“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


Thinking Vs. Writing

Monday, November 07, 2011

Have you ever had one of those moments when you have an epiphany that isn't really an epiphany?  A non-epiphany-epiphany, if you will.  It's not really an epiphany because epiphanies must be profound, life-changing ideas, and this is so obvious that you could have told yourself this when you were five years old, if you would have just listened.

Well, as you may have guessed, I had a non-epiphany-epiphany today.  I've been writing – off and on – for several years.  My first NaNoWriMo in 2005 was when I gave myself permission to admit that I was kind of, sort of, actually going to try this writing thing.  But I've never really let myself pour my heart and soul into it, except for one month a year when NaNo comes around.  The rest of the time I have moments of obsession, but no heart-and-soul-pouring.

So to make up for the time that I don't spend sitting at my laptop and actually typing/writing, I spend lots and lots of time thinking.  I think in the shower, in my Jeep, while I clean the house, when I'm lying awake in bed at some ungodly hour; I think a lot.

And then, on the rare occasion when I get around to sitting down at my laptop with my Scrivener file open, I jot down a few notes on the things I've been thinking about.  But the few notes never amount to nearly as much as I think they will, considering the amount of thinking I've been doing.

You may have heard of BICHOK.  Yeah, that kind of looks like a swear word, but I promise it's not.  Let's say BIC-HOK.  In case you haven't seen this before it stands for "Butt In Chair - Hands On Keyboard".  The idea is that you will never accomplish anything as a writer if you don't glue your butt to your chair and keep your hands in contact with your keyboard for a significant amount of time daily.  That means every. single. day.

I'm really good at sitting in my chair, but if my hands are on my keyboard they are more often browsing my favorite blogs than they are writing.

So my epiphany came this morning when I realized that even though I spend quite a bit of time thinking about whatever I happen to be writing at the time, that time is remarkably unproductive.  Part of that is because when I'm thinking I have to run it over in my head so many times for it to stick, whereas if I am sitting at my keyboard typing it I only have to do it once.  Then it's there for me to go back and mull over later if I really need to, but I don't have to worry about losing it because it's there, on the screen, in black and white, there to stay.

That's one of the joys of NaNoWriMo.  When I'm forced to create actual words every time I write, and when I don't have the time to sit and mull over and over and over the same word or passage or idea, I'm actually more creative.  Ideas flow more freely when my fingers keep moving constantly.  I can always go back and smooth them out later (which leads to another pitfall of mine that I will not discuss now).

There's a scene that I love in the movie "Finding Forrester".  Jamal is sitting across from Forrester, a typewriter in front of each of them, but Jamal is not typing.  Forrester says to him, "No thinking — that comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think."

And that is the joy I'm finding as well as the lesson I'm learning in doing NaNoWriMo this year.  NaNo is always about turning off your inner editor and simply writing, but this year because of my lack of preparation, I feel even more like the words are coming from a place in me that goes beyond thinking.  I'm finding that when my fingers are moving, constantly punching the keys of my MacBook Pro, the words that spill onto the page thrill me more because they are so unexpected.  It's almost like reading a book that someone else wrote.

No matter what the outcome of this year's NaNo novel, the concept of Forrester's "first key to writing" and the real value of BIC-HOK have sunk in a little further than they ever have before, and for me, that is an epiphany.

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At 11/07/2011 9:36 PM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

Two thoughts.

1. Let's call it an epiphanot, shall we? I like the sound of it, anyway...

2. I am no longer worthy to be called your best friend. Here all this time I thought you had stopped blogging - and then I logged into my blog to ***finally*** write a post and it brought me here. I don't even know how, really. But there you are - writing. A lot! Why didn't you tell me?!? Why don't you hate me?!? And why, oh God, why, does this make me feel hopeful and hopeless in one fell swoop?

I miss you!

and I miss me.

At 11/08/2011 10:00 AM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

I didn't really tell anyone I was blogging semi-regularly again. Just figured people would find me. And most of it has been photos of Europe which you've already seen anyway.

Glad you found me though. You'll definitely get more NaNo detail here than on FB.

At 11/13/2011 4:56 PM, Anonymous HolyMama! wrote:

epiphanot is adorable.

i know EXACTLY what you're describing. i need to schedule bichok time and make myself keep those appts or it does NOT happen!

good for you, nano hero. almost 1/2 way there, you GOOOOooOOOO!


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