Monday, April 26, 2010

Mesmerized Writing

Are you mesmerized by your writing? I don't mean so enthralled by your words that you can't imagine changing a single phrase--most writers recognize they have to be willing to scratch even the most beloved words if it means making a stronger, better piece--but mesmerized as in being so intent in the process that you can't pull yourself away. It's like you're caught up in a spell, in a zone, unaware of anything and everything around you, i.e. mesmerized. Sound familiar?

Eudora Welty, well-known twentieth century author, likened the writer's proclivity to mesmerization as being akin to traveling with a man like her father. I came across this connection in her autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings (Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1984). Early in the book she described family trips taken when she was a child (she was born in 1909). She wrote:

"When we set out in our five-passenger Oakland touring car on our summer trip to Ohio and West Virginia to visit the two families, my mother was the navigator. She sat at the alert all the way at Daddy's side as he drove, correlating the AAA Blue Book and the speedometer, often with the baby on her lap... Riding behind my father I could see that the road had him by the shoulders, by the hair under his driving cap. It took my mother to make him stop. I inherited his nervous energy in the way I can't stop writing on a story. It makes me understand how Ohio had him around the heart, as West Virginia had my mother. Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike by knowing of their destinations."

Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike... I find this to be true. I have often said that it's as if I have a tiger by the tail (or maybe a tiger in the tank?) and can't let go until I reach a stopping point. Too many times the stopping point is well past a reasonable time, like a driver who won't allow for rest stops. Gotta' keep going while the thoughts are flowing, or the miles are passing--same thing. Don't stop or you'll lose momentum. We dread having to crank that  momentum back up again.

It's okay to be mesmerized--if you live in the proverbial writer's tower and don't have other things to do. But being a writer for most of us is only part of our lives. We all have our own "other" pieces of the pie and desire to balance various loves, interests, and responsibilities in a meaningful way. Besides, being mesmerized carries the risk of stranding ourselves from the relationships that are most important to us.

So I ask, how do you break the spell, pull away--and temporarily put a halt to your latest writing trip when it's necessary? How do you map out the route to your writing destination while allowing for all the stops along the way?


  1. I wish I could just let go and write for long periods of time, but I'm one of those scenic drivers who likes to stop and stretch too often along the trip. LOL

  2. If I find myself too deeply attached to a scene in my book that doesn't fit, I take a step back from my WIP and then when I come back, I open a new word doc where I save the scene for perhaps later use.

  3. I will step away into my world of music. I find that music can bring me a bit of refuge if I'm becoming too wrapped up in all the little details.