Wednesday, April 13, 2011

when the floodgates open

The writing has been coming at me like floodwaters these past few days, bombarding me with scenes and stories and snippets of conversations. They're not even in sequence.

I love when this happens. It's the part of the process that is magical--miraculous, really. I never know when it'll happen, but I have to drop everything (sometimes even pull over to the side of the road) and get it down on the page. Almost always, it comes to me longhand. My scribble can hardly keep up with the rapid-fire dictation that happens in my head, or wherever this stuff is coming from. I put my pen down and close my notebook only when I catch myself pausing for a thought. When it becomes a conscious act to come up with the next word, I know it's done. For now.

I don't love, however, the way it can wreak havoc with my sleep schedule or to-do list. Unlike other things, I can't procrastinate or re-schedule this writing--it won't let me. A couple of nights ago, I was up at 1:30 in the morning, and wrote for at least an hour. This morning it came to me after my shower, before breakfast (and yet, I was oblivious to the growls of my stomach). And once again I've been forced to put off doing laundry either 'til later in the day, or perhaps on Friday, if I can hold out for that long. And if I don't get a jump on the latest batch of first drafts from my students, then they, not I, will suffer for it and I can't let that happen.

When these writing floods happen, the writing itself isn't often that good -- an elegant turn of phrase might come out of it, or a funny joke, or a rather visual description -- little nuggets of gold in all that sand. But that's ok. That's what revision is for. Many times it is during these floods that secrets are revealed. My protagonist spilled his to me this morning, and I've been heartbroken ever since. I knew it was coming, and knew it wasn't pretty. I so want to spare him from it, but I can't. Because if there's anything I've learned, these bursts of writing are really about the truths that so urgently need to be told. They refuse to be ignored. For me to spare any character from pain is to be disingenuous to my story and to my reader. To me.

I'm tired, and my day is already shot to hell in terms of any semblence of a plan I had. But I was given a key to my protagonist's heart, and that's worth it all.


Elspeth Antonelli said...

Isn't it wonderful when this happens? I understand exactly what it's like, although I do wish the floodgates worked on my schedule and not its own. Those words don't seem to give a hoot that my alarm will still insist on going off in the morning.

I wish you a safe swim through the releasing water and remember, I'm always there with a lifeboat and pop tarts if you get a cramp.

Elisa said...

It's a good thing pop tarts float.

Thanks for the encouragement, Beth!


Fenny said...

I'm champing at the bit to read this book!

Lena Sledge said...

I get that way sometimes. The mind has to purge the creative fire inside. So I keep several post it note tables on my night stand so I can jot down ideas. I have been known to write in the dark, just to get it down on paper. It's a chore trying to decipher it in the morning.

I hope your creative juices keep flowing. Happy Writing!

Brandi said...

"My protagonist spilled his to me this morning, and I've been heartbroken ever since."

How gorgeous is this sentence? Love your writing; both here & inside your cozy novels.

Much love to you!

Elisa said...

Thank you, Lena and Brandi!

Lena, I learned from keeping a dream journal next to my bed eons ago that trying to decipher my writing was not going to work. The tape recorder was worse!!

Brandi, so sweet of you! Thanks much.