The past few weeks I have been coming to terms with my writing style. For me, writing looks an awful lot like playing FreeCell or Mahjong, both of which sit on my shortcuts bar and get used almost daily. There is a sifting that happens within my brain as I move cards around or search for tile matches.
I like creating order from chaos, especially when I’m stressed. I like shelving books and shelf reading, making sure things are in their proper order. I like doing jigsaw puzzles. They are my go-to therapy when life gets overwhelming. It’s cheaper than a therapist and less harmful than alcohol. Sorting through small pieces of cardboard with picture fragments gives my hands and part of my brain something to do while the rest of my brain processes, breaks up and rearranges the pieces of trauma and hurt, and repackages them into something I can make sense out of. I think something similar happens in the creative process.
I circle around the process of writing for a while, getting closer and closer until finally something jells and I’m off and running. The beginning often looks like a free-write, some ramblings in a spiral notebook. Then they get typed, sometimes in a separate document, sometimes in place in the manuscript. Then printed and read. And marked up, moved around, more scribbling on the backs of the printed pages. Then corrected. Repeat as necessary. Each section is touched at least three times before I consider the first draft done. It’s a process. I am a slow writer. It is what it is and I think I’m making my peace with it.
I recently came across this quote, which I think sums up the process perfectly:
I don’t believe in inspiration. I believe that you sit at your desk, and you push your pencil around, and you feel lousy about yourself for a while, and eventually, you just start writing.
(Dinty W. Moore, in The Writer magazine, Dec 2015)
I would like to be able to speed up the process, but I haven’t yet stumbled onto a way to do so, perhaps there isn’t one. I couple of weeks ago, I hit a snag in the manuscript. I should have known (I did know) the snag was coming, after all there was a blank note card on my wall. I stalled. I stopped. I did other things. And then, I entered the spiral, I started to push the pencil around. Eventually, I found my way. The ideas came, crystallized, squeezed themselves onto the page, and they were workable, good even.
I am coming to peace with this. I am panicking less when the stalls come, knowing that they are part of the process; one spiral has ended and I need to wait for the next one to show up. They have a time table all of their own.
I am accepting that I am a slow writer. And that’s okay. As long as I keep moving it forward, keep improving it, it does not matter if it’s two paragraphs a day, two pages a day or two chapters a day. Keep moving forward. The journey to a completed manuscript starts with a single word.