Something exciting happens for me at the point where I become fully engaged with a story I’m writing.
Up to that moment it’s as though I’m standing outside myself watching what I’m doing. I analyze my process, contemplate whether it’s working or if a different approach might be better. I ask myself questions about the plot, its direction, its characters and how it might end.
But the minute the story comes together in my mind and I become fully engaged in writing it, my focus shifts and everything else drops away. It’s no longer me making stuff up, but a group of real people caught in a drama and I’m right there beside them.
I realize this is one of the greatest pleasures I take from writing, this losing myself in what I’m doing. All the cares of my everyday life just disappear. Total immersion exhilarates yet at the same time gives me peace.
I experienced a similar joy playing the violin. There was no ‘me’ when I performed a Bach Partita from memory, there was only the music.
Maybe that’s what Nat Goldberg meant in Writing Down The Bones when she said, ‘I don’t do writing. Writing does writing.’
Once I reach this point where I’m living more in my story then out of it, I notice that journaling begins to lose its appeal for me.
Much of my everyday personal journaling is about what’s happening in my life and sorting out any issues that arise. But when my aim is to forget myself and my problems, journaling – like analyzing my writing process – feels, and probably is, counter-productive.
A fun alternative I find is to journal as one of my characters. I ‘become’ that person and write out my reactions toward other characters and what’s been going on in the story.
As well as yielding deeper insights into the people I’m writing about, this practice keeps me firmly anchored in my story, with my own real-life problems shut out.