Give yourself over. That is what you must do each time you pick up a pen or sit down in front of your computer.
Give yourself over to all the words, images, ideas ready to pour out of yourself and onto the page, the screen. Step aside, make way. Don’t stop yourself before you even get started.
But it is hard to find that mental place where your mind is alight with possibilities and creativity practically pulses through your fingertips.
Not all of us can reach this place on a consistent basis. Dean Wesley Smith in Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Rewriting Part 2 says professional writers have taught themselves to access this mindset whenever they need to. But for the rest of us mere mortals, it can be a challenge to write while contending with everyday distractions.
While I was traveling, I didn’t write. It’s not that I didn’t have time, not exactly. I could have stayed in the bedroom a little bit longer each morning to write or “take a nap” in the afternoons when we didn’t have any other plans. But staying in my in-laws’ house added a self-consciousness to the act of writing that’s not present when I sneak away to the coffee shop or library.
I even went to a coffee shop on two separate occasions while we were traveling – ostensibly to write. But the words would not come. I was too busy worrying about getting back to the house, all the errands and activities still needing to be done. In short, I wasn’t writing on my own terms.
But as one week turned into two, two weeks into two-and-a-half, I was desperate to get back to work, to immerse myself in my WIPs. I even came up with a new short story idea. But I still didn’t write. Even in the airport and on the plane ride home, I did not put pen to paper because I was too exhausted by the whole trip.
A good night’s rest in my own bed did the trick. A return to routine and a burning desire to make up for lost time had the words coming fast and strong.
I found that creative space in my mind quickly, now that I had the chance. But it was more out of necessity, since it had been so long, than any ability to access this part of myself at will.
Even times when I’m writing on a consistent or at least semi-consistent basis, I can’t always rely on my momentum to keep me going. Instead, I have to reread my previous work or write blog posts like this one to prime the pump, so to speak, before launching into any “new” writing.
Some people swear by taking showers or regular exercise, or even meditation. There are whole books out there on how to find and harness inspiration, as if it’s some light switch we can turn off and on.
But for me, it always comes down to giving myself permission to write. Shucking the self-consciousness for at least a few hours so that the words come more easily.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve come a long way from where I was when I first started writing on a regular basis. I’ve gotten better. But I do feel like I’ve regressed a bit after this trip. And now I’m trying to make my way back to where I was before.
I need to give myself over to writing. But typing it is easier than doing it.