A quick word


Wild asters in late autum

Wild asters in late autum

Without a ‘pop-up’ reminder any more, I lose track of time. I’m so embedded in finishing another short story that I almost let this slide. Naughty me.

Well, there are all sorts of excuses, but they’re just excuses for not posting something in this space. So I have to ask: is it better to be so busy that you forget the time of day and that you meant to fix a grilled cheese-with-ham sandwich for lunch because you worked right past lunchtime? Why is lunchtime a specific time of day? And for that matter, why can’t you have a cheeseburger for breakfast instead of cereal?

Having a schedule, as though you have appointments to keep, is not conducive to completing the story at hand, because sticking to a schedule requires that you divert your attention from what you’re doing. If you aren’t on a schedule or meeting a deadline for completing a project, why does anyone need a schedule? Why does anyone need to be on schedule to stop the creative flow and fix a sandwich at a specific time of day?

Schedules are self-limiting in and of themselves.

So what does it say about someone who not only can’t let go of that limitation, that self-imposed boundary of behavior, but also can’t simply go with the flow? Is there less satisfaction in saying “I finished that story!” than there is in saying “I wrote 22 pages today, and I will write another 30 tomorrow”?

I find myself staying up until the wee hours at times, for the sole purpose of making notes or writing up what happens between two characters, what they say and think and how they act, so that I can move that into a specific story. There’s no set time of day or night for this kind of thing. You just do it, because it crept into your consciousness and it needs to be recorded.

It’s easy enough to start something. Everyone can do that. But can you keep it going to its end? That is more important than keeping a schedule. The schedule looms over you like an annoying supervisor who expects you to produce XXX pages per day. That is not how creativity works.

Sometimes, you can produce a flow of words that are cranked out as if you were right there, watching things happen. That is stream of consciousness. Other times, you can hardly put two sentences together. This is normal. It happens to everyone. You’ll find yourself staring out the window at the snow swirling around the eaves of the house next door, while you wonder what in the world you should say next.

Forget schedules. Forget lists. Forget the rules of civilized culture. None of that applies to creative work. Just make copious notes, if you can’t think of anything else to do. Keep them in your journal and copy them to files specific to your stories. And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write anything important. Just make your notes. The flow of words will come and go. Nothing to worry about.

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