The Adequate Writer: A state of writing grace
hand, Jane Eaton Hamilton, unknown date
There is a thing that comes over my brain when I can write well–a vacancy. It could be likened to Bev Daurio’s “round room without windows,” because it feels like a scallop of emptiness inside a clean, white, rounded bone, a beautiful meditation room with blowing cream drapes, but it’s sensate even in my limbs as an awareness of what I have to call clean energy, the shimmer of a mirage felt rather than seen. A meditation? A dream without a dream to fill it? I can juggle five or ten disparate things at the same time as one might, I’ve heard, in a manic state, when links between ideas/inputs/sensations are readily apparent and can be braided. It doesn’t matter how ordinarily jarring the information appearing is–it will in this rare capacity make a kind of fictional sense for what my characters are undertaking. The world opens its possibilities all at once. Yet this state of writing grace is as far from manic as anything could be; it’s calm and open and peaceful. Whatever difficulties were inherent in the manuscript previously will be unlocked.
Not the kind of unlocked where you come back the next morning and groan at all the ridiculous you’ve unleashed on the text, but the kind of unlocked that sends manuscripts out into their futures.
Outside disruptions can dispell this nimbleness. When I am getting a “write on” I will sense it for hours before it shows itself fully. I prefer to indulge it and not break away from it, because it’s not a usual occurence for me. I can toil weeks or months without it, even while regularly engaged in a project. I can’t will it to happen, but I do note that it’s always–always–preceded by frustrated hours or days of edging up to work with increasing levels of frustration, something I would once have called writer’s block, replete as those times are with self-castigation. Not just writing self-castigation but more wide castigations: Why won’t I do my taxes? A nap mid-day? I should call X. I could finish that drywall. I could paint that trim. Why didn’t I call TD? Why haven’t I been in touch with the pharmacy? Why didn’t I cut the plants back? I should have gone shopping. I should have worked on that article due on the first. Watching a movie in the middle of the afternoon? Why am I so useless? I could lift weights. I could go for a walk. Look alive! It’s Monday tomorrow! How can I just go to bed without accomplishing anything?
But now I see this unease/writer’s block/chastisement as just a prelude to my best work. It’s part of why I believe in my routine of sticking it out each day until some significant work occurs (though usually I write through without this suppleness to help me, somewhere in the middle of my two extremes, and make do). Batter myself against failure long enough and there will come a breakthrough.