Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Every Day Is a Blank Page Waiting To Be Filled

I take my time getting up in the morning. I savor the taste of sleep on my tongue, and try to catch the last fleeting glimpses of my dreams, evaporating in my mind like the morning’s dew on the grass. A creative mind is a well-rested mind, and I take that to heart. I grope for my writing pad, waiting patiently on the nightstand. There is a fifty-fifty chance that I have scrawled something there during the night, a small idea in the darkness, written in barely legible cursive. Those small gifts from my nighttime muse are better than jolts of caffeine in the morning. They motivate me to leave behind my luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets and join the land of the living. Without them, I must fertilize the grounds of my creativity myself.

A day in the life of this writer starts with stretching. I like to feel my life’s blood coursing through my veins, feeding my energy and jump-starting my day. My fuel of choice is usually orange juice, and I gulp it down greedily. I might peruse the local newspaper or flip on some morning television, but most mornings I am content with music. I dance around the house until I am feeling fully awake but fully relaxed. Only then will I sit down to write.

I fill a crystal goblet with ice and water, and set it on my writing desk. I flip open my legal pad to an unused page, and line up several mechanical pencils and the nub of an eraser. These are my tools; this is my craft.

Some writers find a blank page to be daunting, but I feel quite the opposite about my empty yellow paper. Each page is a field of possibilities just waiting to be cultivated. Therefore, I don’t wait for inspiration, I go looking for it. When I begin writing, I will write anything just to get the process started. I will write a journal entry, or a book review, or a grocery list; anything so long as it gets the words flowing. Before long, I will have hit a sentence that I feel strongly about. I sit back, and determine what it is about the sentence that speaks to me. Sometimes I am drawn to a theme, or a character. Sometimes the sound of the sentence just sounds right to me. Sometimes I find that there is a story behind the sentence, just waiting to be told. I feel the neurons and synapses in my brain firing furiously, and it’s all I can do to hold on tightly as my hand dashes across the page, trying to capture every thought, every inkling, every idea that comes to mind. It’s an exhausting and thrilling prospect to find such an abundant crop of ideas within myself.

When I write, I write with complete abandon. I turn the ringer off the phone, I don’t answer the door or turn on the TV, and very seldom will I even listen to music. I have a small carafe of water on my desk, and that sustains me until I come to a natural pause in my writing. I prefer to write without any distractions, not because I’m afraid to lose my train of thought, but because I am excited to see where the day’s story will lead me. Words, whether my own or someone else’s, continue to fascinate and amaze me.

Inevitably, I will hit a rough patch. Eventually, the words just stop coming, and I know it’s time to take a step back from the work. If I need a breather, I help myself to fruit and I take long, hot shower. I keep a scrap of paper and a pencil on the other side of the shower curtain, just in case lightning strikes while I’m shampooing. More often than not, the warm water and a brisk toweling off have revitalized me for another writing session. The bulk of my writing is done in the morning, at a frenetic pace. Afternoons are spent more leisurely, editing and revising. I often spend the entire afternoon agonizing over one word, pacing back in forth as I consult the dictionary and the thesaurus. I allow myself the extravagance of perfectionism in the afternoon because the hour of 12 marks the divide between quantity and quality. I often read certain passages aloud to get a feel for the narrator. I play around with the words, saturating each one with intention until all words lose their meaning, and I know it’s time to stop.

I put my projects away for another day, but I never really stop writing. My mind is always chewing on things, working out dialogue, and searching out new ideas. I carry notebooks with me everywhere, and find myself constantly scratching in them, giving myself seedlings for a barren day. Life is lush with new ideas, and it drains me each day to bring each one to fruition. I go to bed exhausted and fulfilled, and awaken the next morning, ready to go again.


At 12:17 PM, Blogger ldbug said...

I like 'Neal' you could do something cool with that charactor..teach him to live

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Maritza said...

You do put in the work and that's half the battle to doing anything in life. Thanks for dropping by my blog. You can also join in the fun and post a list of your favourite books.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger stephen said...

Hi Jay, I don't know if you're into taking (constructive?) critiscism from complete strangers, but writing both..

"I fill a crystal goblet with ice and water, and set it on my writing desk."


"I have a small carafe of water on my desk, and that sustains me..."

seems a bit redundant.

I also blanched at "leave behind my luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets"... but that could just be the class-war reactionary in me ;)

At 9:11 PM, Blogger stephen said...

Oh... and god bless the Martini!

At 1:00 PM, Blogger J said...

Criticism is the only thing that can make a writer better.

And you're right, it is redundant. It's supposed to be. It's routine (these are the lines my editor and I struggled with initially also).

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Heart Of Darkness said...

Today I sat from noon till 4pm and just wrote. It felt divine.

Some days, I can't squeeze one single sentence out, and some days, I fill notepads, tickets, envelopes (and than my computer harddrive).
Blank slates are promising.

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

It's the best craft in the world.
Greetings from a fellow writer in Ontario.

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

It's the best craft in the world.
Greetings from a fellow writer in Ontario.


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