“Every child is an artist. The problem is how we remain an artist once we grow up.”
OK, I have to admit that today was not a banner day writing-wise. No matter what my good intentions were, I just couldn’t seem to get any traction, any lift-off. At one point, I realized that some of the revisions I was making to a chapter in my YA novel were not really improvements over the earlier version and so I had to back-track. This is definitely not a good feeling. But, instead of giving myself a hard time about my lack of real forward motion, I decided to loosen up — with better results. Here’s what happened:
First, I decided to stop putzing: Once it became clear that I was just pushing words around on the page without any sparkling breakthroughs, it seemed the better part of valor just to stop doing what I was doing. It wasn’t working. This wasn’t admitting defeat, but simply accepting that my frustration wasn’t producing anything useful.
Second, I let go for a while: I looked over another chapter that was in better shape and did some fine-tuning that was much more satisfying than what I’d been working on earlier. This gave me a boost. When I’d put in a solid block of time, I wrapped it up for the day, went home and relaxed. I put my novel aside.
Third, I started playing: Later in the evening, I took a walk. It was a cloudy evening, but balmy. As I was ambling along enjoying myself, I just started playing with the opening of the chapter that was giving me a hard time. I started rewriting it in my head and came up with a much better way to have the events unfold. I let the sentences bubble up and shift around in a fluid, low-key way. Then, I sat down in a quiet spot halfway through my walk and just let this jumble I’d created in my head rearrange itself. And suddenly, out popped a fun idea — one that promises to add a light touch to my story. As soon as this fresh, juicy tidbit of a new idea, bubbled up, I felt totally confident about doing a much stronger rewrite.
As I walked back home, lighter of heart, I realized that this new idea was hidden away among my old sentences, just waiting for me. All I needed to do was to create an opening for it to pop out. I did that by relaxing and letting go, instead of getting bent out of shape because I wasn’t having the kind of productive day I expected.
Has this every happened to you? In writing, as in life, mastering the art of letting go seems to be one of the keys to unlocking creativity. When we cling too tightly to what we’ve written or try to wrest what we want from the page, we lose the lighthearted, playfulness that so often leads to fresh phrases and insights. So let’s have fun — and write on!