Whether writing is a gift or a curse depends on perspective…and mood I suppose. Having met a lot of writers over the years I have determined there are a lot of similarities, despite our different backgrounds and approaches. The most obvious thing we all do is write. Yet that tends to be the one thing we try our best to avoid doing. You see, we are best a productive procrastination.
Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron. I’m not sure I actually coined the term although the first time I noticed anyone else using it was weeks later on social media. I think my kids may have been responsible for the term getting around.
The first time I used it was with my son while we were moving some pretty heavy furniture items which included a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer and a dryer and one very heavy piano. It’s a miracle either or both of us wasn’t killed moving that last thing. Anyway, after exerting maximum effort in getting a piano down a ramp from a moving truck and into the sunken living room – yeah the house we moved into was built when that sort of thing was popular – neither of us were very interested in continuing with the move. My son stood an watched me carry in things like pillows, individually, and other light articles. After I made a few trips back and forth he asked, “What are you doing?”
Of course, my answer was, “Productive procrastination.”
Simply put, it is the art of finding something else to do that makes some progress while avoiding something more productive but not quite as desirable.
As much as writers love to write, there are times when the experience is painful. I would say that most times it’s painful, but there are moments when the words flow as of the levee has broken and everything that was trapanned inside pours out. That is a good writing experience.
Mostly, writing is a lot of hours doing something that seems to take a few minutes. We enter a trance-like state during which we are awake and moderately aware of what is going on around us though largely oblivious to it. This we refer to as ‘being in the zone’. There is is possible to compose several pages containing several thousand words of story without being directly cognizant of the normal passage of time. This state can last for from four to six or eight hours. During it everything else is put on hold except for normal autonomic bodily functions and the need to purge. The need for such breaks can break the connection, but most writers acquire the ability to temporally suspend the writing session to take care of things. At times these random break allow for a new idea to rise to the surface and grab our attention.
The process is scary more so to others around us than it is to the writers. Beyond the first time when it happens and causes us to question our sanity we decide it is cool. I believe all writers – at least those of us who do fiction – are functionally insane by any conventional definition. However writers perceive everyone else, ally he so called normal people int eh world – as being the strange ones.
After we have wrestled with the crazy part of writing, ‘being in the zone’ we look at all the pages of words I produced and mostly it makes sense! It is astounding and rewarding. That’s how we generally respond. In the process all the voices inside our heads that were clamoring for attention have settled and receded into the background so that for a few hours we can sleep without interruption or accomplish something int he outside world that might actually make us seem normal to others – like washing the car, mowing the lawn or taking the kids to the park.
Why would a writer ever want to avoid the creative experience of slipping into the zone? Well, there are times when a story you’re working on becomes difficult to write. You know a character is heading for certain death and, really, you’ve grown quite fond of him or her. Yet, for the sake of working out the plot and resolving the conflict, you know he or she must go. You resist doing that. Maybe the story needs to take a turn. You throw in a plot twist or two to delay the inevitable. But eventually the most difficult passage demands to be played out.
Sometimes as a writer you work to a point of major crisis that, for the characters at least, is not life threatening, but it is just something you don’t want to write about. From experience those times tend to be the most interesting and relatable parts of a book for the reader. So if one is a serious writer, you forge ahead with it.
Other times you claim is writers block and find any number of other things to divert your attention away from what you know must be written. You let it simmer inside until it boils up and there is no other solution but to write it down. Those events are also some of the best parts of a book.
Writers are conduits – mouthpieces of the gods, you will. There are characters who live inside of our imaginary worlds and each of them have a story they need to tell so that they can exist in the minds of readers. To them that is how they choose to exist, to enjoy their lives over and over again.
The writer may choose to delay telling the story, setting it to paper or the digital equivalent, but I don’t think it can be prevented. You see, I don’t believe those characters exist solely in my mind. If I don’t write about them, they will make my life miserable for a while but eventually they will move on to the next writer. But for whatever time the characters live inside of me I’m the one best suited to tell their stories.