Clarity comes with writing.
Hey friend, not to call you out on the Internet or anything but is there a chance that you’re avoiding writing this week? Just asking.
It happens, right? We’re grooving along in our writing routine, laying down page after page or poem after poem…and then, what comes next? We’re not quite sure, so we lay down our pen and get on with our day. We’re going to come back to it tomorrow, or the next day, when the next line or scene seems clear.
But then tomorrow comes. And suddenly the linen closet in the hall needs to be organized so your mother-in-law can find matching bath and hand towels when she visits…4 months from now.
Or it’s fall and you have that bushel of apples from apple-picking last weekend, so probably you should just whip up a batch of apple-cinnamon muffins and maybe some applesauce before the fruit flies take over, right? You’re a paragon of productivity and cooking really is such a creative endeavour.
Or you somehow wake up to find yourself blinking in the middle of a bookstore, smack in the middle of your usual writing time, wondering which books (yes that is plural, thanks) you need to inspire you to finish this scene. NO, WAIT: a scented candle to light while you write, that will do the trick.
I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself in one of these situations. There are basically two ways to ensure my apartment will be squeaky clean – either I’ve invited someone over, or I am feeling just a wee bit stuck in my current writing project.
Has that ever happened to you? Today, I mean? (I see you, my writer friend. We’re living the same life.)
But having been through this a bazillion times now over the years, I also know that the clarity comes with the writing. So here’s how I solve for stuck:
I know, it seems deceptively simple and the temptation is to panic and think “I can’t, I’m stuck” but those are just your feelings. Your brain isn’t stuck – your brain is a bundle of neurons firing away and it can’t help but be creative when you sit the heck down and let it. So here’s what you do:
You sit down at your desk at your regular writing time and you read a little from where you left off last week/month/year (no judgement!) and then you pick up your pen and write the next words. Any words will do, they don’t have to be brilliant words and if you’ve been avoiding writing for a while they probably won’t be – you’ve got to prime the pump again and that means more writing. So…
Clarity comes with the writing. I know this in my bones and my bones know it because it’s the song my blood vessels sing: clarity comes with the writing.
When I sit and just let myself write any old thing, not worrying about whether it’s the right thing or the brilliant thing or the perfect thing or the final and essential thing, the words come and with them comes (eventually) clarity. Clarity about what the right words, the right lines, the right scenes are and what I need to write next.
Clarity comes with writing.
But you have to be willing to go to your desk and be there with your work even when you don’t feel like you have clarity. And feelings are all you’ll have at that moment…a feeling that your writing is crap, a feeling that a better writer (a “Real Writer”, that imaginary monstrosity) would know what comes next, a feeling that you’ll never finish, a feeling that your writing will never be good enough and a feeling that YOU will never be good enough.
Those are just feels; they will come and go and come again. You have to learn to write through those feelings and onto the other side, because that’s where clarity is waiting for you.
(Can I tell you a secret? They’re not even really feelings – they’re thoughts. Change the thoughts and you can change the feelings. True story.)
Oh, and you may write some crap in the meantime. But that’s part of the process too. The trick is in training yourself to sit there and let yourself write crap, knowing that you can revise and rewrite it later and that better words and better writing days are coming.
And by now you’re also armed with muffins and a scented candle, so really you can’t go wrong.
You write. And then clarity comes, with the writing.