I kept hearing the same thing: To succeed in writing, I needed to do it regularly, to plunk myself down every day and (to swipe a corporate slogan) just do it. I took that counsel to heart and eked out an hour or so of uninterrupted compositional time in both my schedule and mind for every day of the week. During the appointed period, I filled pages, pecked them into the word processor and then filed all my ideas away in some dusty corner of my head when the clock said I should move on. It was textbook, exactly what the manuals commanded, disciplined, daily and segmented. And it got me nowhere.
Why not? Invariably, I would face the same problem -- a dearth of ideas. The well would run dry only two or three days into a new project. The hour would produce only a dozen rewritings (and re-deletions) of the same paragraph, a paragraph that in most of its iterations read suspiciously like whatever novel I’d recently picked up. I didn’t get it. Why wasn’t it working? What was I doing wrong?
The answer seems obvious now. I only had half of the equation. Yes, we need to ration our time, to dole out portions and pieces of our schedules to the physical act of writing. Nothing will ever happen otherwise. But we ought not to ration our writerly thoughts. After all, most of it happens in the mind, in the interplay of meditation and association, supposition and application. Such a creative spirit ought to always be bringing us the next nascent plot point or character trait or setting detail. It needs to hum so loudly inside of us that when we finally get our allotted hour it fairly resonates its own way onto the page.
(Picture: CC 2007 by linoleum jet)