Writers go through a variety of experiences as they practice their craft. But it’s not so much a smooth, orderly development through discernible stages–like how a child lays, then crawls, then toddles, then runs, then sits in front of a screen–as much as it is a rambling hike through the countryside, or perhaps better, a voyage across seas and between countries. There are storms, doldrums, way-stations, and occasionally, pirates–like these:
1. Distractions–coffee is, of course, huge: the lack of it, the smell of it, the intricate preparation of it. Where is your lucky mug? Who used the last filter? And what to eat with the coffee? Who else is drinking your brand? According to Google, not many. You really should go out for java but the tables are too small. What’s the preferred brew these days, anyway, and who has the best price? Whole beans, already ground: opinion is divided. Speaking of opinions, did the HuffPost get updated yet? And how hard is it to make a rose out of milk foam, anyway? According to Google, not very.
2. Euphoria–everything is hitting on all cylinders. Word count is up, metaphors are pure as driven snow and clichés are nowhere to be found. The passive voice has been banished. You’re killing the darlings without mercy, you’ve opened a vein and truth pours out. Arguments are sound, bon mots appear on cue, and when finally get around to checking email, that proposal you’d sent off has been accepted. If Stephen King were to phone right now, you’d be too busy to take the call.
3. Blocks–you pay the price for a mountaintop experience yesterday (or this morning) and now nothing makes sense. Your high school English teacher was right, and so was your uncle. Your brain is ice, words haven’t been invented for what you’re wanting to say and even if they were, you wouldn’t have access to them. The measly sentences you write sputter to a halt well short of the period; you can’t even find a phrase that will crawl to a semi-colon. You are completely out of good ideas, and the insights you had yesterday–the ones you thought were so brilliant? Ash.
4. You know everything. You’re like a teenager, bullet-proof, keenly insightful, witty, energetic. You remember every detail; your powers of observation would put Poirot to shame. You write yourself into corners on purpose because it’s so much fun to design exit strategies. You have options, and they’re all good. Your characters are begging for more face time and you can’t wait for readers to meet them.
5. You know nothing. You’re Sgt. Schultze at Stalag 13, only more confused. You stare at the laptop, reduced to the Columbus method of typing where you must search for a key to land on. Prospects that not long ago seemed bright now appear tarnished; this is their true state. You need a different job and a better hobby. You can’t decide if you’re writing a novel or a cookbook or a memoir, since whatever you start smells worse than roadkill skunk. Grammar has slipped from your grasp like the eel you’ve always known it to be & you can’t punctuate or spelll either,.
6. You’re done. That is, you finished the project that has held you in its grip for days/weeks/months/years. The local bookstore has agreed to host a book-signing and the blogosphere is lighting up with reviews. When people ask about your work, you have succinct, captivating responses that make others want to recommend it to friends. You can’t hardly wait for the sales figures to come rolling in, except for one thing. There’s another book banging around in your head, and you’ve got to get going on that.