Difficult Deadlines

As writers we know all about deadlines, don’t we? They are entwined with commitments and are equally unpopular. There’s something about seeing a big circle looming on the calendar that automatically turns off my enthusiasm. At the very time when I need to be productive, I often can’t dredge up the necessary words. As the deadline draws closer I can become panicky. Nothing kills creativity like panic! But we don’t have the luxury of submitting to that panic if an editor is waiting for our work. We must write and we must do it now. So how do we accomplish the seemingly impossible?

William Faulkner once said: “I write only when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” How does a person “get inspired” when the words aren’t coming?

In the book “Take Joy”, Jane Yolen suggests one way. She speaks of “priming the writing pump”. It’s a common analogy in the writing world, but I love her imagery:

“My late father-in-law had a cabin in the West Virginia woods. There was no running water, only a pump that needed to be primed each morning with river water…. Pouring the river water into the mouth of the pump, I would then lower the handle, lift it, lower it again. The gurgle of the unseen machinery alluded to the sympathetic magic taking place: like calling to like.

     “The pump would wheeze, snort, pull, the handle becoming harder and harder to push. And then suddenly water–not the river water laved into the pump, but fresh, earth-chilled, underground, sweet-as-spring water would gush forth.

     “Everyday writing starts that way. The old river water thrown into the pump is metaphorically your letters, revisions, journal entries… and then that sympathetic magic takes hold. As water calls water, so words call words. Up they come from the unplumbed depths, what some call inspiration and some call talent and some call soul: sweet-as-spring new ideas. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories. Poems. Gushing, flowing, even overflowing. The writer’s day starts.”

For a Christian writer the added ingredient is prayer. Long before I begin trying to prime the pump I have engaged in conversation with the creator of all creativity. Only then do I check the clock and settle in to write. I don’t have many deadlines, but I haven’t missed one yet.

~  ~  ~

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Whose Deadline is it, Anyway?

As writers we know all about deadlines, don’t we? They are entwined with commitments and are equally unpopular. There’s something about seeing a big circle looming on the calendar that automatically turns off my enthusiasm. At the very time when I need to be productive, I often can’t dredge up the necessary words. As the deadline draws closer I can become panicky. Nothing kills creativity like panic! But we don’t have the luxury of submitting to that panic if an editor is waiting for our work. We must write and we must do it now. So how do we accomplish the seemingly impossible?

 

William Faulkner once said: “I write only when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” How does a person “get inspired” when the words aren’t coming?

 

In the book “Take Joy” that I mentioned yesterday, Jane Yolen suggests one way. She speaks of “priming the writing pump”:

     “My late father-in-law had a cabin in the West Virginia woods. There was no running water, only a pump that needed to be primed each morning with river water…. Pouring the river water into the mouth of the pump, I would then lower the handle, lift it, lower it again. The gurgle of the unseen machinery alluded to the sympathetic magic taking place: like calling to like.

     “The pump would wheeze, snort, pull, the handle becoming harder and harder to push. And then suddenly water–not the river water laved into the pump, but fresh, earth-chilled, underground, sweet-as-spring water would gush forth.

     “Everyday writing starts that way. The old river water thrown into the pump is metaphorically your letters, revisions, journal entries… and then that sympathetic magic takes hold. As water calls water, so words call words. Up they come from the unplumbed depths, what some call inspiration and some call talent and some call soul: sweet-as-spring new ideas. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories. Poems. Gushing, flowing, even overflowing. The writer’s day starts.”

 

For a Christian writer the added ingredient is prayer. Long before I begin trying to prime the pump I have engaged in conversation with the creator of all creativity. Only then do I check the clock and settle in to write. I haven’t missed a deadline yet.

If I Had to Pick Just One Book…

Now that the weekend entertaining is done and the omelet pans washed, I’m putting my feet up and settling in for a quiet Monday morning read.

 

In mid-May I mentioned my shelf filled with books on writing.  In comparison to some writers, my library isn’t all that impressive. There are many more volumes that I would love to own. There is so much to learn and I expect to be making discoveries until the end of my days.

 

As I went to my bookcase this morning I thought about the titles I reach for most often. My two faves are not ‘how to’ books to educate my mind on the creating and crafting process. Instead, they provide encouragement for my sometimes-fragile writing spirit.

FavReads

Their titles say it all: Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to loving the Craft by Jane Yolen, and Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg. There are times when I don’t need to be told how to write. I just need a little nurturing. These books nurture.

 

But please don’t ask me to pick just one of them!

Butterflies, Fireflies and Fleeting Ideas

The stationary white speck stood out against the hemlock’s deep green. Even with my handy-dandy birdwatching binoculars I couldn’t quite tell what it was – a cherry blossom tossed there by the wind? Perhaps a feather having drifted from a nearby nest? Curiosity brought me back to the window several times but I couldn’t identify it.

 

Then suddenly it was gone.  I scanned the lawn beneath the tree to no avail until a fluttering bit of white in the nearby garden caught my attention. I discovered what I assume was an early Cabbage White moth flitting among the violets.  As I watched I was reminded of a passage from Jane Yolen’s book, “Take Joy”:

 

“A writer is someone who begins

by trying to catch insights

as fireflies in a jar

but in the end

needs to see them

pinned to the page.”

 

While the pinning part of the analogy is a bit gruesome, it vividly portrays a writer’s efforts to capture fleeting ideas.

 

Remembering that someone once said success occurs when opportunity meets preparation, I like to be ready whenever inspiration strikes. In place of a bottle or butterfly net, however, I frantically reach for my ever-present notebook because momentary fragments of brilliance rarely sit on a branch long enough for me to examine them.

 

Now might also be a good time for me to look in my sewing basket for a few pins.