Today’s post is about the dry periods: periods when we can’t, or don’t feel we can, write. In such a time, we always end up asking ourselves the question, “Should I try to force it? Or should I wait?”
Some people might say, “If you’re a writer, you have to write. Suck it up and get writing. Even if it’s garbage, WRITE.” I honestly thing that is true, in SOME circumstances and for some people. For others, it does make sense to wait.
I’m doing some reading right now about acedia, or spiritual sloth, via Kathleen Norris’s “Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life.” She talks a lot about periods of dryness in her writing career.
What’s really interesting is that at one point, Norris discusses how, at least in her career as a poet, she learned to stop grudging the dry times when she came to understand them as period of germination or gestation.
She might not have been able to write at that point, but something was growing up inside: the ideas, the experiences, the meditations and reflections necessary to create her next book of poetry.
I found this idea incredibly intriguing. I feel I have experienced something similar with my writing…. and I have come to stop resenting the times when I just can’t write. I don’t judge myself for those times. I’m taking my time to get my second edition of the Herezoth trilogy together, and then I will jump into my prequel…. I have twenty pages from last summer and I’m excited to see where it goes.
But I’m not ready to jump into that project yet, especially since I don’ know what will happen and I don’t write with outlines, so this time of reflection and preparation is vital for me. Considering the way I go about the writing process, this time of considering my characters, and who they are, and the overall situation the novel will be about, IS my prewriting. For me, it’s a good use of time. It’s how I organize my writing and figure out what I’m going to do, so that when I sit down to write, I’m not staring at a page questioning everything I put down. I just write and see where it takes me.
I get excited when twists and turns come up that I didn’t anticipate…. when I realize that one path I had considered but didn’t think would work can work after all, if I just do things THIS way….
Is there a danger to waiting too long to start writing? Sure. I’m not denying that. And I do think we should always start writing a little bit before we feel ready to do that. If we wait until we really feel ready, we’ll never get going.
But this is how writing works for me. I’ve come to learn and accept that. I’m not a planner when I write fiction, though I HAVE to have plans in every other aspect of my life. (Go figure.) I need time to let a project germinate. And that’s okay.