Like most people who claim to be writers, I struggle finding the focus I need to write well with, at least my fiction. Every day I write something in social media about diabetes and nutrition. Very often I reply to controversial blogs and news stories with my insight. I do not seem to have a problem with sitting down and writing five hundred words telling an author of a weight loss article how wrong they are and why. Yet I have this great novel that currently sucks, and most days I struggle with sitting down and trying to make it work. I struggle with finding my writing zone in my creative writing pursuits.
We claim it’s distractions, you know, computer games, Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, or whatever else draws your attention. I think it is more than that. I think it is more our inability to tune into that writing passion when we need to, to create our writing zone on demand. Press the button, find your story and character, and then do it for two hours. You know when you’ve found it. Your coffee gets cold.
I run an informal writing group once a week at the library. It’s completely unofficial. Somehow the library thinks it’s their program, though, and has directed a couple of people our way. Fine. The last thing I want is administrative structure around creativity. Can there be anything more stifling?
We had a discussion last week. We often discuss our writing issues. I claimed I do not write well at these things. I do not get into my writing zone and the results are typically frivolous, shallow, and uninspired. Others disagreed, but their opinions don’t count when it comes to me.</facetiousness> I went on to say that I need to become emotionally attached to my writing. I need to become my character, feel like I am him, feel like I am where he is and doing what he is doing. I need to be able to see the location, touch it, smell it, hear it. Only then can I truly write well.
Such claims should be taken with a grain of salt. There are no writing silver bullets.
So these last couple of months have been stressful on my writing. I took a term teaching position at our local community college. I am not sure what the equivalent American school might be, a junior college maybe. The instructor took ill suddenly, and they had no replacement. The stint was two weeks but they remained out, and it turned into a seven week gig. I taught two complete courses — PL/SQL with Oracle and Project Management. Find people who can teach both of these. I dare you! Anyway, I’d never taught before, so it was rather stressful. Not a lot of creative writing got done in my world. Not a lot of any writing got done. Now I’m sitting at my desk, unemployed, trying to make this best selling novel work so I don’t ever have to worry about money. It’s a story that now seems very distant, and I feel very removed.
Two things have brought me back into the fold — my fountain pen and my monthly writing group. My pen is my cue to write. Recent Sunday mornings I’ve sat in coffee shops — a new Second Cup! — and written about my story. My previous theme blog post came from one of them. I’m writing about macro-story level issues. My story follows the hero’s journey, like any good story should *ha*, and I’ve been mapping it out, re-learning it. Very stressful. I now have major changes facing me. My other impetus is my monthly writing group. I’ve been reading a scene to them once a month, sometimes a short story gets in the way, or poetry, but right now I’m reading scenes from my future bestselling novel. This is pressure. This is a deadline. I need a good scene written for it, or I will look like a moron. Right? We meet for breakfast in two hours from now.
So last night I made the decision to find my writing zone. I first took a nap. It is crazy hot here, 34 c or low 90’s f. Hot you ask? When it’s extremely humid, you are not used to it — we saw a day of 57 f last week — and you don’t have AC, then yes, it’s bloody hot. It’s not often John sleeps completely exposed. Anyway, expunge that image and picture John sitting in his office, mind empty after a power nap, cooking in the heat, drinking an iced coconut rum and pineapple juice, and forcing himself into his character and scene. He becomes Dan. He sees and smells Jen. He feels the sexual tension. He feels Dan’s fears about revealing to her that he is completely illiterate. He feels the hope he feels that this little coffee shop he was in the previous day might open a new world to him. He cannot articulate these feelings; they are too subtle for him; but John can feel them. He was there the day before and he watched Jen teach an older man the word dirt. Can she teach him anything? Is there any hope for Dan?
Trust me when I say I was in the zone …