Advice from Dinty W. Moore
I came across this today and find it so well put, and so impeccably timed, I’d like to post it for tonight’s blog.
It’s an excerpt from Rules of Thumb: 73 Authors Reveal Their Fiction Writing Fixations, taken from the section written by Dinty Moore. Yes, that is his real name, and yes, that is the same Dinty Moore whom I came dangerously close to humiliating myself in front of when I met him at AWP in March but didn’t “know who he was” and the same Dinty Moore who edits Brevity.com, a someday dream-of-mine to get published in.
Here is what he has to say in his essay titled “Write When You Feel Lousy”:
Write when you feel lousy: The rule seems counterintuitive. If you give it a test run, your inner voices will scream, “No, no, not right now, this is a horrible idea, please stop!” The experience almost always begins poorly. On certain days, only a committed masochist can really make it work. But this rule of thumb is worth all of that.
Write when you feel lousy is more than just another variation on the old adage keep your butt in the seat, though that’s a good one too.
My experience, hard-earned and sometimes excruciating, goes like this:
1. Writing on days when I’d rather curl up into a ball under the cotton comforter eventually takes my mind off of feeling so lousy.
2. Pain does something interesting to the brain.
The first effect is valuable in and of itself, and likely due to the simple powers of distractions. The second effect, the interesting one, is almost certainly endorphins.
Endorphins are why long-distance runners experience runner’s high. The harder you exercise, the more endorphins your body makes and elevated endorphin levels lead to feelings of euphoria.
Endorphins are also natural painkillers.
…I don’t claim to fully understand the neuroscience, but I understand this: If I tough it out—keep to my writing schedule, glue my fingers firmly to the keyboard, lean into whatever it is I’m supposed to be working on that day—words eventually begin to flow, and those words, written in a fog of pain and anesthetic, often surprise me. I don’t know from what part of my subconscious they emanate, or what normal brain barriers have been temporarily dismantled to make room for the endorphin flow, but often—not always mind you, but often enough—the words, the ideas, the imagery, the revelations, are those that weren’t finding a way onto the page on previous pain-free mornings. I find myself typing those hidden truths one sometimes just blurts out when not thinking too hard, the things I didn’t know I knew…
…They are the surprises that keep a piece of writing going.
Try it. It hurts.