The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

When the Words Flow...

Feverish creativity hits me occasionally when I’m composing music. Like Sunday night. I got up in the morning prepared for a day of chores, and just while I sipped my morning coffee I thought I’d dabble on an orchestral piece I’ve been writing. Well! I was at it the whole day, never left the house, never lifted a chore-finger, couldn’t even get to bed at a decent hour, themes running through my head, had to keep turning back on the light, firing up the laptop and writing a bit more music. Eventually I got a few winks. In the morning though, the compulsion to compose was still going strong and I whipped off a new section before heading in to work.

I never get that with writing. Writing writing. You know—the stuff you’re reading right here! Whenever I learn about the brain’s heterogeneity—how we have different areas that perform discrete functions—I believe it! My composing brain is NOTHING like my writing brain. (I wrote about this before—I, Veronica; I, Betty; I, Jughead—I know! It just keeps surprising me!)

Music takes me away from the world and I float freely outside time and space. Writing digs me deeper into the world—its little anxieties, its time-bound pressures, its space-crunched realities—there’s always a back and forth between what I’ve just written on the page and a quick check with the real world for veracity’s sake! The only equivalent in music occurs occasionally when I have to look up the oboe in Adler’s The Study of Orchestration because I can’t remember how low it can go when playing softly.

When I’ve got the main work of a story done and it seems good and true, there come a few absolutely delicious revisions where I’m just tinkering with the wording. That’s the closest I get to composing with prose—when I’m juggling commas and words just to get the…music (that’s the only word for it!)…right.

I spent longer on this sentence—“Our mother is still on the lawn, drenched, the plate in her lap a splashing puddle, the red wine between her legs diluted, pink, half rain."—than anything I’ve ever written. It started as—“Our mother is still on the lawn, drenched, the plate in her lap a splashing puddle, the wine between her legs pink, half diluted with rain.” Hours and hours and hours and hours of blissful work. And the really super-freaky amazingly-scary thing is that now that I look it… it’s still not right! I think it should have been—“ Our mother is still on the lawn, drenched, the plate in her lap a splashing puddle, the red wine between her legs diluted, now pink, half rain."—yup, that’s more musical!

Perhaps I’ll take it away for a long weekend and juggle it around some more! Heaven!

And the really super-cool amazingly-joyful thing is that I have an entire book that needs just such a revision. I’m scared to dive in because it might just take over my life. I’ve learned how to manage composing-fever (somewhat) but I suspect I’ll need fresh strategies to tame fresh brainbeasts.

I smell a writing holiday coming!

But unlike the woman in the photo above (lifted from the Guardian's "Five Best...Writing Holidays") I think mine will be taking place in the laundry room. Its all I can afford. (But when you're feverish with creativity, a view is wasted anyway, right? Right? Sigh...)


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

That's a nice-looking laundry room.

It's wonderful that you can be so transported when composing music. I can feel how it is for you through your words. It's as though you're high on something. But, writing, ah yes. It's hard for me, too. I CAN get carried away but usually in small bursts and only after I've broken through that initial challenge of finding a character's voice.

Wed Jan 07, 01:25:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

It took me two months before I found the right voice for the first chapter of my book. The main character changed after about one month and that seemed to make it all go more smoothly.

The only writing that I do where I absolutely feel transported is my journal writing. Sometimes I go back and read my entries and I can't believe I wrote them.

There's something uniquely blissful in that and a little overwhelming too.

Wed Jan 07, 02:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Hmmm, this looks like the laundry room in my old apartment on Daly street, Ottawa.

Fri Jan 16, 02:15:00 am GMT-5  

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