Hunker Down and Write!
By Katrin Schumann
I've had a hard time writing these last few months, and yet I've written a lot. Many writers and artists are wondering "What's the point?"-- and I've fallen into that trap many a day. Who cares about my little imaginary drama when real life dramas are playing out in such astonishing ways?
When there's political and cultural upheaval, some artists are galvanized, and some are overwhelmed.
From past posts, you'll see I've long been fascinated with productivity. What is the special chemistry that makes us write consistently--and without agonizing over every little word? (For me, as with many others, the process of writing is both agony and ecstacy.)
In my experience, output doesn't have much to do with how much time you have to write--there are periods when I'm inundated with work yet I still find time to pursue my writing. I find it has more to do with your will, and the ability to go inward.
Do you have the will to work hard, to keep trying--again and again--in the face of doubts? The majority of people don't, and this is quite understandable. It doesn't feel good to work very hard and feel like you're getting nowhere.
The trick here is to change your definition of what it means to "get somewhere." In other words, what does success mean to you? If your definition of success raises the bar too high, be prepared for some hard days ahead.
I try to shoot for small successes. Nailing a scene and learning something new are my two favorites. If I focus on those, I can keep moving forward and feel a sense of satisfaction.
The ability to "go inward" is especially difficult for those of us who are distracted by the stuff of life, whether it be the political or the personal (and who isn't distracted by these things?). But it is absolutley critical to output to block out the noise and go inside ourselves--to allow ourselves to dwell in that inner space where ideas and words come together.
This part is about giving ourselves permission to care about our obsessions and preoccupations, even if it feels selfish.
That is the gift I gave myself these past few months. It's allowed me to get a tremendous amount of writing done, even though the process has been a challenge. I turn up every day, I work through the resistence. I go inside myself and find that it's quiet and peaceful in my secret place. I hope you can do it too!
Katrin Schumann is the author of The Forgotten Hours (Lake Union, 2019), a Washington Post bestseller; This Terrible Beauty, a novel about the collision of love, art and politics in 1950s East Germany (March, 2020); and numerous nonfiction titles. She is the program coordinator of the Key West Literary Seminar. For the past ten years she has been teaching writing, most recently at GrubStreet and in the MA prison system, through PEN New England. Before going freelance, she worked at NPR, where she won the Kogan Media Award. Katrin has been granted multiple fiction residencies. Her work has been featured on TODAY, Talk of the Nation, and in The London Times, as well as other national and international media outlets, and she has a regular column on GrubWrites. Katrin can also be found at katrinschumann.com, and on Twitter and Instagram: @katrinschumann.See other articles by Katrin Schumann