By Sarah Coates | Thursday, April 29, 2021
By Sarah Coates
Thursday, April 29, 2021
For a long time I’ve described writing as trying to move a wall by pounding it with my head. But now it’s harder. I am productivity’s kryptonite. I feel incorporeal (despite the pain and sickness grounding me to my body in small eternities). It’s almost impossible to move a wall when you don’t exist. At least not in a physical way. But how the movement of writing feels – the productivity of it-- and what it means to write (and how each word or sentence or body on the page leaves a taste in your mouth or marks your mind)-- they all differ. Writing can be both a grappling to complete and feel like a purr in the moment.
So, because that novel-reaching for my own creative practice has seized, I go for those short purrs. The moments in the day that characters flash in my head. When the story itch takes my fingers and my fingers can comply (I think with my fingers though my hands are often in pain). When a plot-burl forms. A little swirled knot that can be carved by itself or grown with other pieces of the book. I’m sinking into the small right now. When I can’t sink in graceful ways I fall in and out of the writing clumsily and shape it later and when I can’t do either I find stories to eat.
But often none of this works. So I draw and I tinker and I make things from the narratives I’m building. This lets me dip into the world or the characters without thinking directly about them because I’m so focused on what my hands are doing, how they’re shaping these reality-adjacent things. And often that lets the door at the back of my mind (usually welded shut with anxiety or pain) creak open, just enough, for newness to escape. I’m grateful for my notebook. I’m grateful for my box cutter (that I carve with). I’m grateful for the floor and the wall so I can sit in a corner and hide and scribble and when I can’t scribble, daydream. And while this doesn’t produce words it does create flow. And that flow is vital for finding pleasure in the brittleness of my writing.
It’s not fast. But it prioritizes the purr over the product. And right now that’s what I need. I can’t ask more of myself. Not for my writing. Not right now. And that’s been hard for me to understand. So, if you get stuck, or are having long-standing writers block, it’s ok to reevaluate how you write or what you consider to be writing. It’s ok to reconsider what the words complete or process or product mean. It’s ok to throw it all out the window and just mumble to yourself in a corner until you find a word or a sentence or a burl that purrs. It’s ok not to write until you do.
Search for your own purr in the weeds of 'so bad it's good' in Sarah's Writing Lab, "THE CROWS HAVE EYES TOO", or in the responsive world of their Craft Session, "Everything Is Fan Fiction".