So I’m writing a book. I am. Really. I promise.
It just doesn’t always look like it. In fact, it probably looks more like I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and GChat than it does writing. . . there’s a reason for that; it’s because I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and GChat more than I’m writing.
At least actively writing.
The truth is that a lot of my writing process involves random thinking, the input of other people, copious amounts of reading, inspiration and encouragement from others who do this work, and just plain staring off into space.
I’d like to be one of those people who sits down to write every day at the same time, who barrels through pages of work knowing that many might have to be trashed, who has a process for writing that involves, say, more writing. But I am not. I am learning to surrender to this: I need a lot of input before I can really produce any output, at least for a project as personally important as this one is.
Now before all you writers out there get all flummoxed about how I’m not writing, let me say, I am. I am writing this blog most days. I write massive numbers of emails and messages. And the whole time I am doing these “other things,” I am weaving them into the book. I am making connections, drawing through-lines, letting my mind consciously and subconsciously put together a structure and a plan. I am writing.
This is the process of writing as it is for me now, April 2, 2011. Maybe tomorrow or next Thursday or on May 9th, it will be different, and certainly at some point in the not too distant future the process will involve a great deal more writing. But for now, if I don’t accept the process as it is, if I don’t surrender to this place of input instead of output, I am going to be massively frustrated, disheartened and want to quit. Then, the book really won’t get written.
One of the blessed interruptions that came my way this week, crossed my Facebook wall at the hands of Brett Stewart, that amazing musician I interviewed a few weeks ago. He pointed me to a TED video (I love those videos) with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love (I really enjoyed that book by the way; the movie? Not so much.) In it, Gilbert talks about the tradition of thinking of “genius” as something outside ourselves so that when we are successful, we can’t take all the credit and when we fail, we aren’t crushed. I found great promise in this idea because if this book depends on me, then we should just forget it. If the book depends on something outside of me (God, a muse, a house elf, a little mystical genius sitting in the corner – for the record, I’m counting on God for this one), then my chances are much better that it will come.
I also see Gilbert’s idea applying to the blessed “interruptions” that come, these little moments of unexpected “genius” that slip into my day. My plans are always to work all day on the book; my plans never come to fruition, not for one single day. But when I let the interruptions feed me, when I let what is outside of me help influence how the day goes, I find I am so blessed with great things and great people that I still want to keep working on the book.
And you know what? Those interruptions really do help. Yesterday, my friend Jansen (be sure to check out his guest post on his Jeep experience in Hawaii if you didn’t already) and I got talking on GChat about various political issues on which we do not, wholly, agree. If I wasn’t ready to surrender to that conversation, I would have missed an insight about how I see the world that will be absolutely fundamental to my work. I’m still thinking through whether I like this way of seeing, but without that conversation, my work would suffer, without a doubt.
So today, with your plans all laid out ahead of you for getting the garden in, or visiting the zoo, or watching the Final Four (I’ll be with you on that one), I encourage you to surrender to the interruptions in your plans. There might just be a tiny sparkle of genius hiding there.
“Aithiopika Book Ten : The Divine Interruption” by Jangleland