Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Staring Into the Abyss (But It's Not That Deep)

Over the past couple of weeks I finished a late draft of one book and am closing in on the end of the first draft of the third Pretty Crooked book. Yay, me. I should be feeling awesome and productive, right? I should be popping Cristal and eating duck confit and making impulse purchases on Anthropologie.

But instead, I've felt this shadowy doubt stalking me in the night and it's whispering in a creepy Poltergeist organ player voice: Girl, you better start thinking about your next project. Time's a tickin'. And then there's a counter-voice, which is a lot less scary but more rapid-fire and annoying a la Abed Nadir from Community: What, no great ideas? No brilliant flashes of inspiration? Maybe your brain is all withered and dried up. I saw that once, on this guy and... (he babbles on until I tune him out.)

In short, I guess you could say I've been grappling with a mystery all writers of all genres face: how to find inspiration. Because writing is a complex and ever-changing craft, and you change with it. What worked last time won't necessarily work now. You need to be able to approach a new project and all of its challenges with a fresh perspective. And energy. And enthusiasm.

Sure, I have some ideas for a new book, but I've come to the conclusion that Abed-voice could be right about the dried-up part. I've been really pushing hard for the last six months, working on two projects at once plus the day job and I think I need a little break. So I've decided to focus exclusively on my current project and not to jump into anything new for a little while. I'll use that time to read more, take in more films, art, music, ideas and regenerate. Gather up some creative momentum. There will always be pressure to write more, to move on to the next thing, and I am going to exercise my writerly right to ignore it.

In the meantime, a few weeks ago, I read this piece in the NY Times about where sentences come from, and I think it gets at the fear most people encounter when they try to put their thoughts into typographical order. In his editorial, Verlyn Klinkenborg says there's no magic. We just need to start with sentences and build from there—eventually we can trust our own thought process. When I'm ready to begin a new book, I plan to reread this first.

What about you? What have you learned about your own creative process? What has helped you make the leap to a new project?


  1. What a great post--we all need a break sometime, and it's so important to recognize when you need one.

    I still have book 3 coming up, but might take a break after all that, like you. Sounds nice :-)

  2. Love this post, Elisa. A nice reminder that filling our brains is essential to creating, too.

  3. You're so prolific! Thanks for the inspiring post. Like you, I tend to fill up on art in other media. Especially visual things. Good to take the time to do that; it's part of the job!

  4. Thanks, guys! It would be cool for another post for someone to make a list of brain-filling activities!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...