Around the Bush to Brilliance

The rapid technological advances of our age are only the most prominent products of a results-oriented culture. We are all caught up in its tumult, infected by what we see rushing past us. When you have only your regular job to do, or regular texts to take care of, the frenetic pace is fun. 

Yet when you are trying to write, the clamor that invites you to do, do, do—don’t be bored!—can have an adverse effect. If you sit down for a writing session and you can’t produce, disgruntlement sets in. You are sitting in front of your screen, and the words seem like meaningless scribbles that might as well be cuneiform for all the connection you feel to them. 

You try to start, and you stop. After ten minutes you actually get down a sentence, feeling a burst of inspiration, but then you feel as arid afterward as you did before you managed that pitiful dribble. Your feelings of frustration are understandable. You have put aside the precious time, and nothing is happening. If these stale sessions occur too often, you will follow the pain and pleasure principle. If writing is so self-defeating, I won’t do it. Weeks may go by before you return to the keyboard. That novel is never going to be finished.

What is the problem? You are trying to force the issue. You need to permit yourself to meander. Sometimes the way through is not full-steam ahead. You might have to waste time to make time. Of that hour you allotted for writing today, you may have to spend the first 35 minutes feeling unable to get started. Then you feel something gel inside and you knock out a page or two in the last 25 minutes. 

You have to follow a rule: You cannot move from your chair until the time you set for yourself is up. Because you can’t escape, you have to devise techniques to muddle through. You wait out your frustration, in other words. You can’t call up brilliance on demand, but you can wait for the Muse to come knocking.

Exercise: Rather than staring at the page you planned to write, allow your mind to wander where it will. While you are focused on one thing, you usually will find that stray pieces related to the story pop into your head. You’d meant to research a minor point, for example, or you know you took research notes that you’ll use later in the chapter. Forget about what you planned to write. Get busy looking up that research bit. Write a sentence or paragraph on that point and paste it into the chapter. That’s progress. Even better, it may be what gets your writing session going that day.

“’Keeping busy’ is the remedy for all the ills in America. It's also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.”  ― Joyce Carol Oates

Copyright @ 2021 John Paine. All rights reserved. 

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.