When It All Comes Out on the Page

I sat down to work on the novel yesterday.  It didn’t go well.  Sometimes, that’s just how writing is.

My parents came for a visit this weekend – it was lovely, and I plan to share details of our adventures once the photos are ready.  We spent most of our time out of the house driving around Loudoun County, and we introduced my mom and dad to a lot of our friends.  The wine was flowing Friday night and Saturday.  We ate, we drank, we sang (a lot).  We had fun.  By Monday morning, I was feeling pretty tired.  Exhausted.  Drained, even.

I woke up Monday wondering if, sometime during the wine-drinking, the eating, and/or the singing, I’d made a fool of myself.  Was I attentive enough to my parents?  Was I friendly and talkative?  Was I rude?  Did I say the wrong thing?  This kind of post-social anxiety happens to me a lot, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.  Usually, I’ll have a cup of coffee and a bite of chocolate and let the feeling pass.  But on Monday, all of that anxious energy made its way onto the page as I tried to write.

I’m not that far along in my novel yet, and the scenes I was working on yesterday weren’t critical.  It was discouraging, though, to find my own insecurities infecting my characters.  It was hard to see my own worries make their way into the action.  They didn’t belong there.  So I stopped.  I put the laptop down.  I folded some laundry, made the bed, fed the dog, and checked my email.  When I picked the laptop back up, I still couldn’t focus.  Yesterday, as it turned out, was not a productive writing day.

And that’s okay.  It’s really, really okay.  I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about writing:  “Not in the zone today?  Too bad – put some words on that page and move on.”  I think that’s a good practice.  But sometimes, you just can’t.  Sometimes, you need to take some time to get over whatever mental hurdle is in your way. When you write, at the end of the day, the words on the page are your words, and the story is your story.  When you write, your work is you, and that’s scary and exhilarating and intoxicating and magic.  It also means that you have to take care of yourself.  You have to get yourself to a place where the words flow, and the characters aren’t portraits of your own insecurities, and the action isn’t a collection of your own problems.  Unless, of course, that’s the kind of book you’re writing, and that’s fine too.

It’s not easy, sometimes, to get to that place.  That’s just how writing is.  I didn’t make it yesterday.  I barely made it today.  And that’s okay.  As long as I keep putting words on the page, as long as I don’t give up, that’s okay.

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