Friday, May 1, 2009

A bit of a grumble, and some inspiration

Like many writers, I have my ups and downs. I've been sick since Easter with this rotten cold, and therefore unable to sleep properly or commit fully to the exercise goal I set, and have been following, since January. (A minimum 10,000 steps a day, made more interesting by charting it on a virtual trek across the UK. I'm stalled somewhere around the 310 miles marker in Chesterfield and creeping slowly forward, which is very nice but I'd like to get the heck out of Dodge at this point.) Even my writing has been suffering the last few weeks as I haven't written as much as I should. Okay, not should, as much as I'd like to.

So I'm mired. Flopping about in the mud of Chesterfield while simultaneously wringing my hands and whinging about it (now there's a mental picture.)

But I'm on the mend, and working my way up to my 10,000 daily steps again. And the writing? I have to constantly remind myself that the writing is about me, and not anyone else, and that negative thinking is counter productive. If I critique what I'm writing before I'm finished, or ponder whether or not what I write even has a market, I'm sabotaging the work. It is immaterial at this point and it only bogs me down. The only solution is to just sit my bum in a chair and do the work, without over-thinking it. It's odd, but I don't seem to have this problem with photography. I'm still learning, make lots (lots!) of mistakes, but it doesn't stop me from getting out in the field and fooling around. I still feel that keen sense of excitement that the work brings.
So, what metaphorical smack upside the head works on that inner critic? By understanding and accepting that fear is normal, that a lot if not most artists feel it, but the successful ones just keep on creating. I used to think this kind of thinking was idealistic and therefore foolish, but I have come to realize that idealistic and optimistic are two very different things, and that the latter, when it is applied to writing or anything else in life (like walking my 10,000 steps) is more likely to bear fruit. (Mmm, fruit. Strawberries and whipped cream....)

There is a great little book called ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This excerpt really rang true for me. They write about a ceramics teacher who, on the first day, divided the class into two groups.

"All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in this bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

So what's the lesson here?

Get out there and play with your lumps?


BB said...

Hope you feel completely on top of it all soon Pam... and I utterly agree with not analysing work before it's done. If I try and do this, I stall. If I just open it up full throttle and 'let her rip' it flows. Not perfectly, but the way it should. You can always tidy up later.

And that applies to pretty much everything I do in my life...

Is that scary??


A Novel Woman said...

Thanks, Ms BB. Was feeling a bit better so went out with the mister to see WOLVERINE. I thought the movie was so-so, but ooh, I'm in love with your Hugh.

Let 'er rip and tidy up later is a great way to live!

Laura Bradbury said...

Dear Pam,

Fabulous post. Very timely for me too as have also had family flu epidemic recently (but thankfully not porcine) and with move and kids writing has ground to a standstill. Life has just been a tsunami recently.

However, I'll just console myself by thinking of my future lumps, and not beating myself up about taking an enforced hiatus for as long as necessary.

Bisous xo


nightsmusic said...

I have a horrible time trying to shut off that darned inner editor and I hate that. I get going, write up a storm then suddenly think I need to go over it all. grrrrrr All I want to do is write from beginning to end, plow through it, then go back and start editing. And one of these days, I'll manage...

I'm curious. Your virtual trek; is this something you designed yourself? Or is there something you're following? I'd love to do something like that. Sounds very cool.

Word: mutenfes. Sounds a bit like a Shriner's hat gone wrong... :P

A Novel Woman said...

Laura, I didn't even get in a daily shower, let alone write when my kids were young. So don't beat yourself up. You will do what you can, when you can.

Re the virtual trek. I wear a pedometer, every day, and my goal is 10,000 steps. Then I go to GoogleMap and plot my journey there. It's easy, and that pedometer is motivating, believe me.

Josee said...

10,000 steps.... Does going back and forth from the computer to the fridge count?

Josee said...

I just took the time to read everything you wrote. You've got've so got it.

A Novel Woman said...

That's the thing with pedometers. They don't judge steps, they only add them up. Computer to fridge, couch to fridge, floor to doesn't care and it can't wag its finger.

KindaSassy said...

Wow. The idea of churning out lots of lumps of clay which will lead to perfection without even being aware of it...? Incredible message that I needed to hear.

Thank you for putting it up.

A Novel Woman said...

You're welcome, Miss Kinda Sorta Sassy!