Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Knit One, Sprint Two?

One night last week, I made a last-minute decision to pick up take-out for dinner. Since I hadn’t called ahead, I knew I’d have to wait, so I grabbed the copy of Writer’s Digest from last summer that’s been bouncing around my car in case down time unexpectedly presented itself, and took it inside with me.

Flipping through the magazine, I landed on the Editor's Letter, in which Rachel Randall talked about founts and trickles. And knitting:
"In the hour between getting home from work and eating dinner, I can usually be found curled up on one end of the couch, knitting. It's often where I come up with my best ideas....For me, inspiration isn't a fount constantly bubbling over -- more like a trickling stream, really. I've found I write best when I give my mind the chance to wander and my ideas the time to process. And I'm often at my most creative when I'm knitting."
I'm not a knitter. I'd like to be -- someday -- but so far the opportunity and the focus and patience necessary to learn the requisite skills have not presented themselves simultaneously.

Still, I immediately identified with Rachel's words, and her process. Though there is definitely value in habit (as regular readers know, my sprints have served me well), it's also important to know when to stop clutching the to-do list and relax enough to give new ideas a chance to find me.

Sometimes, the harder I focus, the less I get done. Blog posts are a notable example. I'm rarely at a loss for words when I'm working on a novel, but there are many days when I sit down to blog and I've got nothing. In a novel, the characters help me out; I can experiment with ways to get them into (and out of) trouble, see what happens if I put them in a room and let them talk, or put together an unlikely combination and see what transpires. (Yes, I make this stuff up as I go along. Often.)

But in blog posts and articles, there are no characters holding up campaign signs urging me to put them in a scene and let them speak their peace. It's just me and a blank page. And some days, it feels as though the blank page is winning.

And so I step away. I don't knit, but I might do laundry, clean something or organize a messy space. I might leave the house and go to Starbucks or the library or the mall. Anything that gives the creative process a vacation and takes it off the hot seat where it's expected to perform on command.
Don't get me wrong, I love my sprints. Regular writing is the best way to make regular progress. But when my schedule is crazy and time to focus on my writing all but disappears, I need to remind  myself that somewhere in the back of my mind, the wheels are turning. Rather than berate myself for not forcing the issue and putting my tush in the chair, I need to remind myself that as long as I am committed to my writing, time spent away from it isn't always time wasted.

We writers have many voices inside our heads, and sometimes success is all about knowing whose voice should emerge at any given moment. Last week, I was grateful for Rachel's voice, reminding me that sometimes, the creative process requires some knitting.

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