too. and boiling water and i don't get along either.

Stephanie McGee said...

It's not usually too hard to jump back into whatever project I'm working on from whatever else I've been doing. Like you, it's always there simmering away while I'm occupied with real life stuff.

Matthew Rush said...

I think you hit the nail on the head Michelle, so to speak. I'm thinking about my story (or stories) pretty much about half the time anyway. Unless I'm really wrapped up in something else, they're right there, just beneath the surface. So it's just a matter of finding the time to put thought to page.

Sarah Bromley said...

I'm like you and think about my stories even when not doing writerly things. However, when I sit down to actually write, I have to take a bit of time to transition, even if it's just reading over the last words I wrote to get myself back to into the flow of things.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

You say this so well! It's funny, but I do have to prep myself to write. It's a little ritual every time that goes on in my head, but as soon as I'm ready it just comes. It's amazing how it all works!

Elana Johnson said...

I need to be better about flipping the switch. I find that if I don't have a long stretch of time to write, I don't even open my docs. And I really need to because I really have to get some writing done...

So I'm going to try flipping the switch tomorrow!