Let It Sleep
Every year hurries into Spring, blooming and leafing into growth.
Summer thrives greenly, burning through the long days until we are finished with the heat and are longing for chill mornings and temperate days.
We yearn for the blazing colors of Autumn.
In Winter the land rests, dormant after three busy, busy seasons of sprouting, growing, and fruiting.
Nature needs Winter, her time to re-gather her resources as the fields lie fallow and
nutrients gently decay into the rich soil.
Writers hurry into projects, creating and crafting stories and blogs into growth. We thrive on generating ideas to develop those blossomed stories, and we burn through projects as we sketch and draft and revise until our projects reach fruition.
Just like Nature, writers need to let their projects lay dormant a season before being reborn as a published work.
We need to allow some projects the time to be buried, as Winter buries the land in cold snow before the Spring sun warms it back up.
Let It Sleep
I have advised you to have “Nulla Dies Sine Linea” as your mantra. I have spoken heresy by preaching “Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist” and by counseling you to write something, even if it’s not what you are working on.
Am I now talking out of both sides of my keyboard? Am I contradicting myself?
I am talking about your projects. After the seasons of creating and drafting and revising, we need to let the project sleep. Close it up, cover it over with another project. Walk away for a time.
“But it’s finished!” you protest.
The benefit comes in the creative process. The conscious mind may have cast the project from immediate contemplation. The subconscious, however, continues to filter in new resources.
Save your final edit for after the project’s dormant season. When editing begins, new ideas may surface that will enrich the project in ways you did not fathom as you designed and drafted then blazed through the revision.
Sleeping Awakens the Dreaming Creativity
I have urged that we should not wait on inspiration. Inspiration waits on us. It lurks, waiting to spring out at opportune moments. It will plant itself where it belongs.
As it grows, like honeysuckle, inspiration may reach into unexpected and unwanted areas. It may require gutting and inserting, reworking and re-sequencing the original.
Acquaint yourself with the work of Tony Buzan and idea exploration through mind-mapping, not just at the start of a project but also after this season of dormancy. Many writers have created collages as inspiring guides for a project. The collage or mind-map can be just as useful when re-approaching a supposedly finished project after its winter sleep.
This link will take you to a five-minute youtube video with Buzan explaining how mind-mapping awakens creativity:
Follow the growth of inspiration, and the transformed project will be so much better that you will no longer begrudge the laborious hours birthing and nurturing, pruning and training the new work with the old.
While It Sleeps
On farms, Winter is the season for repairs, restocking, and re-considering the approaching growing season.
Have you a project that you abandoned because it wasn’t quite working? Re-acquaint yourself with that project’s concept then work through a mind-map or collage or similar creative tool. Its season of sleep may have given your subconscious time to work out the corner you wrote yourself into.
Did it have a Damocles’ sword hanging over it, something that distracted you from the project’s fruition so that you just could not focus on where you were in the project? Perhaps after that season of sleep, you can discern exactly what was that sword of Damocles which wasted your focus.
Or pick up the next project you’re contemplating. Do its research. Determine the lodestone that will keep you returning as it develops from planting to growing to harvest.
While pursuing a project’s completion, we all have a stray idea or two or three that wanders through our minds. We make a note of it then continue on with our primary focus.
Many writers keep an ideas journal. In down-times I peruse it. What can I use now? What can still wait? Which idea’s time has come?
During the project’s dormancy, return to those stray ideas and give them a home.
Which ideas spark more and start to develop into a story?
Or which ideas still must wait?
And which idea’s time has come to turn into a project?
Sketch out a chosen few of these ideas or even take them to the outline step. Map out their start to finish, then decide how to fit them into your schedule of upcoming projects. Those newly-homed strays are not yet a project, however. Set them aside. The time for their planting will come.
During the primary project’s Winter, take a look at this writing business you are pursuing. It is a business, right? No longer a hobby or escape, but something you are pursuing for income?
Is the business seeing growth? Or do you seem to be digging into the same infertile ground?
TRACK the $$
Do a cost analysis. You should see a return on the money you’ve put into the business. If you’re not earning (making a little more year to year), what do you need to change? Marketing? More blogging? More freelance work?
Were you profligate with your writing expenses? Where did you waste $$? I cannot resist charming little journals. Yes, I am a paper nut, for I have over a dozen now with no immediate opportunity for their use. I am a pen nut, too.
Our profligate expenses may be in paying others to do things that we could have figured out on our own. However, sometimes it behooves us to pay others to do those things IF we spend that time saved in writing. If that time saved was not put to writing . . . well, what a waste.
TRACK the DAYS
Count the days during the year when you actually wrote, and analyze what happened on your unfruitful days. What time did you waste?
Another time-expense occurs with our relationships. We do need to devote time (and money) to family and friends. Humans are social creatures. Just look at the most introverted people you know when they are placed with people they love, talking about something they feel in their heart: they become gregarious.
Driving to and from major family gatherings is not a waste of time. For these gatherings, if you feel you must write, you can always dictate into your phone. If you’re with others while driving and can’t dictate and can’t write in the backseat because you’re the driver, how can you use this time? Talk to them about movies: the characters, the plot, the setting. You are getting a layman’s view of story. A truly helpful passenger will write down anything you dictate . . . and could possibly give you ideas as well.
TRACK your ENERGY
Time and Money are not the only elements of your Cost Analysis. Are you properly using your writing energies? Refer back to the “Writer’s Block” blog, specifically in the area of Writer’s Inertia (published Dec. 10).
The End of the Season of Sleep
Unlike the vernal equinox, we may not have a demarcation to help us know when the Winter of our project is over. Such a Winter does not have a set number of days. When you have repaired and restocked and re-considered and researched, you should feel a sense of completion, just as the land does not wait upon the equinox.
Sometimes Spring is reborn early; sometimes, late. One day you will feel the first project warm up in your mind. Give it first frost, perhaps even a second, then you can plant ink into the editing process.
Even when you fly through with few changes, you have lost nothing to the Winter season. When you finish this project, you have another waiting, ready to start. Your mind can turn to it because it has let go of the first project. You didn’t just end it; you completed it.
That strong sense of closure can only be attained if your project has its dormancy and then re-awakening.
Let it Sleep.
~~ M. A. Lee
For questions, comments, and philosophizing, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org