Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking My Gluteus Maximus for a Walk

Reading Mary Ann's post on Monday reminded me of something Madeleine L'Engle says in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art:
"If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work.  Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go.  Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear."
For my pseudo-NaNoWriMo project, I've been spending lots of time with Butt in Chair, or BIC, as Mary Ann calls it. I've discovered something interesting. Often, when I first sit down at the computer, I have no idea what I'm going to write about next or where the story will go. Those days usually start with me tweaking what I did the day before, trying to add sensory details to make the scene come alive. Then, somewhere along the way, inspiration kicks in and I'm soon typing away. As L'Engle says, the story starts telling me where to go. I know the inspiration wouldn't have come along if I hadn't been sitting there, listening, Butt in Chair.

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula. As Mary Ann said in her post, some days, even when we glue our butts to the chair, the words don't come. That's when I usually try taking the old gluteus maximus for a walk. As Julia Cameron says in The Artist's Way: "A brisk twenty-minute walk can dramatically alter consciousness." That altered consciousness often helps me hear what I couldn't when I was sitting in my chair.

Over the last few days, I've fallen behind in my word count goals for my project, and no matter how I tried, the words just wouldn't come. When that happened again today, I took a walk and thought about my story. As I walked, it occurred to me that much of the tension had leaked out of the story. Why? Because I'd made things too easy for my character. I needed to go back and change events so that she'd have to work harder to get what she wanted. Aha!

I know from experience that taking a walk doesn't always yield dramatic "aha" moments. But at least it helps keep my gluteus maximus from getting too big for the chair. :-)

I'm keeping this post short so I can get back to my novel-writing now.
Happy writing, all!

P.S: I forgot to mention: there's a great book giveaway going on over at the MotherReader blog. Enter to win one of two sets of 25 books!


Laura Ruby said...

Hi Carmela:

Great post! I find that moving -- be it walking, washing dishes, hauling laundry, raking leaves -- can help me break through a problem better than sitting and staring at the screen can. But what works best? Showers! Some days I take four. Bad for the skin, but good for the page...



Carmela Martino said...

Oh, yes, you're absolutely right, Laura. Showers are great for inducing that "altered consciousness" that helps us solve problems. Thanks for the reminder.

T. Forehand said...

I am thrilled to find this blog. As a nurse and freelance writer trying to learn all there is about writing for children, I can't wait to keep following to see what else you have to say. Great blog.

blog for all those who write and love reaching kids with books and more.

Carmela Martino said...

We're glad you found us too, Terri. Welcome!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

That Madeleine L'Engle quote is one of my favorites. I repeat it often to students--& to myself! Congratulations on all your progress, Marti!