The creative process for producing any kind of art is both magical and messy.
It doesn’t matter whether you paint, draw, play an instrument or write, your art will sometimes surprise and delight you and other times it will cause mess, confusion and creative suffering.
Magical and messy moments for a writer usually occur on a laptop screen, a sheet of paper or in their head.
I used to actively avoid messy writing moments. As a fresh-faced and energetic newbie writer I would shelve a story at the first sign of mess and start again with a shiny new one. For me writing was all about the magical writing moments. Sigh – the things we do when we are busy chasing perfection!
Magical writing moments are great, although at times they can feel elusive. These golden moments where we feel on top of our writing game or on the receiving end of some glowing praise give us a much-needed boost and can lead to increased productivity levels.
Last year I came across the Buddhist quote saying; ‘no mud, no lotus’.
The beautiful lotus grows out from the muck and mud at the bottom of the water.
Without the muck there is no lotus.
Does this apply to writing?
Do beautiful things come out of creative mess?
This got me thinking. For noting I blame this quote for my decision to start embracing messy writing moments.
After quite a few messy writing moments this year I have come to the conclusion that they are just as important as magical moments.
When I talk about messy writing moments I am referring to situations like:
- Doing a serious amount of cringing whilst writing your first draft.
- Falling down a gigantic plot hole, which you never saw coming.
- Reading your draft and realising it reads nothing like the best seller in your head.
- Having no clue whatsoever about where your creative muse is taking you with your story.
- Discovering a problem with a character or your plot.
- Chucking your draft in the waste paper bin because it is a big pile of literary wrongs and then returning to it a few hours later, tear stained and clutching a large glass of wine.
We need messy writing moments just as much as we do magical moments. The first draft of a story needs to be a mess for a bit because it means our mind is being kept open.
Messy writing moments are a sign our curiosity needs to spring into action and force us to dig a little deeper.
Literary success doesn’t happen as a lightning bolt that hits us in our sleep. Rather, it happens through a series of setbacks and failures and messy writing moments that ultimately lead to something great.
I love Anne Lamott’s quote in Bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forget to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.
Do we need to make a creative mess in order to find ourselves?
Lately I have started enjoying my messy writing moments. All hell has broken loose on the pages of my current first draft and I have not fought it or ran away. Instead I have allowed it stay a mess (I ignored the facial twitches and hives) and gently leaned into that…panic stricken feeling of ‘WTF am I writing?’
I am pleased to say a few positive things have arisen out of my messy writing moments. These have been a little bit special. The feeling you get after creating something out of mess is amazing.
So the next time you are in the middle of messy writing moment, embrace it and let it happen.
Never thought I would say this but bring on the mess!
Have a fabulous day.