Monthly Archive: February 2012

The Groove

Sometimes the words and paragraphs just seem to fly by. Is this really when you do your best work?

I love it when I get in the groove. The words just seem to flow, I can hear the characters’ voices in my head, and my inner critic pops a Xanax. This, I say to myself, is how it is meant to be. But just how good is the stuff I’ve written in the groove?

Sometimes I’ve had great reader reactions to writing that was done as beads of blood formed on my forehead, as I second-guessed myself the whole way, wanting to delete the whole thing. I’ve also gotten negative or bemused reader responses to writing that came easy, with me riding high, loving every minute of it.

Make no mistake; the “groove state” is one of the great pleasures of an artist’s life. Psychologists like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi say this state, which they call “flow,” creates happiness and kills depression. I’m all for that, especially if it gives me the shot in the arm I need to meet my daily word production goal, or get up early the next day to make sure I get my keyboard time.

The “groove state” is one of the great pleasures of an artist’s life.

Yet one thing I’ve noticed about my “groove writing” is that I am loath to change it. Like many other writers, I instinctively feel a passage birthed in this way is anointed by the muses, smeared with that ineffable something. The truth is, I felt darn good when I wrote it, and rereading it reminds me of that, rather like seeing a picture of a loved one from that vacation a last year in Cancun. That’s why it hurts when my peer reviewers shoot me down, saying “I’m not too sure what’s happening here. There’s too much dialogue. I need to come up for air.”
Michael Crichton had this to say:

 “Inevitably, you react to your own work – you like it, you don’t like it, you think it’s interesting or boring – and it is difficult to accept that those reactions are often unreliable. I mistrust either wild enthusiasm or deep depression. I have had the greatest success with material that I was sort of neutral about.”

We must take our favorite paragraphs off their pedestal. What about you? Do you find criticism about your favorite tidbits hard to swallow? How do you get an objective take on your words?