The walk is how I know I am approaching the space of a final draft and publishing. The rhythm of my work before that moment goes a bit like this…
Countless hours are spent in my writer’s notebook. I fill it with quotes, images, observations and thoughts. Most of it, if not all of it, is complete crap—my guilt and self-doubt are constantly embarrassed and apologetic of my forced hand…
I am so sorry, my dear pages, that you have to hold all my horrid and half-formed thoughts.
I literally have to beg my journal to stick it out with me, promising that something will surface that is worth our time and existence.
When I am wise enough to sit my ass down and do the work, something always emerges that intrigues me or annoys me enough – something that simply won’t “F-off” and forces me to wake up and come alive. I lift the idea, place it on a new page in my notebook and brace myself for the hurl.
The next handful of my writing is complete and utter suffering. It is straight-up puke on paper and it is as awful as watching a child projectile vomit and knowing you will be the one wiping it up and gagging. There’s just no better way to put it – this stage of my process is gross and messy and requires a ton of clean up. The horrid and half-formed thought that started as just a “jot” in my notebook gets bigger and badder and takes forever to get better. I grow snippy and impatient (and the hubby spends more time in the basement) while I wait for the piece to resemble some sort of recognizable and healthy form. Once I detect a linguistic shape, I lean in and listen very closely because I know my loyal friend (my notebook) is getting ready to talk back to me. Her whisper is the moment of my writing process that I am most terrified of missing—it is a beautifully disguised act of love. It is the moment when she tells me to leave.
I listen, because I have learned to, and completely abandon my writer’s notebook. I never, ever go back to the stained pages of my original idea. I never, ever pick my pen back up from this draft forward. I honor what my notebook is telling me…
You have cleared the path. You don’t need me anymore and, quite frankly, I need a damn rest.
I take several deep breaths, put my shoes on and go for a walk.
A few hours usually does the trick — sometimes more, sometimes less. The next draft could give a damn about the total number of minutes I will spend putting one foot in front of the other. I have taught myself to let go, lose track of time and trust that I will know when to come back home.
With every footstep, my next draft gets written right in front of my eyes and every.single.time I believe I am witnessing a miracle. I, also and always, wonder whether I am brilliant or crazy as I watch my words being written on the world itself. My writing shows up in the sunlight, on the trees, above the clouds, within the rocks, under my feet…sincere words, original sentences, authentic paragraphs and honest story all leave the abstractness of my heart and show up in the physical world for me to hold.
I cry, I laugh, I skip, I dance, I sing out loud. And those actions are not metaphorical, believe me– an outsider watching me in this stage of my process would most certainly deem me crazy over brilliant, and I don’t care, because emotion and movement and song and dance are the only ways I know to express my gratitude for the gift I have been given.
There is only one lingering step left in my process…type up my walk, enter the joy of discerned revision and find the means to publish.