Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Kind of Waiting

We’ve already talked about the waiting place. You know, that place where you bite your nails and ignore your real life and haunt your inbox for an acceptance. Where you play mind games to distract yourself, or you convince yourself that if you just don’t think about it, it will happen. Or, if you do think about it, you can make it happen. The power of positive thinking, of love coming to you when you least expect it, the delusions we conjure up because the truth of how much we really do control is beyond disheartening.

Today, we’re waiting for a different thing. It comes from a different place. Before, I cautioned you not to wait—a watched pot never boils—but today, with this different thing, I say hunker down. I say, keep still. Be absolutely silent. Listen.

I hate the term writer’s block because it sounds like there’s something in the way—an obstruction to move. People think writer’s block means you’ve run out of ideas. I’ve never heard of that actually happening to anyone. (Has it happened to you? To anyone you know?) Much more often, the problem is just the opposite. There’s too much. Too many things happening, too many choices, too many characters, too many things you could do with the character and not a one of them seems to fit. Or, they all seem to fit.

Or—and I think, that if you’re any good, this happens to you all the time—you come to realize that what you want to write is just too big. Good writers always want to achieve more than they can. They take on more than they can handle. The good writer has dreamed up something so, so big and important and beautiful, and suddenly, everything’s a mess. Suddenly, everything that you want to work—what you know should work, what has to work—everything that you love about your story or your novel or even just a particular character explodes or fizzles out or evaporates or, worse, turns back on itself—the story begins to fight itself.

First thing, don’t panic.

Second, wait. Wait, but don’t do nothing. Instead of moving forward, move downward. I mean, dig. Dig under what you have there, see what’s beneath it. Deepen. Sit still and ponder. Take a break. Do not be anxious, do not be in a hurry, but do be diligent. Be thorough. Be exact. Do not waver, do not settle. Just wait.

Take a deep breath. You’re okay. The answer--the next sentence or word or chapter--will come.


Susannah said...

"Be anxious for nothing..."

"Be still and know..."

Beautiful. Thanks~

sherylmonks said...

That's me. I'm waiting. Patiently. I swear I am. Any minute now.


Thanks for this, Susan. Just what I needed!