Monday, September 15, 2014

Running on Empty

I am currently in between revisions and feeling a bit antsy without something to work on. I must do more research before I start revisions on my most current draft, so I’ve been reading and thinking and pacing and wallowing for the last week or so. And then on a whim, I picked up an old copy of The Southern Review and read a few poems.

And the words flowed. I grabbed the closest notebook I could find and started writing. Within ten minutes, I felt better than I have in weeks. I remembered why I love writing so much. My pen couldn’t fly across the paper fast enough. The words weren’t beautiful (yet), but they were quick and easy and focused. In ten minutes I had added depth to a character that had, at times, felt flat in my draft.

And I realized that during the last six months, I had completely emptied myself out during revisions and hadn’t devoted enough time to filling back up.

As a runner, I know better. During long runs I take in extra calories in order to replenish what is lost. If I don't, I crash and burn. I would never run eighteen miles or more without fueling properly before, during, and after.

The same should be true for my writing. Writing empties us. As we write, we pour ourselves onto the page, wringing out like a dishrag. After doing that for months, I was dry.

In order to create, to empty out our souls, and to do it continuously over a long period of time, we must fuel properly. Read. Don’t just read in your genre, either. Read outside your comfort zone. Read poetry and absorb its music. Listen to its cadence so that your prose will have rhythm and beauty. Get drunk on someone else’s words.

And observe. Sit in the silence and enjoy a sunset. Take a walk and notice that which you bustled past only the day before. Breathe the world in so you can exhale it onto the page at just the right moment.

Listen. Watch. Absorb. You can’t run on empty forever.