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Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, Wasting Time

January 23, 2010

[Otis Redding–“(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”]

Well, okay. So I’m not actually sitting on a dock. Nor am I wasting all that much time; I’m pretty good at keeping myself productive with various projects. (Currently, one of them is knitting myself a pair of fingerless gloves, for that certain starving artist je ne sais quoi.)

But the sentiment felt appropriate, because I’m still not writing. After getting myself into such a disciplined daily habit, this shirking of duties feels oddly idle–or perhaps just mildly delinquent, like I’ve forgotten to brush my teeth. I know, though, that my mental Crock Pot is still steaming away, and that ultimately taking this small break will do my book a world of good.

Aside from the need to let my new ideas arrange themselves into at least a vague semblance of order, I’m also biding my time a bit because I love forcing myself to get antsy about a writing revelation. After feeling the writerly sparks thrum through me for a day or two or five, when I finally let myself sit down at the computer I’m so stoked for what I’m about to do that the words come exploding out of my fingertips. I know from experience that if I headed for the keyboard the instant one of those shimmering ideas hit, I’d run the risk of watching the fireworks fizzle out while I wondered what exactly I’d been so excited about in the first place. To abruptly switch metaphors, I think sometimes new ideas can be like beautiful exotic birds. Before approaching them, you first have to let them settle, find their footing, get acquainted with you–or you’ll scare them away.

Does anyone else feel like this–that actively choosing not to write can be beneficial?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2010 7:44 pm

    Ah, how convenient it is that I am sitting here at my computer perusing my RSS feeds and (ahem) NOT writing, and this post happens to pop up. Inneresting. I have yays and nays on this.

    Well, I started my big writing project in March ’09 and worked on it pretty consistently until July ’09, when for various reasons I mostly stopped working on it. Then I picked it up again for about two weeks in October, then put it aside again until three weeks ago, when on Monday, January 4, 2010, I decided to finish the fucking thing (to varying success).

    As an experienced non-writing writer (you can see that I’ve only been writing about 5 out of the 10 months I’ve been “writing” this stupid thing), I’d have to advise against not writing. Frankly, momentum is hard to come by, and once you’ve lost interest it’s hard to gain it back.

    That being said, I’m a big fan of putting things aside to come back to them. Because I’ve been writing out of order, I actually have a lot of material that I have, in the end, deemed useless, extraneous, too tangential, or just plain crap. But I keep working on other stuff and other parts, and you know what? Sometimes that crap scene that I forgot about can be rearranged and reworked into something else I didn’t know I needed. In fact, just yesterday I pulled out one of the first scenes I wrote, which was full of characters that no longer exist and reveals things here where now I know I want to reveal it there, and reworked it into something I can put in that big gaping hole in the middle and it’s worked out great.

    There are also lots of scenes where I know what has to go there (kill a character, expose this tidbit, get a character from point A to point B) but I just don’t quite know how to write it yet. Months go by and then one day you suddenly think, AHA! That’s what it was supposed to be all along! It’s so obvious!

    So I guess what I’m saying is I fully support you not writing A, but you should keep writing B, and maybe A will come back around someday, too. Don’t break the habit, though, because it’s a bitch to get back into it.

    …and that’s my two cents.

    • January 24, 2010 6:56 pm

      I always appreciate your two cents! :) I’m very aware of the risk of letting momentum die, so this isn’t at all a long break–in fact, I’m almost certain I’ll start writing again tomorrow. I just needed some time to wrap my head around all the new ideas that were suddenly springing up from nowhere.

      I’m so glad to hear you’re finding new places for some of your old pieces and parts! That’s always really satisfying. Expect another email soon. :)

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