Find Your Quiet Place
I love to be alone.
It’s not that I dislike spending time with other people, but I find that solitude grounds me. Quiet time by myself has always been the best way to reboot my system and recharge my batteries. It’s much too easy, in the rumble and buzz of our daily rounds, to let the external noise drown out our own thoughts. When that happens, we feel overwhelmed and unmoored. At least, I do.
And then, a funny thing happens. Instead of stepping out of the fray and back into our own head and heart, we plunge further into the noisy world around us, reaching and grasping for something to bring us home to ourselves. We seek guidance from experts and search out the advice of authorities. We tune into distractions of all kinds, hoping they will help us relax and find our balance again. We assume that the answers are out there somewhere.
But, of course, as Dorothy discovered, the answers are never “out there.” They’re right here.
Solitude helps us untangle ourselves from the rest of the world so we can rediscover our personal truth and reality. This is important for any human being, but nonnegotiable for writers. Our work, our best work, comes from that place inside us. Though our writing is influenced by the outside world, the core of what we have to offer in our stories springs from our personal well of experience and being. That is where the magic comes from.
Spending time alone gives us the chance to gently or aggressively slough off the layers of otherness. It might hurt. It might be scary. But it will bring you home and it will give you direct access to the source of your stories. I invite you to make solitude part of your writing practice. It’s not easy to carve out even a small pocket of alone time in our over-scheduled world, but it’s worth it.
My private haven of choice is the early morning, before my daughter is awake and before I let the world in through my computer screen. I sit with my journal and a mug of tea. I watch the sun rise, and I do my best to bushwhack my way towards the place inside my mind and heart where the really good stuff is. Some days I can only dance around the perimeter of the forest, but other days I find a narrow track that leads me right to the core. It’s never the same journey twice and never an exercise I regret.
And, I find a lot of stories there, just waiting for me to come into the quiet so I can hear them.
What I’m Writing:
Last Saturday, I had planned a luxuriously long, uninterrupted block of writing time during which I hoped to write a story. I was scheduled to submit this yet-to-be-written story to my writing class on Tuesday morning. I had the seed of an idea, and assumed that, with a few solid hours’ work, I would have something suitable for sharing with gentle beta readers.
Oh, a writer’s best-laid plans.
Life intervened, of course, in the form of several, unavoidable distractions that quickly and efficiently consumed several hours of my carefully hoarded time. I had the sensation of watching them evaporate in puffs of white smoke the same way apps disappear off the dock on my MacBook. Though the loss of time was painful, I could have gotten past it and written through the remaining time except for a much bigger problem: my story idea wasn’t fully baked.
I had that seed of an idea, but I hadn’t taken the time to plant it, water it, and help it grow. So, I sat there in front of my blank screen with an inert seed in my hand, and I wondered what to do. I started researching. I started playing with the idea – trying to figure out what I needed to germinate it. I had new ideas. Different ideas. I had questions. Lots and lots of questions.
In the end, I didn’t write a single word.
For class, I dredged up an old piece (the first chapter of a middle grade urban fantasy) and did some editing. At first, I was disappointed that I’d been unable to whip up something new. But then I thought about why I’d been so stumped, and I realized that my stuckness was actually the result of my growth as a writer. I’d learned enough that I couldn’t be satisfied with my half-baked idea. I knew there was something better. Something more worthy of my effort. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about perfection. I was ready to write a shitty first draft. It was about sensing that there was more to my idea than met the eye.
The good news is that I have a second chance to submit a piece in class. And, even better than that, I’ve been nurturing my idea over the past week and I think I’m on to something. I think I’ve started to unravel a new twist that will give me a stronger, more interesting story. I’m so excited and can’t wait for next weekend’s writing time.
What I’m Reading:
This week hasn’t left much time for reading, but I did gift myself with a story by the writer who is teaching the Grub Street class I’m taking. On her site, Darkness Loves Company, KL Pereira invites readers to “Get Dark” …
Darkness is so much more than the things that lurk–darkness drives our deepest selves, our desires, passions, deviances. It’s the true surrender to the shadow self that lives just inside, in the oldest corners of our bones.
How could I resist such an invitation, especially around the Halloween holiday?
So, I picked out a story called Impossible Wolves. I was able, at the time, to purchase it as a very cool, little chapbook, but it seems to have disappeared off her etsy website now. Still, if you are interested, she has a number of other stories available for perusing on her site.
Pereira’s Fiction I class has done much to not only improve my understanding of the writing craft in general, but also to increase my appreciation for the short story form. The pieces we’ve read in class are fascinating examples of how something that appears simple can, in fact, be dizzyingly and gorgeously complex. There is an undeniable elegance in the shorter forms. The paring down seems to reveal a story that is, in some ways, more pure. I’m rambling, but the point is that sort stories are worth reading.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Everything I Need to Know About Plot, I Learned From Buffy by Dave King via @WriterUnboxed
- Isaac Asimov on Creativity and How We Get New Ideas via @techreview
- How To Supercharge Your Writing – Use This Cinematic Technique by CS Lakin via @WritetoDone
- Getting Published: The Genre-Concept Connection by @storyfix
- On Self-Promotion, Selling Out, and Burn Out by @JaneFriedman
- Cheryl Strayed: how “insular yet influential milieu” of the internet has made the personal essay king via @Explorer
- My Book Club Read 200 Books. These Were Our Favorites. by Suzanne Fernandez Gray
- How to Tell if Your Story Idea is Mediocre – And How to Improve It by @mediagoddess213 via @janefriedman
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to finding your quiet place and having time to spend there communing with the stories inside you. Happy reading. Good writing. See you on the other side.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.