While waiting for sleep to overcome me last night, I was fretting about beginning my next novel: Will I be able to write another one? Am I a one-book-wonder? Am I losing muscle mass by sitting ten hours a day? Will I turn into a jellyfish? That sort of thing. I’m good at fretting, especially at 2am. It feels right.
The thing is, I’ve done so much fretting in my life that now I handle it much better. I know it’s worse after midnight, and I know it can often be mixed with unforeseen, hopefully brilliant ideas. So I now let the fretting run rampant, and trust that eventually the latent creative energy (which I believe causes my worries) will surface into some new idea.
Last night, my fretting suddenly jogged a memory of a mantra I used to repeat. When I was writing my first novel, The Stowaways, I would take a twenty minute walk every day to clear my head, usually when I had reached that point in the day where it felt like the cells of my brain were glued together with gelatinous oatmeal. With each step on the path, I would chant one syllable of the following mantra: “I-will-write-the-best-nov-el-that-I-can-and-I-will-acc-ept-what-ev-er-out-come-I-re-ceive.” That wasn’t the exact mantra, because I forgot it after finishing that novel, when it no longer mattered. But that was the gist of it. With every step of my walk, the oatmeal hardened and cracked off, and a bit of dialogue I needed to drop in and fix that plot hole would suddenly come to me.
For me, a mantra must encapsulate letting go of expectation to allow the natural path of creativity to evolve. I don’t believe my writing comes entirely from my own mind, you see. I believe it partially comes from allowing the universe to pitch a tent in my brain for a while, trusting that it knows how to tell a great story over a campfire. Then I just write it down as best as my skill allows me. The universe, after all, knows a lot more about life than I do.
My next novel’s mantra will be a little different. There are new pressures and circumstances in my life that I didn’t have before. I own a house now, I have others I am responsible to, and much less time to play with. So my walking mantra might go something like: