The Word Volcano

CC attribution: Wolfgangbeyer
CC attribution: Wolfgangbeyer

I’m prolific.

My obsessive and hyper-focused nature tends to converge in my writing, and I end up having months where I’ll write over 100,000 words between blogging and fiction, and if there’s anything that’s earned me as many wide-eyed stares as waltzing out of the loo with my skirt tucked into my panties, it’s that.

Everyone has their own creative style. Some people are like the Colorado River, and every day the Grand Canyon gets just a little deeper. They create with a steady trickle that sculpts their work over time.

Some people are like lightning, with inspiration striking out of the clear skies and hitting them with electricity.

And then there’s me.

I wrote maybe a couple thousand words of fiction in February and March this year. I had a lot going on, to be sure, but in reality, I was dormant.

In January I wrote over 70,000 words on my epic fantasy to finish it. Most of that was within a couple weeks, and 45,000 of those words happened in a weekend. April’s going to be another one of those months. But between them? Nada.

I’ve decided that I’m a volcano.

I used to think there was something that was wrong with me, because I couldn’t be a river or lightning. So much of the conventional wisdom out there says that you should be writing every day, even if it’s a little bit. It took a really long time for me to realize that there wasn’t anything that made my way bad. It made me feel crazy when I’d write like a fiend for weeks on end and then nothing for a couple months.

But here’s the thing: I was getting stuff done.

That’s ultimately what made me give the finger to conventional wisdom — I was finishing books. Words were happening, and whole books were coming out of it, so I wasn’t failing at writering. I was just doing it differently.

In my dormant periods, I’m always absorbing. I’m melting rock into magma, compacting ideas and pressurizing them. I read a lot. I pay a lot more attention to the world around me, to people on the metro and what they look like, how they move and what they say. Everything becomes fuel. A dormant volcano is hungry, hungry, hungry.

And then it erupts.

When that happens, I will write for 20 hours a day. Obsessively wording from the moment I wake up until the moment I glue myself to the bed to make myself sleep. I’ll get up and do it again. I’ll have 5,000 word days on a low day and 20,000 word days on the high end. It’s not fun. It’s frenetic. It’s lava spewing everywhere, and smoke and pumice and obsidian forming in the aftermath.

Instead of immediately falling dormant afterward, I have aftershocks. I can’t be not busy when the first eruption ends. I’ll scribble, move quick in every direction, find something else to obsess over until a couple weeks later I can breathe, sleep, and return to quiet for a while.

It’s not particularly pleasant to work this way, but it works for me. As I said, I am obsessive and hyper-focused. When I can tune in to one thing like this and get it done, I feel better about the world.

What type of creative are you? Are you a river or a lightning bolt or a volcano like me?

 

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4 thoughts on “The Word Volcano

  1. livrancourt

    I try to average 4000 words a week. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes a lot less. That translates somewhat differently during stretches when I’m editing. Either way, I’m somewhat awed by your 20k word days. I’m pretty sure I’d collapse in a heap by the 7k word mark. 🙂

    1. I’m a zombie by the end of them, but they happen with a strange amount of regularity. At least a few times a year, usually once per book. O_O

      With my last book, I had I think two of them. Ugh.

  2. I’m definitely not a river–mostly I’m a combination of lightening and volcanoes. I’ll have dormant periods where I get little to nothing done, and then when inspiration strikes I can write a good few thousand words in a couple of days. If I were more in the habit of writing regularly I think that would start to change.
    I really liked this metaphor and post. It made me think–even in my dormant periods, I should still be trying to gather information and at least be doing something so that I’m prepared for the eruptions. 🙂

    1. Those recharge periods have been so helpful for me to recognize and be….intentional about? Like…keeping Evernote on my phone to scribble down ideas. Keeping notebooks and pens at hand for longer thoughts. Anything that allows me to harness it.

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