My Automaton Writing Self: A Modus Operandi for Maelstrom

This week was a tough one. No other way to slice it. Lawless internal bedlam.

Word Pics 10 Android

Can a writer be expected to create under such conditions?

Here’s why my vote is yes and no. No, as in, on some level you can’t show up like you usually do. You’re taken, by your other problems. But yes! As in, your automaton writer self can!


This awesome picture is of Henri Maillardet’s automaton at the Franklin Institute, London, England, c. 1810.

And she might as well have been me last week…and probably this week, too. I hope I’m not making you want to cry. 😉

The Personal and The Professional

I am battling personal life negativity rather than terrible thoughts about writing. I feel fortunate that even though I have in no way reached my zenith of writing capabilities, I don’t often struggle with feeling negatively about my writing.

What I struggle more with is the uphill slog of writing fiction–which is in large part emotional–when my emotional world is full of disruption from other areas of my life. I wrote about this a bunch last year: Managing Creative WorryManaging Personal Worry, and Can Worry Actually Be Productive?

Every episode of internal disruption can be different. For everyday sadness and anger, I can channel it into my writing like Yoko:

Experiencing sadness and anger can make you feel more creative, and by being creative, you can get beyond your pain or negativity. – Yoko Ono

But then there are disruptions that just absorb you, or somewhat incapacitate you. What then?

Feelings Schmeelings

My thought today about this second kind of inner disruption is very simple, largely because there’s traffic in my inner world right now: That it doesn’t matter how it feels, when you get right down to it. How it feels is not the reason we decide to do things or not do things.

Put another way, there’s no point to having an expectation that creative writing will feel as rewarding or even productive as it does when your inner world is clear.

Continuing to write feels strange while I’m processing personal pain, sure, but it’s also a machine that I’ve established–one which includes emotions, even. I don’t have to feel like running it in order for it to run. I just have to show up and flip the switch. That’s really the only decision to make when I feel the way I’ve been feeling.

But Who Wants to Read Robotic Fiction?

Is it even worth it, from an output standpoint?

I think so. This morning I woke up and read some of the stuff this machine wrote last week. I actually gasped at how remarkably indiscernible it was from my ‘regular writing’, where I was more emotionally available to the creative process. It was creepy, to be honest! A robot had written just like me, and that robot was me!!

Over time, not being clear to create might begin to take its toll. I have no idea if that’s substantiated in any way, just a hunch. But it seems that in the short run at least, that which we do daily–even in the creative realm–becomes something automatic we can call upon.

And even if what the automaton writer self produces is crap, what about this:

“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.” – Erin Bow

Rutts As Tools

What’s more, I think running that machine is important when you’re struggling, because even while you are processing, it pulls you up and out of that foreign track and back to your rutt so you can stabilize.

Anyway, life’s never going to stop throwing sucker punches. So that’s another thing with all this: if I want to persist in following a dream, I can’t only do it when it feels dreamy!

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer by Brian Clark

Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.

If I accomplished little else last week, I can say I hung on and kept writing. I showed up. Well, actually, I sent in my automaton writer self.

Good enough.

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