The creative process for producing any kind of art is both magical and messy.
Your art will sometimes surprise and delight you and other times it will cause mess, confusion and creative suffering.
I used to actively avoid messy writing moments. As a fresh-faced newbie writer I would shelve a story at the first sign of mess and start again with a shiny new one. For me writing was all about the magical writing moments. Sigh – the things we do when we are busy chasing perfection!
Magical writing moments are great, although at times they can feel elusive. These golden moments where we feel on top of our writing game or on the receiving end of some glowing praise give us a much-needed boost.
I’m sure you know the Buddhist quote saying; no mud, no lotus.
The beautiful lotus grows out from the muck and mud at the bottom of the water.
Without the muck there is no lotus.
Does this apply to writing?
Do beautiful things come out of creative mess?
I blame this quote for my decision many creative moons ago to start embracing messy writing moments.
I believe messy writing moments are just as important as magical moments and I also think it is in these tough times you grow as a writer.
When I talk about messy writing moments I am referring to situations like:
When it feels like you are writing the worst book in the world.
When you realise a huge chunk of your draft needs to be rewritten.
When you start to question what your book is about after five hours of editing.
We need messy writing moments just as much as we do magical moments. The first draft of a story needs to be a mess because it means our mind is being kept open.
Messy writing moments are a sign our curiosity needs to spring into action and force us to dig a little deeper.
Literary success doesn’t happen as a lightning bolt that hits us in our sleep. Rather, it happens through a series of setbacks, failures and messy writing moments that ultimately lead to something great.
I love Anne Lamott’s quote in Bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forget to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.Anne Lamott
Do we need to make a creative mess in order to find ourselves?
You do reach a stage in your writing journey where you appreciate and in some cases enjoy the messy writing moments.
All hell has broken loose on the pages of my current first draft and I have not fought it or ran away. Instead I have allowed it stay a mess (I ignored the facial twitches and hives) and gently leaned into that…panic stricken feeling of ‘WTF am I writing?’
I am pleased to say a lot of positive things have arisen out of my messy writing moments. These have been a little bit special.
The feeling you get after creating something out of mess is amazing.
So the next time you are in the middle of messy writing moment, embrace it and let it happen.
Never thought I would say this but bring on the creative mess!
Have a fabulous day.