Friday, December 21, 2012

Reflections from the Well

On Writing Craft, Creativity & Inspiration

by Alexander Slagg

Getting a Feel for Winter’s Rhythm

Writing is an organic activity. Exercising your imagination is no different than exercising your body. It’s an activity that helps keep your life in balance, helps you stay healthy. Like all natural phenomena, writing has its ebbs and flows. There are times when it’s more difficult to trot out your sentences and ideas, and times when you are in the moment and the limber and practiced synaptic pathways in your brain perform with ballerina-like precision and grace. It’s rarely a steady, static process over time.

We’re all told of the importance of writing every day. That’s a valuable mantra to live by. But mantras have no value by themselves. They need a comparison to provide perspective. How would we know the value of writing every day if we did not also have a comparative experience—not writing every day? I believe that experience is equally valuable to us as artists.

The start of winter offers a great opportunity to consider this. Winter is a time when life slows down. The days grow short and the temperature drops. Trees and plants withdraw. Squirrels and other animals hold up in their hideaways. Human beings should be following this slowing rhythm too. But we rarely do. There are e-mails to get out, holiday gifts to buy, end-of-the-year business reports to pull together, family gatherings to attend.

We often approach our writing with this same tone-deaf mentality. Regardless of the rhythm of the season, we must go, go, go. Maybe it’s time to stop and slow down long enough to once again feel that rhythm. What would that be like? What would that involve?

Before any of us were writers, we were readers. An appreciation of what we read is what leads many of us to put fingers to keyboard in the first place. Maybe this winter we hang up the discipline whip for a bit, untether the horses and let them graze in the pasture. Take some time to read without any expectations. Read for the simple joy of it. Your imagination will thank you.

When you unbox it from its routine workout, your imagination grows and changes. New influences come in and refresh the stock of ideas swirling around in your subconscious. Step out of the routine long enough to regain some perspective and to appreciate the good that is coming out of that discipline. You’ll be refreshed when you’re ready to sit back down and face the blank page.

Did that novel idea or first line emerge from you sitting down every day and willing it to appear? Not likely. It probably came to you at some random moment when you were not seeking it. That is the tameless beauty of creativity.

This winter take some time to simply daydream over a cup of tea or while you’re laid out on the couch on a Saturday afternoon. Open up some space inside yourself for those moments of whimsy to happen. Leave the gate open so those shy fairies can tiptoe into your garden and perform all of the little magical things that they do when you aren’t paying attention. Get in touch with the sense of joy found in just being.

When the season to write comes around again, you’ll be amazed at the results.

Touching on various aspects of the writing process, Reflections from the Well is more than a rote column, it’s a literary lounge where writers and other creators are invited to share their own experiences. Share your comments with Alex for possible inclusion on the LWN blog or in his next reflection at