Over the past ten years, I’ve written five full-length plays, four short plays, one full-length historic reenactment, one full-length film treatment, two books of short fiction and one published memoir. Spelled out, it seems a respectable list, but on those days when writing is the last thing I’m able to manage, I grow critical for not getting to “it.”
But if I’m willing to take a deep breath and step away from self blame, I begin to see that what looks to me like inactivity often serves a function; the function of “fermentation.” Just as with making sauerkraut or yogurt or wine, fermentation is an essential component of my creative process.
My fermentation has two stages. The first one often comes on early. Once an idea for a story or play begins to take shape, I’ll outline what I think the plot could be, what form it should take (short story, play, etc.) who the characters are, the location . . . the essentials. If research is required, I’ll start that, too. If the shape of the writing project is clear and I’m satisfied, then I can work steadily at it for days or weeks at a time. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the writing process.
But often, after that initial burst of enthusiasm and creativity, I’ll run into what feels like a brick wall. Nothing makes sense . . . what had recently felt exciting now feels uninspired and flaccid. Rather than toss the project, this is the time for me to launch the first period of fermentation.
(To be continued)