Saturday, October 1, 2011

"The work needs space around it"

Two quotations that struck me, from May Sarton's The House by the Sea:

"He is very shy, a sandy-haired, middle-aged man, who is recovering from winning all the prizes last year ... I was quite amused to hear that he feels silenced at this point."

This captures a situation that sometimes happens to people after great worldly success: all that connection with the external world makes the connection with the inner self harder to find. But it doesn't have to be huge success to be distracting. This can even happen with small triumphs, because it's more about a mindset and an inner compass. A person can remain serene and focused while winning the Nobel Prize, or can lose focus over a single good review. It's a paradox of writing that we must strive to communicate with others, while not worrying overly much about attention or approval from those others!

Then there's this:

"It is not that I work all day; it is that the work needs space around it. Hurry and flurry break into the deep still place where I can remember and sort out what I want to say ..."

I find this, too. An hour of good solid writing may be preceded by two hours of what seems like daydreaming, or a solitary walk. Something is working beneath the surface when this happens; I'm reaching deeper layers of concentration. I don't always have or need the luxury of all this time, however. When I'm revising, I can usually slip right into the imaginary world of the story. It's first drafting that requires this mental heavy lifting.


  1. Interesting point. For me as well, putting some space around things helps; though for some projects I can just dive in and work on it.

  2. Eagle: I need more space at the beginning of a project, when I'm finding my way. Once I know the territory, it's easier to dive in. But everyone has their own process!

  3. Yes. It's the mental heavy lifting that's got my writing muscles feeling weak right now. The season isn't helping, either! I thought maybe I should shift gears and do some revising until I'm feeling stronger.

  4. Angelina: I'm convinced the work needs some time to percolate in the primordial ooze at the bottom of my brain. I don't know if others have ooze too, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.