Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pushing vs Resting--Why We Need Both Will and Vision to Complete a Book


Today I am sitting still. I'm visioning, listening, waiting. It's the opposite pace of these last few months, when my novel Qualities of Light was released into the world. When a book gets born, there's nonstop activity.

Publicity, the book tour, interviews, good reviews if you're lucky. I've been deep in all of this. Today is different.

Outside my window are sunlit fields and the fiercely gold last-ditch efforts of three fading maple trees. Inside, a vase of flowers is catching the light. I haven't noticed this beauty lately, because of the pushing, the pace, the will needed to move my project out into the world. Like birthing, it takes that push. It's essential.

Today I am resting from the pushing, to let bigger visions filter in and bring their welcome creativity and renewal.

Balance of Visioning and Will
Visioning and will balance each other in book writing like two ends of a seesaw. If you don't have an initial vision for a book, you really don't create something that goes deep enough to touch readers, make them tell their friends and family and writing group about your writing, even change lives if you're lucky. Visions change as the book evolves. For Qualities of Light, I started with a vision of unexpected romance. As it evolved, as more characters got developed, the vision changed into healing of a family. Both stories made it into the final book. I like to think the pauses, the visioning I did, helped them weave together into a whole.

It's hard to book time for visioning. The sequel to Qualities of Light is cooking. It needs the visioning help to take it to the next step--I have a solid draft, some edited sections, but not a sense of the whole picture. While I'm working on my publicity, I can't seem to slow down enough to vision. I have to book a visioning day.

Today, the end of October in peak leaf-changing New England, it feels like a cycle shifting, a perfect time to vision. New possibilities, the season changing. Ideas are starting to come, faint pictures that will make a wholeness for this next book. I am committed to taking notes today.
I enjoy the golden trees, the flowers indoors. The pushing mind empties, the attention is freed up.

When You Know You Need Visioning Time
I usually don't accept the need for visioning time until I'm maxed. Yesterday it hit me as a wave of sheer exhaustion: I needed visioning time like oxygen. I'm very happy about all that's happened but the pushing it's required has stressed me way beyond my comfort zone. I'm grateful for the cheers and congratulations, but I'm an introvert (like many writers) and it wears me out after a while. I'm really excited about my booksigning this weekend, November 1, in Washington Depot, Connecticut, and my booksigning Thursday, November 5, at the Loft in Minneapolis. I'm really thrilled with the reviews coming out, the buzz happening. Releasing a book is the realization of a dream: wonderful, joyous, overwhelming. But it needs the balance of visioning. Otherwise we lose sight of why we're doing it. Don't we.

I was driving back from teaching a writing class when things reached critical mass. The cell phone rang, I couldn't locate my headset in time, and for some reason this felt like the last straw. I was on the very rainy Saw Mill Parkway, a twisty highway in western New York, and Chris Pureka was on the radio. Her melancholy voice perfectly reflected the rainy fall day. I felt myself let go inside. Let the call go to voice mail. Let myself just listen and drive, sink into the slow motion.

Then it happened. I suddenly got a picture, a new idea, a wholeness. As my pushing self let go of all the efforts, creative ideas came fast. Ideas to solve some dilemmas in my next novel, things I'd been struggling with.

Planning for Visioning
Take advantage of the change of seasons to set up a visioning time for your writing project this week. Maybe you've noticed the difficulty in talking yourself into this need--and the effect of dried up writing that comes when you don't have an overview of your project? And maybe you've noticed the serendipity that comes through, the originality, when you let yourself stop pushing and start visioning?

This week's exercise: Take your solo self and your writing notebook someplace for an hour, an afternoon, a morning or a day. Let yourself look at changing leaves or mountains or the ocean. Sketch, doodle, or write what comes. Take notes. Maybe you'll get the overview of vision, worth gold to the book writer.

Also: Write down what you'd really like from the project you're working on. What vision do you have for it? Why are you doing it, really?