Tops, Brownies, and Log Jams: Knowing the Writer’s Mind

You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

It’s a spinning top some days – colors sliding by so fast that it feels like someone dropped the 64-box in a centrifuge.  Other days, it’s more like an old-fashioned log jam, sticks wedged against each other so tight that I have to crawl in and pry them loose at risk of life and limb.  Still other days, it’s like perfect brownie batter, smooth and rich, pouring easily into the shape I have before me.

My mind is different every day, so I have learned to know it and work with it to write what I need to write. My mind never is never empty; it always has something to say.

On brownie days, I sit down, and the words flow, easy and thick with goodness.  For a few minutes . . . and then I find myself dropping deeper into myself, seeing what my mind sees but has yet to find words for.

When my mind spins with activity and lists, I must breath deep, close my eyes, find the one thing that comes out of the spinning over and over again.

And when things are jammed up, when there are so many words that they bind together like a beaver’s dam, I pull each idea apart, taking out each to look at it and then put it aside until I find the one that lets the others flow forth.

I have learned this though – the words and ideas are always there if I just study my own mind and how to get them out. If I don’t write, it’s not because there’s no “inspiration;” it’s because I’m not willing to do the work.

This is my job – this writing thing. Some days, I don’t feel like doing it. Some days, like yesterday, my stress level feels so high that I’m almost certain I should just skip writing and “get some stuff done.” Some days, I crave the page like I crave really sharp cheese.

But my emotions don’t dictate whether or not I write, just like they don’t dictate whether or not most people go to work at their jobs as daycare attendants or fundraisers or social workers. This is my work, so I do it.

Sure, it would be nice to have a set of tasks – call these people, file this report, shelve these books – to do and then leave there at some office away from me.  But we all know that the work we value most is hard in whatever job we do. It requires creativity and knowledge of our fields.

For the writer, that field is the mind, so we learn to know it, tame it, and use it to get the words to the page. Whenever we need them.

Today, incidentally, my mind is a little bit like brownie mix pouring through a funnel.  It’s coming, but it’s slow.  So, I coax, and I wait. Because when the pan is full, oh, the deliciousness that awaits.

What is your mind like when you sit down to write? How do you tame it so that you can write? 

  • Martha Orlando

    If I waited only on inspiration to write, I wouldn’t have a fraction of the pieces I’ve produced. I do pray often for ideas for my devotions, and once one comes, I mull it over consciously, waiting for the story to gel. I like to write ahead so I can distance myself from my post a bit before actually typing it on my blog site.
    Loved your images of the log jam and brownie mix – oh, so true!
    Blessings, Andi!

    • Andi

      You are wise, Martha, to write ahead. That distance, yeah, some days I could really use that, too.

  • LarryTheDeuce

    Some days I don’t want to go to work. I want to stay home and read or loaf. But my team needs me. They need me for what I do for the entire team. Someone needs my words. Maybe it’s only me. Or my friend Faye. Or someone else who I don’t even know. So I write through the fog and when it lifts. Some days it’s easy, just like going to work. Some days it’s not.

    • Andi

      Exactly, Larry. Some days, we all want to bail on our commitments . . . but we don’t usually. Same for writing.