Back to Basics

Sometimes I just need to physically hold a piece of writing.Whenever I find it hard to settle to writing, as I have lately, there are a few things I've found I can do to work around my reticence. It's not writer's block, really, because I've usually got an idea of where I'm going and even a few scenes I legitimately want to have written (if not necessarily the want to write them). And I've got even less of an excuse now, with the bulk of the writing done but for a few scenes to be massaged in amid the usual rounds of edits. I clean my desk. My writing desk is cozied up to our fireplace and there's nothing on it but a lamp and the "good" colored pencils my daughters aren't allowed to scribble with arranged in an open glass container. So, it doesn't take long, and it's sort of a mental cleanse, too, to prepare me to get down to business.

I make myself a drink. Sometimes it's iced coffee with too much milk and sugar. Sometimes it's wine. On a special occasion, bourbon and cider. But having something to sip while I compel my brain to drip, drip, drip words onto the page is essential.

I get back to basics. I put one of my favorite pens to the physical page and just write. It's usually not much to speak of, but it's enough that I can say the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, that I've written everyday, that I'm making progress. It's enough to get me over the sometimes crippling uncertainty and exhaustion inspired by a blinking cursor. I've learned to celebrate time spent writing, rather than word count, so the reminder at the bottom of my screen of how much I've done and how much I have to go can be debilitating.

And not just because my word count is a vain number, given how ruthlessly slashed it will be when it comes time to edit.

There's also just something about being able to physically hold a piece of writing that's very powerful. I've found that during the editing process, especially, I want to tear a story up into pieces and rearrange it, want to be able to manipulate it with my hands. While I've seen some folks do this to great effect during brainstorming and outlining a longer work, I've never been able to make it happen with something novel-length. Maybe some desperate night, when no amount of coffee or wine or bourbon can help me to make sense of my made-up worlds, I'll give it another try.

But until then, I'll keep doing what I'm doing, day by day, bit by bit.