Our Process Takes Many Forms
This is just a quick note to let you know that if you are feeling like you can’t get any work done this morning or this week or this month, I am here to tell you that you absolutely can. Even if the work isn’t forthcoming at this exact moment, it will happen again sometime soon.
Not every moment of our lives is meant to be productive in a quantifiable way. I know this to be true. I have seen it time and again in my own life. When I think I am not doing any work at all because I can’t see the evidence in the form of a word count. There’s no way I’m moving forward right now, I think, because hello? I am obviously sitting still.
A good thing to remember is that our process takes many forms. Reading a book is part of the process. Exchanging ideas with a writer friend or an advisor of some kind is part of the process. Researching a time in history. (“What the fuck was going on in 1975?” is definitely a question I have spent an afternoon with.) Listening to music you think your character might like. I have spent hours searching vintage clothing online that I thought a character might wear. Taking long walks to clear your head is part of the process. Those morning stretches, that thirty-minute jog at dusk. Meditation. A chicken scratch idea on a post-it note that doesn’t go anywhere at all. Even if you never look at that note again, it can be part of your process.
Winter is tough for some of you out there, I know. Sometimes the struggle is as simple as missing the sun on your bones. If you’re working your way through something right now, it might be helpful to acknowledge the things you’re doing that are benefiting your work even if the words aren’t showing up just yet. Maybe make a list of the things you can do, are doing to benefit your mind and your creative process. It will all add up to something positive eventually. I promise you if you are engaging in a curious life, only good can come out of it.
I have said this before but I write these letters not just to you but myself. I have been thinking so much lately about how easy it is to get stuck in the quicksand of life. I am interested in it from a personal perspective, but also a writing perspective. A stuck character, trying to unstick themselves. How people can get trapped by happenstance or bad luck. Things outside of their control. Just a few wrong moves. A loss of momentum. No one’s fault, a lot of the time, this stuckness. Except when, a little bit, it is.
In my real life, I see this particular state of being as a cautionary tale. How easy it would be to tread water a little longer. How easy it would be to just sink into the earth a little more. At any moment it would be so easy for any of us to just give into it. Not just in our writing but in our lives.
That’s why we have to remember to do all these things to take care of ourselves.
Read, walk, breathe, think.
It will be spring soon enough,
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to the New Orleans African American Museum.