If Your Writing Life Is Going Smoothly, But You Feel Like Something Is Missing, Try Adding This.

My writing life has two wonderful sides to it. The super-productive, bright, civilized side is essential. But so is the other side... | lucyflint.com

Sometimes I love being the kind of writer who is efficient, bright, and clear-headed. With a clean desk, very few grumpy days, and a fairly smooth novel-writing process.

This is my "good writing-life citizen" version.

And this is when I feel like I could draw a diagram of my novel--I could graph the whole thing out. This is when I'm surrounded by cheerful lists, when I become a smart little word-accountant, tallying up page numbers and chapter sequences.

This is when I feel like I generally know what I'm doing, and where I'm headed. It's a nice clean feeling in the head. 

And I do love those days and weeks.

And then there are the other good days.

When I feel like an entirely different kind of writer

... When I feel like I'm journeying through a shadowy and mysterious land, a hundred miles away from civilization. And to write the novel, I get up each day and set out on a fog-swept road.

And all I know is that I keep moving forward, but I never know what will emerge from the mist.

Writing becomes an adventure; a day at the desk feels like I'm far away.

I start to lose my grip on normal things (grocery shopping? taking showers? going to sleep? errands? meetings?), which is a little yiiiiiiiiikes, but I replace it with a much stronger grip on the story.

And I get swept along. Rosy-cheeked, breathless. Chasing the story.

Heather Sellers says, "Artists are vagabond outlaws," and that is exactly how I feel on these wild, uncivilized writing days.

It's incredible--it sounds crazy--but I start to feel like the story has become my home, like I've fallen into it. Like it's showing me what comes next, day after day, so long as I wake up and write it all down.  

This is when the writing itself feels less like a process and more like watching yeast bloom in a bowl of warm milk: fascinating, mysterious, and more than a little funky.

And I love it, I love it, when I have the days and weeks when that is my writing life.

The vagabond outlaw, scribbling away in the shadows.

Two wonderful sides of a healthy writing life: the bright beautiful process, and the murky mysterious journey in the dark.

I love both versions. 

And I'm convinced that we need both.

It is good--really good--for my writing to fit within certain boundaries. To have a point in the workday when I'm "done" for the day. To be able to do other important things, like cook! exercise! meet friends for brunch!

Good civilized things.

It's good to seek an excellent writing routine, to mastermind a brilliant reading list, or improve my self-management skills. Efficiency! Productivity! Hooray!

But now and then I feel an undeniable urge to chuck my lists (or, okay, just set them down neatly) and make room for the more mysterious side of the writing life.

The vagabond outlaw side.

I start canceling appointments, clearing my schedule of stuff even in the not-writing hours of my day. Because I need a lot of mental room. 

I clear the space to let myself daydream fiercely. I don't worry about getting to bed on time; I carry paper everywhere I go--like, literally, an index card and pen glued to my hand.

I work to fill my mind with all the characters' voices; I close my eyes and build the setting all around me. I walk around in a daze.

This is when I stop worrying about things like schedules, civilized behavior, and, you know, putting stuff back where it goes. I let my life get disorderly. I lose things.

And all that attention and energy and mind and heart pour into the story.

This is what I'm craving right now, honestly. I've had a long run of highly scheduled days, days of routine--and that's wonderful.

But I need to be swept off my feet. I need to go a little wild.

My novel is calling to me. It's time to bury myself in it, get it under my skin, so that I'm dreaming it up all the time, and not just setting text on paper, not just typing, not just plotting.

You know what I mean? 

I want to write a novel with depths. I want a book that readers will tumble into. A story that works like quicksand: One step in, and, welp, now you'll be reading till 3 a.m.

Because I love books like that. The books you read all night long until you finally read The End with scratchy, puffy eyes, and you feel like you've been lost and then found. 

The best way to read!

And sometimes the best way to write.

So that's where I want to go. 

Well, it's October 1. And here in the Midwest, it's autumn. (Favorite season alert!!)

Time for longer nights, and candles in pumpkins, and the spookier sorts of things, so I thought: LET'S. Let's talk about the more shadowy, mysterious parts of writing this month. 

Let's chase after the parts of writing that are less concrete, less certain, less list-able.

Let's be swept off our feet by the vagabond-outlaw side of the writing life. Let's remind ourselves that we're wanderers, web-makers, dreamers. 

Let's go deeper this month. Let's write from the shadowy side.