I had a great time over the weekend. So why do I feel so rotten?
On Saturday I went to a workshop on editing. Because it was held locally, there was none of the airport—customs—strange hotel bed—weird meals—time zone disorientation. The chairs in the meeting room were reasonably comfortable; the lunch was delightful; the weather outside was a spectacular fall day; and I hadn’t even joined people in the bar for a drink afterwards.
Sunday I woke up excited. I spent yesterday and today eliminating about 10,000 words from what had been a horribly bloated and—I had feared—completely irretrievable manuscript.
I should be ecstatic. I’m not.
I am in such a bad mood. I should have stayed home and gotten things done around the house. Our living room is a mess; it even smells bad. My office is falling apart. I can’t focus. I’m angry at everyone and everything.
Somehow it is up to me to make all of this right. I have to do the undone things. Make order out of chaos. Make everything all right in the world. Fix everything before I can get back to writing. It’s my fault that the whole world is out of balance; bringing it back to balance rests entirely on my shoulders.
I am tempted to
pick a fight
rage at the living room
stop writing completely until I clean every room from top to bottom
spend time on anything but writing
lose myself in reading for 8 or 12 or 15 hours
piddle and piffle
I’ve blogged several times about going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. I’ve completed the 12 weeks of exercises, but since it dawned on me at about week 10 or 11 that I hadn’t made that much progress, I decided to repeat the 12 weeks.
Something about my irrational feelings sounded strangely familiar. I thought I'd seen them in the past 12 weeks. Sure enough— Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity. I was having an energy shift.
Which got me thinking about coming back from conventions and workshops. People frequently write about getting ready for a convention or what to do at a convention, but I don’t think I’ve seen many tips for coming back from an convention.
It seems to me that there are three layers in this process.
The first layer is recovering from choices we made. These choices usually involve staying up late, and putting more food and possibly alcohol in our bodies than we should have. We know the drill: drink lots of water, get some sleep, do some exercise, take hot baths or showers, detoxify, get a massage, stick to green and orange vegetables, multi-grain carbohydrates, and lean protein for a few days. In other words, get the body back on track.
The second layer is getting back in the routine. Yes, the job is waiting. Yes, it’s likely in a mess. Yes, you have eleventy-zillion e-mail messages to wade through. Yes, traffic is worse than you remember it. Yes, laundry and dishes and vacuuming and errands and dental appointments and check book balancing need doing. Yes, you can and will deal with all of this, though you’re likely to grumble while you’re doing it. Grumbling is permitted.
For the third layer, prepare yourself for an energy shift that has nothing to do with either of the first two layers. Something has moved in your creative process. I am convinced that creativity is a split creature, like Captain Kirk in The Enemy Within. Creativity-1 can do wonderful things, such as bid farewell to 10,000 extra words and turn an amorphous mass into something resembling a book.
Creativity-2 hates change. She rages. She decides that she has to stop everything to focus on why the living room smells bad. She has to make change the whole world right now. She has to read for hours to the exclusion of getting anything else done. She has to reorganize her entire life before she can possibly touch any creative endeavor. In short, she has to do everything in her power to keep you from changing because she likes things the way they were, thank you very much.
My three suggestions for getting through the third layer after you come back from a convention or workshop are
Limit your reading and/or TV/DVD watching for at least the first week. I have nothing scientific on which to base this, but I had to start somewhere, so I picked a 3:1 ratio. After I’ve done something creative for 3 hours, I’ll allow myself to read or watch DVDs for 1 hour.
Do not do major cleaning right now. This is not a good time to rearrange all the furniture in your office or to clean out your closets. Creativity-2 is trying to get you to do this so that you will be so tired that you can’t focus on change.
Create. Start something new. Revisit something old. Work in a different medium for a little while. Give yourself permission to play and see where it takes you.
Just in case someone is curious about how I got rid of all those words, I had my writing program compile a list of how often a word was used in the manuscript. I use Scrivener, which is a Macintosh program, but there are probably other programs out there that do the same thing.
I compared the number of times a word was used to the number of pages in the book. In my case the count was about 300, so I focused on words that had been used over 300 times because that meant they were likely to show up more than once on a page.
I didn’t bother with words like the, a, to, and, in, if, her, she, was, I, that, you, had, and he, each of which appeared over 1,000 times. I figured those would sort themselves out as I made other corrections.
Then I used the “find” feature to locate each time a word had been used and tried to eliminate that word by rewriting the sentence. The first word I went through “as” originally appeared 426 times. By the time I finished finding and changing, I had 21 appearances left. I’ve also done the following words: yes, no, make, thought, think, and there.
These are the words I still plan to check:
Quibbling words (words that have a tendency to weaken meaning in a sentence): only, any, just, still, might, yet.
[She still might go to the carnival on Saturday, only she hadn't made up her mind yet. For gosh sakes, have that woman make a decision! ]
Words that tend to represent weak actions: look, took, put, turn, told, tell, smile
[He turned to look at her and smiled as he put his hat on the table. Even though actions—turning, smiling, and putting a hat on the table—are described, this is not an action sentence.]
Quote for the week:
I wonder if our creative calling is sometimes something we fear, avoid, and, if we're lucky, end up being pulled into in spite of ourselves.
~Susan Wooldridge, author Poemcrazy and Foolsgold