The Preamble

Jeff Vandermeer has something very smart to say in Wonderbook about the fact that it’s wise to create the shortest distance between the creative thought and the page. In the context of an essay about “warming up” to writing, or what I call the preamble, he discusses the scenario some writers set up that requires x, y, and z to happen before they can begin “the real” work on a creative project. Here, x, y, and z can suit your fancy: the house must be clean, the to-do list must be checked off, the kids must be out of the house, you must have walked 4 laps around the backyard and crossed your fingers, your must have finished the book you are reading, you must have re-read the last twenty pages you wrote, you must write in your journal first, etc. You get the point.

I have to admit, 90% of the time, I side with Vandermeer. But when I’ve been away from the novel for six weeks, a little warming up seems the opposite of detrimental–it seems essential. Since I received my editorial feedback, my preamble has involved getting as much paid, contracted work done ahead of time to clear my plate and buy some time. Not entirely inspiring, but necessary all the same. What’s fallen by the wayside as a result is two very important things: getting eight hours of sleep a night and reading for pleasure/study every day. I miss these things and am now frantically trying to end the attentions I give to “other” work and zero in on reading. There’s nothing that gets me warmed up faster than an inspiring work of fiction (current pick: Bluesman by Andre Dubus III). And in order to listen closely for those first echoes of my own creative voice, I need to be well rested. Five hours last night didn’t cut it. In a few days, I have an early morning flight, 4 different planes (don’t ask), and a hit-the-ground running day to kick off the Writer’s Retreat. Can I find my center before then? 

Tonight, I’ll go see Andrew Bird live at The Orange Peel and that will certainly help. Seeing him always fills my soul and opens my mind–I could go on for days about parallels in our creative processes. Friday, unless there’s an emergency, the only thing getting my attention are reading, journaling, packing, and centering. Saturday is a chaos of other things, but I will have half the day to re-read some pages of the novel and the editorial feedback to let them steep one more time. Come Sunday, I’m on a plane–my best place to write, hands down–and here’s hoping this condensed version of a preamble to my 4th revision on the novel works its magic.

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