Snow Globitis

I'm not sure I like this exercise of writing just because I have a pocket of time that has opened up.  It was fun last week when I was testing whether such pockets exist, but now that I've found them, I'm not entirely sure what to do with them.

I've been working on my sermon off and on since Thursday (at least, I think it was Thursday), but I am worried that part of my breakdown on Friday evening was owing to the stress of trying to write in such brief chunks.  Okay, so I managed to write a first draft of something in the course of two days, but it sucked (well, parts of it sucked) so much so that I lost it and (as you may remember) ended up in a binge.  I took a break from trying to write on Saturday and came back to the sermon on Sunday, but I really needed more than just twenty minutes to settle into the writing and be able to figure out what I wanted to say.  Sure, it was nice having a draft (however terrible) to work from, but what if I had just given myself the time earlier?  Wouldn't it have been better writing for longer to start with?

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!  I'm so scared that this isn't going to work.  Perhaps even more scared that it is.  It is certainly comforting to think that writing doesn't have to suck every second of one's time in order to be productive.  It was very pleasant yesterday knowing that it was wiser to stop working on the sermon after an hour or so than to try to push through and finish it.  The plan is to work some more on it this evening.  I could be working on it now, but I only have ten or so minutes left before I need to go to class.  I just can't think that quickly.  I need to know that I have more time.

And yet, why doesn't it feel like I have time now?  Look, here I am, writing.  Why not let myself just sit and think about the sermon now?  (Other than that the draft is on my laptop at home, and I'm at my desktop on campus.  Something to think about in where I save my drafts!)  Because what if all I did was sit for twenty minutes without writing anything?  What if I only managed to write a sentence or two?  Wouldn't that just be a waste of time that I could have spent doing something else?  It just takes so long to let the ideas settle.  Like shaking a snow globe and having to wait for the flakes to stop swirling around.  I don't like having to wait.  I want to sit down and just start typing immediately.  Because that's what writing means, right?  Actually putting words on the screen.

Argh!  What does it all mean?  Is this the right practice?  Will it ever feel natural?  Normal?  Comfortable?  What am I doing wrong?

Comments

  1. I don't have any answers. But I am well acquainted with the experience of feeling like I need time to figure out what I want to say and hit my stride in writing, and that this often causes me to consider small periods of time insufficient for writing. I wonder if more pre-writing helps solve this problem? As in, you don't need to spend so much time thinking of what to say at the start of each writing session because you've essentially used previous writing sessions to do all of your thinking on paper? But maybe the problem is that we think of pre-writing as a separate activity entirely from writing? Writing produces something cohesive, polished, complete, and pre-writing produces what? Outlines? Maybe pre-writing produces snatches of arguments, or images, or very nice turns-of-phrase as well. Maybe pre-writing should be expanded to include blogs and, to borrow Anne Lamott's phrase, sh*tty first drafts. I don't know what Boice has to say on the subject, but maybe we need *slightly* longer sessions for putting together actual drafts, and a whole lot of short sessions in which we're just putting thoughts and phrases to page, collecting the material which we will arrange more properly in the fuller "writing" sessions? Like I said, no answers here.

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  2. Actually, you've hit Boice's answers exactly. In his advice, "writing" includes everything that you've mentioned, all of which is appropriate activity for one's brief, daily sessions. I think that the thing that I am struggling with (as many blocked, a.k.a. anxious, writers do) is allowing myself time to do the pre-writing. In a way, this blog was always meant as a sort of free writing exercise, but I have trouble transitioning from free writing to pre-writing, as it were. I want the polished prose to come as easily as the free writing, when, of course, it can't unless one has done the pre-writing.

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