Charlotte Rains Dixon  

On Not Knowing What to Write

Seed_weeds_weed_242627_lI wanted to write a blog post this morning, but my mind was empty of ideas.

This is an unusual situation for me.  Usually my brain is brimming with thoughts to share on writing.  Not today.

Was it because I just returned home from Nashville last week?  Because I'd finished the greater part of a big editing job? Maybe my brain was dead because I'd turned in the Emma Jean edits before my trip?

Who can say?  And does it really matter when the end result is the same? (To ask why, I've learned, is often useless speculation.  What matters is what.  As in, what can I do about this situation?)

I assigned myself thought exercises.  Told my brain to cook up a topic.  That didn't work.  So I pulled out the little paisley notebook I use for blog ideas.  Actually found one I hadn't used and started working on it. 

Until I realized I really didn't care much about the topic at the moment and my heart wasn't in it.

And then my friend Sandra tweeted a link to this post.  (Because, of course, when the muse is absent you go look for it on Twitter.  Right? You do, don't you?) And I thought, why not dive right in and see what happens?

And here I am, I've made it this far.  And at this very moment, my thoughts are turning to control.  And how much of it I unwittingly exert over my creativity.  How rarely I allow myself to plunge onto the page, unfettered, as I have with this post. 

For instance, I always start a post knowing what I'm going to write about (except for today).

I always have at least a starting point when I start work on my novel.

Hmmm.  It occurs to me that this is why morning pages are so good for me–I just open up my Moleskine and begin to write.  And whatever comes out, comes out.  Of course, nobody sees that except for me.  So the control gets exerted when my writing is for public consumption.

Which makes sense–and yet.  And yet, I think I could benefit from more unfettered writing in my life.  More journal entries.  More crazy fun flash fiction.  More sitting down and having at the novel without worrying about exactly where its going.

And so I vow to try to loosen up a bit.  I'll keep you posted.

What about you?  Do you tightly control your writing or let it rip?

Photo by hberends.

0 thoughts on “On Not Knowing What to Write

  1. Zan Marie

    I control my day and what I’ll do in it….Until my hubby wants to do something, go somewhere, or needs my help with one of his projects. Guess what gets put off? You guessed it–writing. ; )

    Good luck, Charlotte

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    I hear you! It is too easy to let it not be a priority!  But I know you get tons of writing done, so I don't worry about you, Zan Marie.

  3. Patty/Deep Artistry Studio

    Love this, Charlotte. This topic of loosening the reins of knowing, of being in control, comes up again and again with my clients. I think this applies to writing and to all of life! And as good as I am about helping others move toward less control, I still need to constantly remind myself. Right now I’m in a transition with writing my blog, not really wanting to put anything “serious” out there until I have more time to promote it and build an audience. So the other day I just did a quick dump of what I was thinking about, and I loved how I felt at the end. Made me think that maybe I should write that way more often.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Love the phrase "loosening the reins of knowing" Patty.  And I agree, I felt great after I wrote what was going on.  I really am looking at where I stop myself from doing this in my life.  Thanks for chiming in.  And I love your new blog!

  5. Melissa Marsh

    It really depends. Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed with life, I’ll just sit down and write rambling stuff that really goes nowhere, but helps me get out my feelings.

    I also think it’s important to allow ourselves the time to refill the creative well. Perhaps after all your projects you were experiencing a little burn-out? I’ve discovered that when I’m completely burned out in one creative area, working in another creative area (for me, it’s mixed media) will give me back my mojo with my writing.

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    You know, its funny you should mention that–last night I pulled out my knitting again and made progress on a stalled project (and also ordered more yarn).  I know that working in another creative arena rejuvenates me and yet sometimes I resist it. Weird, huh?  But I think between my ramble here on the blog and the knitting I'm feeling ready to go again!

  7. Charlotte, how auspicious that you ran into my blog post on the day you, too, were struggling with that darn blank page! Believe me, I know the feeling.

    I don’t usually share writing that is so unformed as I did on that particular post, but it felt right in that moment. And it illustrated an important lesson about creativity that I try to remember and model — we can’t control what comes out, and sometimes we just need to lean into that unknown territory and see what happens. Natalie Goldberg is a wonderful teacher of this, as you probably know.

    Anyway, wonderful to discover your blog this way! I look forward to reading more.

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Maia, and I was so happy to discover your blog as well!  Don't you love this synchronicity? Yes, I need to remember that we can't control what comes out, hard as we try.  And when we try to hard, it tamps all the creativity out of it. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

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