Friday, June 3, 2016

The Port in the Storm

Everyone and everything alive is subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Thank you, Shakespeare. How do you write while navigating whatever slings and arrows have been fired your way? I'd really like to know because I am the acknowledged cosmic empress of losing my footing when life shoots at me.

Maybe the fact that I seem to take it personally is a factor. The thing is we all have our challenges. Migraines are my major stumbling block because when those hit, they hit in waves, and I'll be down for several days in a row. They are electrical storms in the brain - so assuming I can even bear to look at a screen (which is assuming a lot) - nothing cogent can penetrate the random firing pattern of the synapses and the subsequent pain. Boo hoo, poor me, right? That's actually not what this is about - it's to point out that there are things and times in life when writing is 100% the least appropriate thing you can do. Or to recognize that there are times when writing is beyond your grasp, that nothing you do will get you words that day. Or that week. And that's okay.

What's not okay is forcing yourself into someone else's mold. What's not okay is avoiding the writing when physical capability has been restored. You have to come back to the writing and you have to keep coming back.
Emotional hits, stress, chaos, all of those can be written through - and I'd argue SHOULD be written through. Someone once told me that when the shit hit the fan, you can either turn away from your writing, or you can turn toward your writing. Turning toward your writing might mean being vulnerable on the page. It might mean changing where you are in the story so you can channel emotion/conflict/tension/whathaveyou to your characters. It's one of the ways I siphon off intense emotion - I figure out where in my story my character(s) feel the exact same way and I write that scene while the emotion is still fresh in me. Just by virtue of examining how and where I feel stuff lessens its impact. I get freed up. And I take great, spiteful glee in using the messy, painful parts of my life to completely muck up my characters' lives. This makes writing my port in a storm.

What about time? There will be days you don't have time for much of anything. But you have twenty minutes before you sleep - and in that twenty minutes, you huddled in bed with your laptop - you can pour out 750 of the crappiest words on the face of the planet. But you'll have written. You'll end your day on a brief, shining moment of triumph. You'll learn to write in the gaps - the brief snippets of ten minutes here. Fifteen there. And while you might not win any speed awards (gods know I don't) you will eventually amass a book, just by virtue of showing up and persisting no matter what comes.

One last quote that I keep in a file on my computer:
“Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people” Randy Pausch

Whether or not someone writes, regardless of circumstance, really does come down to wanting to write badly enough.*

*Clinical depression or other mental health issues notwithstanding. Those need treating before you can evaluate what you do and don't want.