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.
The following moments are what I call messy for writers:
- A draft full of moon crater-sized plot holes.
- 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 bestseller in your head.
- Having no clue whatsoever about where your creative muse is taking you with your story.
- Discovering a major 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.
Since finishing my debut novel, Instructions For Falling In Love Again, I have been searching for a new story. This has not been easy because I have been actively avoiding messy writing moments. I have been shelving stories at the first sign of mess and starting again with a shiny new one.
Once you have a finished book it is quite easy to forget about the journey you have been on.
It is also very easy to think the creation of your second novel will ONLY be full of magical writing moments because you already been through so much with your first book. You are now an experienced novelist who does not encounter mess...
Excuse me while I laugh hysterically at myself!
I won’t lie, 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.
After shelving a new story a few weeks ago, one which was getting close to the messy stage, I came across the Buddhist quote:
‘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.
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, 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.
I recall enjoying my messy writing moments with my first novel. All hell broke loose on the page and I didn’t fight it or run away. Instead I allowed it to stay a mess (ignoring the facial twitches and hives) and gently leaned into that…panic stricken feeling of ‘WTF am I writing?’
For some reason I now want to avoid all the mess and go straight into the magical moments.
But, I have realised this can’t happen. We need both!
So I have decided to embrace the mess and be grateful for the magical writing moments.
Do you encounter both messy and magical moments with your writing?
Have a fabulous day.