It’s been a long time since I posted something here, and there is far too much to tell of my travels than could fit in today’s blog post. I could talk forever about all the new things I saw, learned, and experienced while I was gone, as one does when journeying far from home. But instead I feel the need to get my mind back in the writer’s mode, if for no other reason than to help prepare myself for the onslaught-of-all-things-literary that is the annual AWP (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference, which I will be attending with my homies this weekend.
Before I left two long weeks ago, I was feeling a great deal of urgency in my writing, trying to meet a series of rigid, self-imposed, and totally arbitrary deadlines. Yet my writing was stagnant; I was forcing myself to squeeze out every last little drop of creative juice I could wring from my brain. And it wasn’t really working—I was writing pages each night that I knew deep down I most likely wouldn’t keep in the long run. This is often a necessary step in writing novels, but it’s extremely frustrating for us writers to toil over every word, every sentence when we know that much of it won’t appear in the final draft. Haruki Murakami even goes so far as to write every chapter from the perspective of several voices in order to better understand his characters, only keeping one of those drafts in the end. He also diligently maintains a highly-regimented routine while working on his novels, never varying his schedule. I try to follow suit but as a young writer, I am still figuring out the details of that process.
In the chaos of packing and making arrangements to be away from home for almost an entire month, I had no choice but to finally set aside my projects, stashing them away in the storage closets in my mind. I was nervous about this, knowing that in the past when I took such lengthy breaks I had a very difficult time getting back into the groove. I had no choice however, and left home ready to escape my work for a while, hoping the mental vacation would do me some good.
Only one day into the trip, I was writing new scenes for my novel. After two days I was writing whole chapters. Four days in, I found my poetry vibe again and was writing several poems each day—a pace I haven’t enjoyed since grad school. And by the mid-point of my trip, I’d come up with plotlines for three sequels to two of my book projects, and even a prequel concept. The tiny notebook I brought on the trip is now filled to the top of each page and the edges of every margin. I’ve got enough to keep me busy for decades now.
I should have expected that by simply getting out of my stuffy little office, and the stuffy headspace that it accompanies, I might enjoy some new creative flow. My writing life demands that I be incredibly task-oriented and adhere to a strict schedule much like Murakami’s, or risk losing progress and motivation on my projects. But it is clear to me now that I am back home that sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery and routine to break things wide open.
I can only anticipate with great excitement the inspiration and mojo I’m about to receive at the AWP conference, surrounded by my literary peeps and immersed in the community I love so much. I came away from last year’s conference with several new poems, a thousand ideas for new ones, an editing gig, and a much closer relationship to the literary world. My career has advanced by leaps and bounds since then, and I can’t wait to see what opportunities I might be able to snatch up this time around.
And then it’s back home once more to savor the comfort of my own cozy bed and soak up the quiet, delicious calm of my lonely little office, and get back to business.