Writing with one headlight

Anyone remember this great song?

Haven’t listened to it a lot lately but the lyrics of the chorus keep going around in my head:

There’s got to be something better than
In the middle . . .

We can drive it home
With one headlight.

Writing through the fog

Sometimes writing a novel feels like you’re writing in the midst of a fog. You know the sort of fog where you can’t see any further than a few feet in front of you? Where you cling desperately to your torch if you’re walking, or lean forward to peer over the steering wheel if you’re driving?

I regularly find writing a first draft like this.

It’s not making me sound like a very proficient writer is it?

But here’s the thing. The more I write, the more I embrace the fog. Sure, it still scares the shit out of me. I mean, what if there’s a big nasty monster out there just waiting to pounce on me? Or zombies? There could be zombies, right? Page sucking, word eating zombies. Even worse, I could end up right back where I started and isn’t that a writer’s worst nightmare?

Embrace the creative writing process

Control-FreakIn every other aspect of my life, I’m organized. Like retentive. I have days of the week where I do certain washing, cleaning, exercise – you get the picture. If I was a character from Friends I’d be Monica.

Anyway, you’d think I’d be like that with my writing too. Yeah . . . no. In terms of how I structure things like word count goals and timelines, sure. But the actual writing? No. I tried starting out as a plotter, but with every new book I write, I get more and more relaxed about the creative process. I ensure I have detailed character outlines, and I always know how it’s going to start and end, and the few key tension points (or scenes) I’m working towards, but the rest is kind of foggy.

Can you hear the music?

Before getting back into writing I spent many years playing and writing music (don’t have so much time for that these days!) When you’re writing a song, you learn to embrace the creative process and just see where it ends up. You have to listen real hard. Slowly a melody will pull together, then a verse and chorus, but it’s a fluid process and every song is different. It’s actually proved to be a very valuable lesson for me in my writing career.

No, it’s not writer’s block it’s just fog

I guess what I’m trying to convey in this blog post is that if you’re a writer, don’t let the fog fool you. Sure, be scared of it, but feel the fear and do it anyway. The only way is to write your way through it. I’m there at the moment (hence why I’m writing this blog post I guess). I’m 80k into what will end up being a 100k novel. The last few weeks I’ve been a writing machine. Like crazy, you can’t stop me, I have no idea there’s a world out there, writing machine. And then? That goddamn fog rolls in again. I think this is the third time with this novel.

But I’m cool. I’ll go with it. I’ll cling to my one headlight and write my way through it. Because I know:

There’s got to be something better than
In the middle . . .

We can drive it home
With one headlight.

How about you? Do you ever encounter some fog when writing your first draft? 

2 Replies to “Writing with one headlight”

  1. i don’t call it a fog, but i notice i have seasons of productivity and others of dormancy. I tend to write like crazy in the spring for some reason, and, like you, forget about the world. I slow down a bit in the summer months, getting out of my head and into reality. in the fall i almost can’t write at all, so i mostly write lists and dreams during that time. during the winter i write a lot of poetry and editing old pieces. this is helpful when i can understand the waxing and waning of my own habits and creativity.

    1. Hi Kim, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, I think there is definitely a waxing and waning of writing productivity. I just finished a first draft and was writing like crazy, but now I need a period of dormancy to recover! I still find there’s foggy stages while writing my first draft that I have to plough through. All the best with your writing.

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