Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going Deep

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I couldn’t go deep. This is a problem I’ve been having off and on for years, one with which I’m sure everyone who has ever been a writer/mother/caretaker/jobholder is familiar. I’ve become hyper-vigilant. I’m always right on the surface, aware even in sleep of everything that is going on in the house. My mind won’t shut off. It’s exhausting.

As I lay awake, thinking about the concept of ‘going deep’ did cause me to spend some time pondering the mysteries of the universe. Physicists believe they have found the basic building block of reality, the smallest thing there is. The elementary particle. The Higgs boson. But for years I have had an intimation that creation is not just imponderably huge, without limit, out there, it is also imponderably ‘in there’, deep without limit. Just as there is no top, there is no bottom.

I recently read Jonah Lehrer's new book called Imagine. In it Lehrer propounds that daydreaming and otherwise allowing the mind to wander aimlessly is the most effective way to tap your true creativity.

I dearly hope that is so, because I would then be the most effectively creative creature alive.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR recently and heard one of my favorite if not often thought-of quotes by sportswriter Red Smith: “There’s nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Ain’t it the truth? I've been working on two books at once lately, which sounds very ambitious of me. Some days I can slog along quite handily, but there are days that I open a vein and nothing comes out. When that happens, it causes me great agony and despair that I can’t whip up the wherewithal to do what needs to be done. On such days I sit at my desk for an hour staring at a pad of paper, or at the computer with my fingers poised over the keyboard, and … nothing. It’s not even that I can’t think of anything to write. I am always writing in my head, and have done for as far back as I can remember.

So I just put down something.  Anything. I figure I can always fix it later.  Then I use myself up on the meal preparation, laundry, chores, errands, doctor appointments.  Or clean something, or garden or dust or cook. Brawny tasks which take only muscle and no opening of veins.

I have author friends who have full time jobs and small children and broken arms and still manage to pound out two books a year. And one of the main tenets of writing that I propound when I teach a class is that it doesn’t matter whether you feel like it or not, you just do it. If what you write is drivel, keep going, and you will eventually attract the attention of the muses.

Anybody can have a good idea for a novel. It’s putting it on paper in a compelling way that makes a writer.

Okay, I’ve inspired myself to try again. Hand me the scalpel.

2 comments:

Aline Templeton said...

I know just how you feel - I hate those nights when you are technically asleep but still aware, and it's good to know there's someone else writing out there just to get words down on the page, even if they all have to be deleted later, and it's not just me!

Aline Templeton said...

I know just how you feel - I hate those nights when you are technically asleep but still aware, and it's good to know there's someone else writing out there just to get words down on the page, even if they all have to be deleted later, and it's not just me!