Writer to Writer: From Brain to Paper and Other Metaphysical Impossibilities (plus a blog tour stop with author Samie Sands).
From Brain to Paper and Other Metaphysical Impossibilities.
Anyone who has ever written anything knows what this is all about. There is something in your head and you have to write it down or type it out or communicate it to someone who is going to write it or type it for you. It is there and then you go to perform the action, the phenomenon of turning the intangible thought into a tangible series of meaningful symbols and then... you stop... you stare... maybe your pen drums on the paper or your fingertips tap and hover over the keyboard... you know what to say, you know how to say it, you have been thinking of it for a while now. But... you can't... s#*t.
A couple of phrases instantly come to my thoughts. One is "overthinking it," another is "trying too hard," while a third is "in the zone." As to streamline this blog post here, let's just look at each of these ideas in relation to the phenomenon of "Why can't I just write what I'm thinking? Ahhhhhh, it's making me crazy..."
Overthinking. Don't do it. Not when you are writing. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, as an independent author/publisher/entrepreneur, you need to carve your time up into specifically focused chunks. This means you need to balance your time and energy between several important tasks: 1. Writing, 2. Editing 3. Marketing 4. Research 5.Promotion
The time for thinking/overthinking is when you are researching, promoting, editing. But certainly not when you are writing. When you are writing, don't overthink. Heck, don't think at all. Just act. Do. Write. Write good lines. Write bad lines. Don't worry about good or bad either way. Just do it. Be one with the Tao (if you understand).
Taoist philosophy is built from a principle of non-action. This means, essentially, do not overthink, do not remain attached to your actions or the results of your actions. Just do. Act without trying to act. Act without concern to act. Let it flow from instinct, from momentum, from necessity. So, simply, just write.
If you are worrying about what you cannot do, you are to writing. If you worry about other things you have to do, you are to writing. If you worry about the next chapter, the right spelling, the right word, the right timing or chapter length or name or classification or.... if you are overthinking you are not writing. Don't think about it all too much and slow your roll or de-rail your train, just write. Editing and fretting about it comes later. Now, just take your head out of the equation and there is no fear or having it in the way of your creation.
Second, Trying Too Hard.
Trying to hard? Shoving instinctual square pegs into conventional round holes? Forcing cleverness or hacking into plots with a dull machete? Don't do it. Trying too hard has never gotten anyone anyplace except for in some form of trouble. You want to try, of course, it is not always going to be easy and no book have ever actually written itself. You need to try with all you heart all the time and, even more, you need to try hard. That's right. You need to push yourself and stretch your limits, you need to sweat and bleed and ache and feel that buzzing electric tingle in you brain when you have pushed yourself through some mental or physical barrier. You need to try hard for your art, whether it be writing or painting or music or what-have-you: if it means something to you then you need to try hard for it and because of it. BUT...
But 'trying' and 'trying hard' are much, much more than just a word or two away from 'trying too hard.' 'Trying too hard' is a completely different beast, ball game, or concept (choose your own metaphor). Trying too hard comes when you're dried up, out of options and inspiration. It is not imaginative work, it is desperate work. There is an old idea that basically says, "If you have to force it, it should probably just let it be." Well, that is pretty good advice. Especially in writing. If you think you have writers block, you probably don't. You're just trying to hard. You need to walk it off, close your notebook or file for a while, take a break, work on something else, go on vacation, take notes, do something else, something else, something else. Sometimes your brain needs to step back to see the whole picture. Likewise, if you are stuck in a scene or unable to work out particular details, quit panicking and do not try TOO hard. Just chill, take a break, take notes, jot down ideas, go someplace else and write, or simply write something out that will get you from A to B and get yourself back on track. Make notes that you will fix this 'stand-in part' later and move forward, get to the end and look at it all. Then you are in a good position to see exactly what you want to say,
It is easy to see how your own head limits your ability to always write out exactly what is on your mind. Life is busy and full of distractions, details are sometimes fuzzy when you are creating a whole fictional world, and we all have our own limitations concerning time, energy, focus, experience, and resources. However, sometimes things click, sometimes you are a creative force of nature. Those times, you are in that wonderful state known as 'In The Zone.'
Third, In The Zone
Yes, this is what we were waiting for. That sweet spot. That blissful flow of non-action where you are not thinking, you are not planning, you are not concerned with result or amount or correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. You are only writing. You are coming as close as possible to perfection in the moment, your fingers working at the speed of mind, no filter, no second-guessing or double-checking. Just working. Just writing. In the flow, in the zone.
Returning to Taosit philosophy, we can say that when this happens, you are experiencing Wu Wei: a pure state of non-action. Taoists compare the state of Wu Wei to the planets in their orbit around the sun. They just do it. There is no conscious control or attempts to regulate or guide, the planets simply follow the state of effortless effort, moving in the simplest motions within their natural flow. The key concept of Wu Wei is action devoid of struggle or excessive effort. It means to just do and release, do and release. Picture a baseball game where a batter hits a hard line drive. The outfielder instinctively dives through the air and makes an amazing, acrobatic catch. That is non-action. That is just directed active reaction. If the ball player would have thought about it and made a conscious plan to leap and make that impossible catch, there is no way he (or she) could have actually done it. It wasn't thought, it wasn't planning, it was simply doing. Effortless in that it is not forced, it is spontaneous.
That is the state you want to cultivate in your creative time. Just create, fall into the zone, work yourself there, train yourself to let go and just slam out the words and ideas. The more you write, the easier it becomes to disappear into the flow. That's what practice is. That's what rehearsal is. That's what training is. It all comes down to teaching the body and mind to understand the flow of the work on a cellular and unconscious level. Muscle memory. Instinct. In writing, this is part of what you conjuring with your first draft.
Editing comes later. Second guessing choices comes later. Changing plots, characters, directions, scenes or story occurrences comes later. It all comes later. First draft just write. Forward motion. Let story and plot points evolve as you go. Do not go back to change them, just let the inconsistencies stand in the draft until you finish and begin the second draft. Take notes, of course take notes and jot things down to remember your reasons and motivations for changing things, but do not waste forward momentum to do the changes until you get from A to Z, i.e. from beginning to the end.
Sure, sometimes, you need to clean things up, do some edits before you charge on just to get your head straight. I know that. I do that myself. But this is more general. A general state of mind. Always write the first draft with perpetual forward motion as your goal. Write to get into the zone. Write to dip into the flow and just create. The more you write, the easier it gets to become lost in the flow. Effort produces effortlessness. A Taoist contradiction that stands as a metaphysical challenge to the author, artist or spiritual pilgrim.
All truths, all beautiful ideas, become contradictions when explored metaphysically.
This is an absolute, and absolutes are things I try to avoid because they are rarely if ever true in any meaningful way. This claim, however, I will stand behind. And I invite your comments and thoughts on the subject. And, of course, on the subjects discussed above. Thank you and get to work.
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Book Blurb: The Lockdown has failed. The AM13 virus is spreading out of control and there doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping it. The Government announces its new plan—a sanctuary in an area completely untouched by the infected—as long as you can get there unscathed of course...
To find out more, check out: http://samiesands.com.
A bit about Samie Sand:
Lockdown is the first book in the AM13 series.
Since its publication, Samie has released its sequel, Forgotten.
Both books are available through
Triplicity Publishing. She is currently at work on the 3rd and final installment.
Aside from her novels, she has had a number of articles published in e-zines including a breakout piece in Zombie Guide Magazine. Samie has also published a number of short stories in a variety of successful anthologies.