Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Where Do You Get Bogged Down?

The space between wanting to write and actually writing can feel like a yawning chasm, or a huge abyss.
We all carry stories within us and for some it becomes an urgent need to get those stories out.  Gregg Levoy, the author of the book, Callings, told a story at a conference years ago that I’ve never forgotten.  He said that a very large woman came up to him and said, “Do you know why I am so fat?”

Levoy, taken aback and not sure how to answer tactfully, said simply, “No.”  (Good call.)

“It’s because I have so many stories in me that won’t come out.”

Now, in this era of faked memoirs I hasten to say that I made up that dialogue from memory so don’t quote me!  However, I love that story and it speaks to what we writers all struggle with at one time or another–how do we get the stories out onto the page?

In thinking about this, and I have been, a lot, because I’m working on a manual for coaching writers, one of my thoughts has been to ask, where do you get stuck in the writing process?

Have you ever stopped to think about this?  Say you want to write a screenplay, and for the sake of the argument, you know how to write a screenplay, because you’ve done it before, but this time it just isn’t working.  You can’t get yourself to work on it.

So, you do what any good human would do.  You beat yourself up.  You tell yourself that you are lazy and unproductive and aren’t much of a writer anyway.    But next time you fail at writing and before you start to beat yourself up, stop yourself and do something else instead.

Think about where in the process you get bogged down.  Is it between the intention to write and the actual sitting down and writing?  Do you allow yourself to get sidetracked?   Weed the garden or vacuum or solve the morning sudoku instead of working on that screenplay?

Maybe you have a different problem.  You firmly ignore the sink full of dirty dishes and sit down at the computer, full of enthusiasm for the project, only to panic at the glaring brightness of the computer monitor.

Or do you sit down at the computer, bursting with enthusiasm, only to begin writing and have everything sound, well, dumb, on the page.  Nothing works.  No matter how you put them together, the words just don’t come together.

The thing that most creativity programs don’t tell you is that each of us gets bogged down in different places.  And each of these bogs require a different approach to circumvent.

But, since it is Sunday night and we’ve had that  #$%^ time change which always screws me up sleep-wise, I won’t be writing about how to circumvent those bogs tonight.  Stayed tuned, though, as I’ll talk more about them later on this week.

I do want to mention that in looking up Gregg Levoy’s website I ran across this beautiful article written by his wife.  Its about creativity, and writing, and not giving up when it gets hard, and a gorgeous and determined white dog named Snowy. (Update: the link to this article is broken, so I have unlinked it.  Despite my best efforts, I cannot find it anywhere on the web!)

4 thoughts on “Where Do You Get Bogged Down?

  1. Jen

    My “bog” goes like this–alarm goes off at 5:00 because I want to get up early to write. I hit snooze. Repeatedly. I finally wake up at 6:30, get ready, and rush out the door. I put in 9+ hours at my mentally draining, emotionally wrecking job. I get home around 5:00. I tell myself that I’m just going to relax a little bit and then I’ll write. The next thing I know, it’s 9:30. Bedtime. Another day bites the dust…

  2. Charlotte

    I am eternally grateful for the fact that I do not have the emotionally draining, horrible job working for the Man to deal with. When the precarious life of free-lancing gets me down, I remind myself of this!

    I think it is easy to be glib about such circumstances and offer up the usual fixes: write when you can, look at your work every day if only for a few minutes, and so on and so forth, all of which probably make you want to smack me.

    Because the truth is that both of you, Jen and Roy, have really difficult circumstances at the moment. I remember when my kids were really little and I wanted to write so desperately and I could barely find time to shower, let alone write. And half the women I knew were dealing with kids AND working and I felt like a failure.

    With the benefit of hindsight, the one thing that I see is how fast it all went. I remember being in the thick of it one second and then all of a sudden the kids were in school and life got a lot easier.

    Sometimes difficult situations are just going to be difficult for the time being, and the best you can do is write when you can and remember that those stories inside aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be waiting when you have time. And the truth of the matter is also that putting in 15 minutes a day or 5 minutes a day if that is all you have really does make a difference. It keeps your mind engaged with the work and it reminds you that those stories are burbling inside.

    Remember, “this too, shall pass,” got to be a cliche the way all cliches develop, because it really is true!

  3. Roy Burkhead

    I have a similar bog: up at 5:45 a.m. 1.5 hours on the road. eight hours working for The Man. 1.5 hours home. Two hours of family time. Then, it’s 9 p.m. Before the children arrived, I could do a 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. writing stint. The more kids who live at my house, the harder it is to put that much time in at night. 🙂

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