Anyone who is just starting out as a writer knows that you have nothing to show for all your time right out of the chute. Writing is a process, and intellectually I know this, but I want to be seen as productive. I want to prove my worth in this field. I want to show my supporters and my naysayers that I can be a success at this as quickly as possible. I want others to recognize writing as my career, but with nothing to show it just looks like I am spending all my time on a fun hobby. So, I impose rules on myself and my writing that end up hindering my progress and making me crazy along the way.
I try to just go straight to work on my manuscript or blog piece without warming up with a free write because the free write takes too much time. I cut back on my reading because I should be working, not having fun. My best writing happens when I just sit down when it makes sense in my day, rather than forcing a particular time on the task. Next thing I know, I’m stressed out. My self-imposed schedule implodes. I feel like a failure because I can’t live up to the rules I created to “make me successful faster.”
Writing is a beautiful process. Natalie Goldberg captures this in her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Writers must fill a lot of notebooks with a lot of words before they spin the tales that will eventually put food on the table. Writers must write for themselves and no one else. Otherwise their work becomes forced and flat. Our passion must be allowed to run free.
When I scrap the restraints I put on myself my soul is at peace and my creativity flows. Suddenly I’m immersed in my notebook or on the laptop and the pressure I created worrying about productivity lifts. I’m producing. It just may not always look like what I envisioned, and it is good.
Free writing and reading novels are the two main ingredients in my writing recipe. Without them I have no inspiration, and my prose has no energy. Every writer’s recipe is unique, but each one contains one or two components that cannot be eliminated without wrecking the process. I am blessed to be in a situation where I have no deadlines and I can do whatever it takes to make my writing ready for the world. Now, where’s the laminating machine? I need to protect this recipe from myself.
What are the essential ingredients for your writing recipe?