Muse Monday: The Narrows

Yes, more blah. This is apparently how we roll these days.

Just these days–my writing is cyclical, and I get the sense that this is true for a lot of people. Not cyclical in the sense of it happening at all but cyclical in the sense of how easy it is–or is not–and how smoothly it flows. When it’s an up cycle, turns of phrase and metaphors and plot twists leap off my fingertips, and all of it works great. Feels great. When it’s a down cycle, the words come, but it takes some doing. And they feel clunky and tinny. They may not actually be clunky and tinny; I’ve learned that I shouldn’t trust myself when I get like this. Just put the head down and keep plodding along, donkey-like.

Sometimes this is a bigger problem than others. It tends to be less of a problem when I’m working on something long, where the plot ends up being ultimately more important than the style. But in short stories, I find that there’s much less differentiation between the two. Good writing is good writing, period, and it all does the same job. When I’m writing a short piece, the style and the feel of the prose often drive things along just as much as the events of the story itself; I think my most successful short stories also contain my best prose. So when the words clunk in a short piece, everything is harder.

I’ve currently set aside the Mars novel in order to give a short piece a chance; it’s been bugging me for a while and something told me that it was time to let it out to breathe and unfurl its wings. But as Princess Irulan says, beginnings are very delicate times, and this particular story is heavy on the style, almost to the point of edging into prose-poetry. I’ve written pieces like that before, but I write prose much better than poetry most of the time (oh, the things that high school teaches you), and just now the words aren’t coming very easily.

Or so it seems to me. It’s entirely possible that what I have is at least passable, and maybe even good. But I’m not currently in a position to say. In the meantime I’m keeping my head down, plodding along, trying to feel the words as they come. In this–and in many other aspects–I think that writing requires a tremendous amount of faith. It’s fundamentally an irrational thing, this idea that even when it feels bad it might be good, or at least salvageable. Even when things become agonizing, there’s the hope that faith kept will eventually be faith rewarded.

What about you? What keeps you going? What do you need to push through the tight and difficult narrows of your own word-streams, or of the stream of anything else you’re trying to do?

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One response to “Muse Monday: The Narrows

  1. I’ve been painting for over 25 years (this year more than ever before), and I certainly have times when I go into plodding donkey mode. That’s usually when I’m painting “the boring part,” mixing difficult muted colors, or completing something tedious like a brick wall. I have the luxury of being able to stop periodically and work on different, easier sections. Then I can come back to the tough stuff with fresh eyes. That sounds like what you’re doing by taking out your unfinished short story.

    I also find that running around the house a few times or eating candy also helps. Good luck!

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