My writerly weekend & being open to ‘the shimmer’

My favorite weekends are my lazy ones, the ones with nothing on the schedule, when two days stretch ahead of me to play with as I like. And this past weekend? It was the epitome of that kind of lazy.

This weekend, I wrote. A lot. I recently finished a manuscript, and I’m in that phase of “I’m trying to throw this out in the world. I have very low expectations, but the process is neat, anyway.”

But now that that’s written and edited and ready for whatever it’s ready for, I wanted to start work on something new. I had four or five project ideas bouncing around, and I couldn’t decide what to write next.

“Google it,” my husband said.

So I Googled, “What writing project should I work on next?” This article was the first result. Step 3, “Kill the wrong ideas,” helped me kill one of my four ideas:

Can you write this story? It’s okay if you’re not quite good enough. It’s good to challenge yourself. But if you’re not even close to good enough, you might want to pick a project of smaller scope.

I can’t write one of my ideas. It’s something I’ve started, but I have so many “COME BACK TO THIS” holes, and when I last picked up the piece, I’d come to yet another “COME BACK TO THIS” hole–but this one left me especially clueless. The other holes, I could fill in after some research or an interview or two. This one … this one required a ridiculously creative and innovative idea that I just can’t fix. I will, at some point, I figure it out. As I continue to write and to grow as a writer, I’ll figure it out. But I’m not there yet.

Then I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk from 2009 that introduces some ideas she further explores in “Big Magic,” and it’s all about listening for what wants to be written. I crossed off another idea and, with Gilbert’s ideas still in my head, I pulled some writing books off my shelves to see what else helped.

I nixed another memoir idea because, frankly, I’m not ready to write it yet. The feelings are too fresh, and it’s hard to do your best writing when emotions are that raw. The illogical takes over.

And then, suddenly, there I was. One idea left. It’s the same idea my husband told me to work on, the same one my friend–that one who has become my writing spirit guide–was like, “OMG WRITE THIS” long before she even knew it was something I’d been thinking about for years.

I’m not much into mystical, magical stuff. But it is really dang amazing to sit back and ask, “I wonder?” and find such a swift and sure answer. And then to find assurances over and over that your decision was the right one.

So I started writing, and I spat out 15,000 words in a weekend. I’m a fast writer–thank you, journalism–but that is obscene. Dani Shapiro calls it a shimmer in “Still Writing,” when you just get in the zone and it just pours out of you, and you better ride the wave because that never happens, but when it does, it’s just glorious.

I’m rereading “Still Writing,” by the way, which I first picked up in February 2015. This time, though, I’m reading it with a pen at my side, underling passages that speak to me, starring or adding small initials or notes next to bits that seem most important. One section I underlined detailed those events in our lives that shock our system. They move the earth for us, and we are never the same. This shock, it’s one of the ideas at the core of my current, new project.

Through Goodreads, I discovered that I’d reviewed “Still Writing” on this blog the first time I read it. (Do you remember what you blogged about two-plus years ago? I sooooo don’t.)

In that review? I discuss the very same passage. And I make reference to the very same instance in my past … and the idea that I need to write about it. So apparently, this idea is more than two years in the making. It might have started back when I was 18. From the post:

One (idea) in particular has woven itself among the folds of my brain and won’t rest until I tackle it: Shapiro writes that there are events in our lives that change us. They move the earth for us, and we are not the same. Write about that terrible shock. I’ve never written about mine. I feel almost silly admitting what it is; I was so young and bright-eyed and naive. I didn’t know any better. But I’m excited to get myself back inside my 18-year-old head and get it down.

God, writing stuff is fun.


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