>Reentering the Work

> Life has a way of interfering with the execution of art (I am using the word in the broad sense of all artistic activity). Blame the cut-throat nature of the artistic world, or perhaps the fact that the gap between poor artists and rich artists is much larger than for any other section of society. Either way, this nasty thing called needing to earn a living and the other mundane things like taking out the trash and cooking dinner (and driving around the kids!) take out a big slice of time.

These nasty things really put a dent in the working flow. Like most writers I find it pretty hard to tune back into the work. Ideally I would like to write for a minimum two hour block each day. That’s about how long it takes me to tune into the story, the characters, chip through the usual layer of ice and start to get the words flowing again.

Life is a little like torture at the moment. I just get started, just break through into the story and I have to stop and help with the groceries, or run for the bus, feed the llamas etc. The worse thing is when you are forced away from the work for a number days.

Getting back in can be a real challenge.

My way back in is always through the story itself – in the flow of the plot – and through the characters. If the break has really been a long one, I might have to first review the plot and do some thinking about the characters then start re-drafting from a few chapters back, or even from the beginning to get back into the feel of the piece and understand at a gut level where I had been coming from.

How do you navigate your way back into your story when life gets in the way? Or can you pick up the threads easily?

7 comments

  1. >Well, first off, I became a specialist in forgetting to pick my kids up after band practice, and then burning dinner.The story didn't let go very easily, and back then I had no trouble picking it back up. It insisted. Which explains my huge backlog of first drafts, awaiting polish. Not to mention the starts of series getting sold.Now, I'm trying to get organized, professional, go back to all those first drafts and turn them into marketable manuscripts, and I'm finding problems getting back into the work. Rereading is good, but I also find myself reanalyzing the whole story. This won't do, for picking it back up after short breaks. So how did I used to do it? I think I always had the story at the back of my mind. I'd think about while driving (roadwork? The automated traffic system is out for the next five miles, please remember that you are steering and braking!)shopping (what are my characters having for dinner tonight?)and so forth. It's not something you can do while talking to the kids and spouse, or during the day job. But keeping your mind in the story during other short breaks works pretty well.

  2. >Hi, Matapam. I think I find the 'energy hump' a lot lower for editing than first drafting. I need to really get over a quite daunting barrier for first drafts. Sounds like if we could somehow combine your brain and mine we would make an awesome writing machine (that still burns dinner:))Good luck with polishing the drafts. I tend to do the opposite, which is polish and polish for YEARS and send it nowhere. Or send it one place and get rejected. Basically all the things you are not supposed to do.

  3. >Things changed after I quit smoking last year. It actually made the writing harder … I used to step out back with the beagles and have a smoke, and let the story seep back in. I did the same thing to switch from one scene to another, particularly emotional scenes. Now that I don't smoke, I'm still trying to work out how I do it …

  4. >Hi, Stephen. How about a short walk with the dogs? I find walking excellent for musing over things.Stick with the non-smoking. David Gemmell died at 57 from smoking-related heart disease. That's too young. It takes so long to establish yourself as a writer, you need to live longer just to get the work out!

  5. >My biggest block is mojo. It takes courage to say, "Well, I've written thirty pages, I have a whole lot more to go, and about a 1 in 1000 chance of ever publishing this thing" – and then start writing.Louise Curtis (on her 13th book now)

  6. >Hi, Louise. I know exactly where you are coming from. For a long time it's been like getting blood out of a stone for me – mainly because I just don't do well with having to restart all the time, but life does not let me get a run up.Blind belief can only get you so far. It is hard to separate from that fear of not being published. But I think to achieve any sort of flow you do need to be able to complete detach from anything external. it is hard though. You can get to the point where you still love it, but don't like it anymore. Does that qualify as a dysfunctional relationship?"My writing promised me it would stop hurting me. It still does, but I just can't leave it." Creepy.If only there were relationship therapists who could help you with your writing as well:)The biggest thing that helps me is realising that I cannot not write. So there is no point agonising over the future, I will still do it regardless. Sad,huh? It must surely be some form of insanity.

  7. >Any relationship therapist would advise an unpublished writer to leave the "relationship", and possibly go into witness protection.We all like the bad boy, though.Louise Curtis

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