The Haze of Writing Forgetfulness
We arrived here in France two weeks and three days ago. Since then, I’ve written ten chapters on a new novel at a pretty good clip. Except for the two days last weekend when I stalled myself out.
I’d written up to the point I had outlined. And then realized that several other scenes needed to be inserted before that point. Which meant much rearranging and figuring and deep thinking. Which eventually turned into procrastinating, otherwise known as forgetting all the advice I consistently give in workshops and to coaching clients. Because I’d decided what scenes I needed to write. I was just having a hard time actually writing them.
And what is that advice about writing that I consistently dish out? It is quite simple: get thee to the page and write. Just freaking write. Don’t worry about making it pretty. Don’t worry about having it make sense. Just write. We are way past the age of typewriters, and rewriting is easy–that’s what God made computers for. And spell and grammar check. Getting something, anything on the page gives you a basis on which to build a draft.
I know that. And generally, I follow it. Knocking out ten chapters at a fast pace is proof, right?
But then I got myself blocked. And I forgot. Literally, forgot.
It wasn’t a matter of not walking my talk. It was that, in the moment of facing the page, I totally forgot. There was a gray concrete wall in my brain between the idea to write fast and get something–anything–on the page, and the act of doing it. And instead I fiddled. And thought I had to have everything all figured out before I wrote the scene. Told myself I was stuck. Ate a piece of chocolate. Stood up and went looking for the pet crow who lives in the house behind me.
The funny thing is, I’m surrounded by writers here at the retreat who are following my advice. Who are busting out the pages, even though it goes against their usual grain of carefully rewriting and revising as they go. So I should have remembered. But I forgot.
I offer this as a cautionary tale, because your brain, too, might play tricks like this on you. Fortunately, in a desire not to squander my time here in France, I have come to my senses and started throwing words on the page once again.
And I remembered another truth, which builds on the first one: the things you need to know will come to you as you write. Yes, I believe in planning ahead. But some things just reveal themselves to you on the page, plain and simple. And if you’re stuck, the best advice is to start writing.
I do not know why it is so hard to remember this. But I will do my best not to forget again.
Does this happen to you? Please leave a comment and discuss.
And, by the way, are you interested in coming to this wonderful part of France for a writing workshop? We have space in our September events in Collioure! Take a look and email me if you have any questions.
2 thoughts on “The Haze of Writing Forgetfulness”
jamie from Nashville
Oh my goodness, did I EVER need to hear this right now! I unexpectedly got a two week break from work (project stalled – consultant life…ugh!) and had planned to get this latest rewrite out in that time but found myself outlining and reviewing/making edit notes for the last few days, but NOT WRITING, just “planning”… Thank you SO much! Wishing you many, many words.
Charlotte Rains Dixon
Oh Jamie, I’m so glad it was helpful! Yay for a two-week break from work! Wishing you many words as well, keep me posted on how it goes.