In describing my trip to someone this week I said that I’m not quite in full “adventure mode” yet, meaning that nearly everything I’ve done so far has been more or less planned, talked about, researched, decided on, at least a few days in advance. I’ve known what’s coming. But the further along I get – as I discovered driving around in the American Southwest last summer – the shorter my foresight gets, and the less I’m reliant on it. Whimsy takes over, I learn to trust in the unknown, and that trust has yielded gifts which have effected significant change in me. I’m not in full adventure mode yet, but I’m close.
I feel I’m on a similar cusp with my novel. I’m at the most difficult part of rewriting the rough draft, because I already know where the story’s going but I have to act as if I don’t, so as not to lose the sense of spontaneity and wandering. I have to go into adventure mode and forget the plans my past self made, and it only hit me recently that I’ve been struggling to do this for months. The struggle seems all the more difficult as I haven’t been able to sustain a writing routine for as long as I’d like due to all my traveling.
Back in New York, the amount of work I did on the novel was for a long time dependent on how closely I stuck to my daily routine. If I woke up late one morning, or missed breakfast, or if a freelance deadline crept up on me, I’d have trouble rescheduling my writing session to later in the day. So I’d skip it instead. A highly structured and productive routine is like an alternate reality with its own physics; sometimes I’d slip through a rift in the habit-time continuum and end up in a place where the last thing I wanted to do was work on the book.
Another thing: being aware of that alternate reality had its own consequences. I see now that over time, my writing sessions had started to shorten, and I’d finish lightly revising even a minor scene and feel that I had put in my work for that session. In other words, I’d been using my writing routine as an excuse not to write.
I suppose that given enough time any piece of knowledge becomes a crutch, and once you start down the path of awareness the only way forward is even greater awareness; now that I see I’ve been using my routine as an excuse, I can catch myself doing it and, hopefully, be better at writing outside my usual routine. (Maybe this too will one day be a crutch.)
I’ve had another idea in my head, though. A dream, really. Of what it would be like to be completely habitless, and I don’t mean the wake-at-noon-and-lack-all-purpose kind of habitless, which is more a set of bad habits. The kind of habitless I’m referring to is full of purpose. It means that, regardless of medium or mood or time of day, I would write as if it were total, attentive play, and I would treat writing this same way in all possible realities. What I’m envisioning isn’t measured in output, necessarily, but in the ease at which its conditions are met.
A metaphysical fool’s errand, maybe. But on the cusp of adventure mode, it feels not impossible.