Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When the Magic Fades

Posted by: Jane Kindred
There's something magical about the process of writing that defies explanation. Ask any writer that ubiquitous question: "Where do you get your ideas?" and after she resists the urge to roll her eyes and punch you in the junk (um, perhaps that's just me), she'll probably tell you something along the lines of "I'm not really sure; nowhere and everywhere." We may have inspiration for a specific idea, or we may take general inspiration from things like music and art, but whatever sparks the idea, what we write often seems to take on a life of its own, and we have no idea where it's coming from.

In my writing, at least, there comes a moment when I'm no longer in charge; the inmates have taken over the asylum and the story is writing itself. And there's nothing I love more than that moment. A lot of writing is work—editing and revising can be downright grueling—but writing a first draft can be magic. I can hardly get the words out fast enough when I hit that magic spot. It's like a drug, and it makes me want to write more, to go through the looking-glass or the magical wardrobe and just stay in that other world for hours. Often during such episodes, I have to be reminded to eat, sleep, and take care of bodily functions. (Just let me finish this chapter, and then I'll go to the bathroom!) I think a whole year went by once where I forgot I had a kid.

But what happens when the magic is gone? When you sit down to write and suddenly every word is like pulling teeth? When you've fallen into a giant plot hole and you can't get up?

Well, I have a magical mantra for that moment: Write it anyway. Write a big stinking mess if you have to, but write.

One of my early manuscripts sprang out of my imagination and my keyboard like it was birthed fully formed from the head of Zeus as I sat and wrote nonstop for three months, while the one before that was a painstaking labor of eight years. (Or fifteen if you want to count the version I started as a novella in high school—which I don't, and will deny any knowledge of if asked.)

Most of what I've written, however, has been much more of a mix—magical bursts of inspiration interspersed with agonizing plods up a steep hill (barefoot, through snow). Each time I lost the magic and found myself staring at a blank page, I had to remind myself: Write it anyway. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes of forcing myself to write through it to get back into the groove. Other times I end up with pages of stinking mess that I'll have to go back and deal with later, but they get me to the other side and eventually back to the magic.

That book I birthed through parthenogenesis may never come to anything, and the one that caused me 26 hours of excruciating back labor (er, wait...that was my son) definitely won't. But they were both part and parcel of the magical elixir of "write it anyway"—write it even if you think it's awful; write it even if it's never going to be read. Do not ignore the muse. (Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.)

Write It Anyway also works for maladies such as Black Moods, Crying Jags, Fits of Hysteria, Moments of Despair, and the ever-popular Why Did I Ever Think I Could Write a Book??

Try it and see what you think.*

*Caution: Write It Anyway elixir may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds. Discontinue use of Write It Anyway if any of the following occurs:
  • itching
  • vertigo
  • dizziness
  • tingling in extremities
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • slurred speech
  • temporary blindness
  • profuse sweating
  • heart palpitations
Write It Anyway elixir not responsible for loss of limb, sanity, or employment, and will not be at fault if you put your eye out.**

**Author may have been under the influence of Write It Anyway while composing this post.

Jane Kindred


  1. I have a question.

    Are you me? :D

    The funny thing is about 'Write it anyway' is that often the results are indistinguishable from the 'OMG my fingers are on fire!' writing.

  2. Great. Post. I like the labor and delivery analogy to writing. I had a Vedic Astrologist/psychic tell me once that books are children in the creative sense. We have an idea; it germinates (gestation), and then we give birth.
    When I get stuck, I go back and look at earlier works. I "rewrite" to get the creative juices flowing again. My very first ms ever has been rewritten so many times I can no longer stand those people! It won't ever see the light of day.
    I get edgy if I'm not writing. Do the rest of you experience that?

  3. I'm a strong proponent of "Write It Anyway". My problem is that I get used to things moving fast and when they don''s even more discouraging LOL. However, like Barbara, if I go too long without writing, I get edgy and crabby and am generally a bear to be around. It's not pretty.

  4. ACK, Jane, I SO needed this reminder. I'm struggling with a ms right now and it seems like every word past chapter one is like pulling teeth. I just have to write it, even if it's bad. I can always go back and change it. Thanks for this today!

  5. I love your writing! Know at the other end of the slogging uphill you have at least one more dedicated fan who will giddily ask for a signed copy of all your books!

  6. Julia: I might be you; I have so many different online personae I can't keep track. ;) I agree, though. My "write it anyway" sessions almost always surprise me with not sucking.

    Barbara and Seleste: Yes, edgy is putting it mildly. Sad thing is, when I'm writing, I ignore everyone around me, and when I'm not, everyone around me wishes I was. ;)

    Christine: I'm also struggling with my current WIP. My usual daily goal is 1K words, but I've been doing a lot of editing in recent weeks, so no new writing has happened. It's hard to get back on track after I hand the edits back in. I've managed to write a whole 239 words this week so far. LOL. And they'll probably have to be flushed down the crapper. But I wrote them anyway.

  7. "Sad thing is, when I'm writing, I ignore everyone around me, and when I'm not, everyone around me wishes I was. ;)"

    The whole post made me laugh, but this line -- absolutely!

  8. I LOVE first drafts. I used to start a lot of stories and then abandon them when I got frustrated until I learned to write through the off days. Big fan of Write It Anyway.

  9. Jane, the line about crabby when not writing and ignoring everyone when you are writing strikes a chord! I have a lot of writer friends, and we figure being socially awkward is part of the whole writer package. I'm an observer who ventures out of my shell in little bursts of socialization. I tell people that I have a very "rich fantasy life."

  10. "Write it anyway" has brought me from being a housewife with a bunch of unfinished stories to a writer with a number of first drafts! It is some of the best advice one writer can give another.

    The comparison of labor and delivery is spot on... both the struggle and the euphoria of holding the child when it's all over! But I'm struggling now with the advice of an agent that we must cease regarding our stories as "children" and start thinking about them as a commodity that might be bought, sold, or drastically changed.


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