so i dreamed i got another tattoo
Time, time, time, see what’s become of me. Time is the ever-present non-renewable resource that I constantly struggle to manage. And time has been getting away from me lately in the face of the on-coming finals season, end of law school, and beginning of bar stress. My commitment to my writing, as measured in consistency and hours, definitely took a hit. And like we learn in physics: bodies at rest, stay at rest. In this blog post, let’s talk strategies and experiments to get that writing-body back to one in motion.
I don’t believe there is any one way to get back to that place your writer self remembers from last week, last month, last year, where finding time for writing was easy, and the writing itself was ready when you were. For me, it is always a matter of seeing what is going to work for me now that does not involve totally abandoning my WIP even though that is the thought itching at the base of my brain. (Look, Brain, it just needs work and some TLC and is *not* a POS, whatever you think right now. Back off.)
But this is about strategies. What have I been doing to get back into my writer flow?
- Forgive myself. I am REALLY good at beating myself up for not living up to my own (often ridiculous) expectations of what I should be accomplishing all the time. Right now, I am taking note of these thoughts and not beating myself up about them like I usually do (double whammy!) and taking the time to talk myself through them in a postive light. What does this look like? Something along the lines of’ “Okay, so you haven’t been editing your WIP everyday and you are sort of scared of engaging with it. Okay. That is where you are. You have a lot on my plate right now, and you have been doing a read-through and making notes and edits. It is okay that it is not everyday. When you are not inspired, you can work, and that is what you are doing right now. Good for you.” Rinse, repeat until all the mental dirt is cleared until the next time.
- Work on something else. I am a person that needs multiple projects going at once. My problem is making sure it is not too many multiple projects. But I feel stuck if I have only one thing going on at a time. My brain needs distractions to work through things and make connections that would not have happened if I was focused in on a single WIP. So, I have some short stories brewing, some in editing, some in drafting. I am engaging with these, so that my WIP can have that break when I am on the verge of abandoning it. The fact that these other projects are in different stages also helps, because I can assess what kind of creation I need right now. Do I need to generate? Do I need to feel like I checked something off of my to do list? Do I need to read other works and interesting facts related to a story? All of these options are available to me in my Dropbox.
- Walk away (as in, walk). Physical activity is key to my creativity. When option 2 is not doing it for me, I put on my running or walking shoes and get moving. I know a lot of people have their best ideas in the shower; I have mine on a run or on a walk. I go by myself and let my mind wander. Even if I end up back at my apartment with no new insights or ideas or what-have-yous, I am clearer. Much like the self-care in option 1, letting go of conscious direction of my thoughts helps to clear out mental obstacles and stresses that block me from moving forward.
- Journal. This option is a relatively new one for me. Journal about the struggle. Journal about things that happened in your day. Journal the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual experiences of your day. My life feels incredibly limited at the moment, because law schools seems like all I ever do. Journaling gets me out of that mindset. My bike rides, lunches, walks, classes, everything all have individualized and specific relevance to my life and to my writing. I can write and write creatively without the pressure of creating something. The story is there; it needs words. And at the end, even if it does not jump start me back into my writing flow, I have a record of experience for future works.
- Schedule. Scheduling for me is not the “I write from 7 am until 9 am” kind. That limits me (kuddos if that works for you; I am totes jealous!). I schedule writing in more of a where does this go in my day kind of way. If I try to say “I will write before I go to bed,” I am not going to write (tired + only accountable to myself = excuses). Mornings work for me. I am not a morning person, but I am good at getting things done in the morning (because I hate everyone until I have been sufficiently caffeinated). I write after breakfast, before I go to school. It is not an exact time, but I can make it consistent so long as I keep it there. Once I start working on law school stuff, my brain switches over and writing is a struggle. In the morning, before law school, after breakfast. And if I miss a day to get some extra sleep, see option 1.
That’s the experiment right now. How do you approach your own loss of writer flow? What other kinds of approaches do you think are effective? Drop your thoughts in the comments, and let’s get a conversation going!
As per the announcement I made, my story, “An Ineffective Devil,” was released on Friday over at Crooked/Shift, just in time for Halloween! I am getting around to reading the other stories now, but probably mine is the best. I will stand by that evidence-less assertion until I’ve read the rest of them.
So if you want some Halloween horror or some quirky stories involving the supernatural or paranormal, get over and download. And if you got some change in your pocket and enjoyed what you read, maybe make a wee donation to the publishers.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Drop a comment for how you are celebrating this year. I am trying to get my act together so I can hit up the Drag Queen Race.
Crooked/Shift has accepted my short story An Ineffective Devil for their next issue (tentatively due out October 24th, just in time for Halloween)! Take a moment and check out their site, and I will be sure to remind you when the issue is released.
Thank you all for joining me on this little journey of mine. May it get even more exciting!
Prompt from Neil Gaiman via the Story A Day May Challenge. The prompt was “Getting Home.” I decided to take the scene from The Bacchae where Agave brings home her hunt and play with the idea of getting home but then losing home. Enjoy!
Agave did not mind the cuts on her feet and the blood slicking the rocks as she tore down the mountain, prize in hand. She had been given a great task, and after weeks of worship in the slopes of Kithaeron, her tried patience had finally been satisfied. The women followed. Her women. Lungs burning and fingers gripping into the slicked meat and entrails for all of Thebes to feast and draw the blessings of the gods. The rhythm of the running and the pierce of their victory cries so different from the dances they had shared and the hunter’s calls when the beast arrived.
The stars and moon lit their paths, but Agave could have run home blind. These were her mountains. She had traced the lines and knew each bend in the earth. She knew the feel of ground when it changed as she neared the Theban walls. Her worship had taken her farther from city than she had been, and as she returned her bones thrummed in joy. Her father, her son, her sisters, all here in her Thebes.
Agave leads her women into the city. Their thundering feet turning to flapping against the stone. The great home of Pentheus lays before her, the guts of the building spilled before Thebes. The questions bubbling up in her brain pop before she can catch them. Her holy task still waits. Thebes waits. Her people stare, drawn from their homes to witness Agave’s glory.
The foreign women look on, their expressions betraying no pride in her kill. Her Thebans stare. She raises her blood-gloved hands, hoisting the lion’s head for them to see, and smiles a bloodstained smile.
“Thebans! We are blessed! The gods sent me to destroy the beast among us, and I am victorious! With my own hands and the hands of my sisters, we have torn his life from him and brought home our prey to feast.”
She takes the lion’s head and places it upon the cracked steps of the palace, a silent scream in its mouth.
Agave laughs. A giggle growing into a cackle, echoing in her city. Her voice drops to growling whisper. “You men. Forbidding us to join your hunts. Telling us we are too weak for this work. But you armor yourselves and cheapen the hunt with weapons. You are weak. I looked into the beast’s eyes and felt its pulse in my hands. I faced Death, and I won.
But I will not gloat. I bring our catch and offer a feast. Let us light the fires and pour the wine and revel in the power of Thebes’ women.”
No one moved. The foreigners simply turned and walked away, out of Thebes. Their leader pressing a hand into the shoulder of Cadmus as they passed each other through the gates. Cadmus catches his daughter’s eyes and shakes his head.
Agave grabs her prize and rushes to her father’s feet. She holds up the lion’s head. “Look! Look, what I did today.” Cadmus turns away.
“Are you not proud, father? Look what we have done with our own hands. The gods will bless us, father. Look. I am so much more than you expect. Look!”
Cadmus brings water and presses the cup to her lips. “Drink.” Agave does as she is told. “It is not a lion, child.” He lays a protective hand on her head, and she crinkles her brow. “Not a lion. Look again.”
Agave looks. The lion’s face looks familiar, human. A fog is clearing around it. The eyes are her eyes, but not her eyes. The nose her husband’s, but not his either. She turns back to her father. “Look.” Her son.
“No.” She throws the head away. “No.” Agave looks again. She … no mother could … how did she not know? A cry chases itself through the air, but she barely registers it as hers.
Iron blood threads through the earthy smell of Thebes. She is repelled. The stones scrapping her knees are somehow harder, sharper. She jumps to her feet. Her eyes see again the destruction. The palace brought low and gutted and the blank accusing eyes of Pentheus pushing her away. The air thickens; her lungs reject it. This place is not Thebes.
Agave runs. Her feet no longer know the stones, and she trips, stone catching her knee and cutting down her leg. Her blood pours out an offering to her home. Thebes rejects it, and it remains unmingled with the soil. Cadmus reaches her and presses a cloth to her knee.
“I … can’t stay. Why?” Her mind flicks back to her hunt, to the moment her hands ripped into the beast’s neck, and she scuttles away from him. She cannot be here. She has to leave. Her skin aches for her son, for her home, but neither is in Thebes.
“Wait.” Her father’s command stops her retreat. “I will come with you. And your sisters. We must bury our dead first.”
The sun had risen fully by the time the pyre was ready. Agave said no word and stared unseeing as Cadmus lit the fire. She stood and watched until even the embers lost their glow, severing her finally and completely from Thebes. She did not eat the food they offered and only moved when finally her family was ready.
She dragged her feet over her path of victory, heading back to the slopes of Kitaeron. She stared only at her feet. They passed where she and her sisters played hide and seek. Then the place where she stole kisses from her first love. Where Pentheus had taken his first steps and his first falls. And where he and his friends climbed trees, reaching always higher and higher to make her heart worry he would fall. Then they passed the site of the lion hunt, and finally her place of worship.
Agave did not look back to the stoney walls of Thebes as she crossed the border into where she had never been.