In the Morning

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I woke up thinking about my novel this morning, puzzling it out, trying to come up with solutions for the issues my critique group noted on Saturday. Solutions didn’t jump up and down waving their hands like anxious students or anything, but it was still nice to have those moments of contemplation, to have this creative work-in-progress of mine be the first thing on my mind as I woke up.

It reminded me of the way Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice in Letters to a Young Poet is sometimes summed up:

If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, you are meant to be a writer.

It doesn’t happen to me every morning or even all that frequently, but I find myself happy about the fact of it when it does happen.

And it made me want to go hunt down my copy of Letters to a Young Poet that I read in college. I flipped through it this morning to revisit some of Rilke’s advice that I’d highlighted as a grad student. Unfortunately, since it’s a translated work, the wording of the quote varies widely depending on which edition you read, but here is a quote from mine that stood out to me this morning:

Always trust yourself and your own feeling . . . ; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development.

It seems like morning contemplations are just that: “silent, undisturbed development” — a space to let one thought roll over another without the pressure of sitting in front of a computer screen and trying to force words from your head onto the page.

I still remember my advanced writing teacher in college showing us that the standardized writing process — prewrite, draft, revise — leaves out the important step of “incubate.” I like that step a lot.

As I said, this morning solutions weren’t exactly forthcoming. I don’t know how I’m going to revise those tricky first 60 pages that keep causing problems. But I’m going to let the problem keep simmering and take Rilke’s advice to trust myself and my feelings to eventually lead me to insights.

What do you think? How/when do insights come to you?

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6 responses »

  1. When designing a comic page, I force myself to let a day pass between drafts. Even if I’m really happy with my first try, I can always find ways to polish it up more when I come back to it the next day. As a result I could probably never work for a major comics publisher. I work too slow. 🙂

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  2. I don’t do so well with the incubate period, mostly because by the time I finish something, I already have a list of things to fix.

    I usually get my ideas by brainstorming out loud with someone else. It doesn’t work so well for me trying to do it on paper.

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