Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Idea Train and the Alluring Countryside

Work was slow this evening, and I had ample time to think about writing and life as I priced a seemingly endless pile of books. I got several ideas for stories and solved an impasse I had in one that I am trying to complete right now. The idea train was chugging along, which was nice, but then I turned to some practical considerations, such as timetables for writing, noting to myself that, during Nanowrimo I had done a decent job of putting words on the screen, but since the end of that exercise my fiction writing had slowed down. The stories I've been working on have not flowed as well as the initial novel-writing had in November.

I started thinking about why this was so. It was partly due to illness (myself and the kidlet both has stomach bugs, and she got a second one), and partly due to the season. There was more to it than that, though; my work habits had not slipped, but I was much less productive with the short fiction in the time that I wrote. One problem? The gods-cursed internet!

It came to me a little while later, as I noted to someone earlier this evening, that when I am writing non-fiction, the internet is both more necessary for research and sourcing, and less of a distraction. When I am writing fiction, however, it is hugely diverting, like losing yourself watching the endless countryside roll by. The idea train barreled along with no problem, but when it came to settling in with the idea, distraction was a given. At the time, I wasn't sure why I had thought of that, or why that might be the case, but as I pondered this conundrum on the way home from work, some ideas came to mind.

Non-fiction is relational, links much more to external matters, and does not come from deep inside me, unless it is some sort of memoir. And non-fiction is easy for me; after years in academia I can formulate arguments, outline papers in my head, calculate paragraph proportions, and put the puzzle pieces into place quickly. I can theorize, criticize, and analyze adeptly. But fiction is more creative, comes from inside, and is more contingent on a combination of confidence and interior generation of material and structure. Fiction is more personal, comes more completely from me, and having not written much of it in the last decade, I am both getting back into the groove and rediscovering my voice now, unearthing ideas and meanings and connections that are dependent on me much more intensely than a piece of criticism.

And my confidence in that process is rather shaky.

When I feel particularly distracted I usually get off the main laptop and pull out another machine to write upon (longhand is not really an option, given my horrid handwriting and the speed at which I write) that is not connected to the internet. That helps sometimes. But what I need to cultivate more is confidence and a sense of groundedness in my creativity. Nothing in my life has done more to keep me sane and happy than writing, and more than ever I am committed to writing as much as I can, to get published, and to live the life of a writer as fully as possible. It is easy to lose that anchorage when you're careening down the tracks and there are so many interesting things outside your window. It is easier to watch the world go by. But that is not the point of the ride.

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