Waiting in Limbo and Chaos as a Creative Writing Process

Mackenzie Andersen
Nov 6 · 6 min read

Let in confusion to reveal your message

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Photo by alexander-tsang-unsplash

Waiting for the election results to come in feels like being in limbo. I read a facebook post about companies giving employees a day break after the election. Trump supporters were all up in the air about the indulgence of the policy but as this election takes the long winding road to its conclusion it is really hard not to have one’s mind on the event until either candidate gets to 270.

Either conclusion represents a transformative change for America and the world. I should say the United States and the world, but I prefer the alliterative sound of “America”. America is soft and lyrical while the United States sounds harder in its precision beats. America glides across the tongue and travels on wind currents around the world. Bono got it right when he said America is an idea, the idea on which the United States of America was formed, but America is where ever freedom is the most prevalent in the world at any time.

And so we wait. At this moment everyone, even Trump supporters expect Biden to win but it hasn’t happened yet.

As I wait I read stories on Medium. I recently decided to change my marketing strategy and go for a larger audience. I started out my Medium journey, hoping that it would not way lay me into forgetting my original purpose in writing. I read many articles about how to be successful on Medium but they all seemed to measure success in making money and increased number of followers. That has nothing to do with why I write, at the most fundamental level of purpose. I was afraid of falling into the trap of mistaking the one for the other.

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Photo by subhasish-dutta-unsplash

I have gotten past that now. I followed the advice about writing every day but ignored the advice about publishing every day and found my writing process becoming increasingly complex.

The writing process mirrored the painting process in which I once engaged. I couldn’t love my painting until I first thoroughly hated it. I was compelled to delve into the forest of confusion and darkness to find what was on the other side. I wanted to create a painting that changed all the time, not one that was static, interesting at first, and then just sat there hanging on the wall inactively. I wanted to create an experience that was always interacting with the viewer, which means something mysterious and illusive which cannot be created by conscious intent. It must be created by beingness, inclusive of the known and the mysterious.

My paintings took months to evolve. I sat and stared at the canvas for many hours imagining endless directions it could follow through color, form and texture, until one day I would realize that I had been thinking of painting yellow right of center, for months and that I should act on it, once I acted it was as if I turned on perpetual motion, just as before I had been in a state of inert rest. Afterward I looked at the painting and thought that is the most awful thing I have ever seen! The next morning I awoke to something beautiful and alluring.

Art dealers came to my studio and asked “Where does it fit into the market ?” but the electrician who came by talked about the sail boat floating in the painting, which I had never seen until he brought it up and then I saw it every time I looked. The painting had no specific top bottom or sideways but could be hung in any direction and so it was like four paintings in one.

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Photo by arie-wubben-unsplash

Writing is a similar process. I get to a point where I feel it is heavy or boring, an all over the place mess of a thing, before I can start making it into something that hopefully speaks as a message that I only become conscientious of as part of the process of writing. I might think I know what I am going to write about when I start, or maybe not, but the process follows a formational path of its own, not intended by my direction until the end, when it is. The process of completing a painting is the same as perfecting the details of writing as one pays attention to the flow of the content and the choice of words until it feels right.

Now I am secure that I will not let go of my process in exchange in incorporating other intentions. Stage two of my Medium journey is to follow the advice that I intentionally ignored in stage one.

This post is an experiment in “publishing every day” though I do not know if I will actually take it so far as “every day”. This story is intended to be something written and published in a day. I can have that intention because I am in between writing a story using the chaos process. Once in the chaos process, I do not know that I can switch on the quick post process, but that doesn’t matter today.

My second new goal is to submit to publications with a larger audience on a regular basis. I have built up a collection of published works allowing me to feel the latitude to invest in the waiting period it takes to submit to some larger publications. Previously I needed the closure that publishing brings, but since I have a library of published articles already, I do not need that closure to come at the same rate as previously. Everything is always about process and how each activity or decision interacts with the larger process of writing so that it keeps on flowing at a steady pace.

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One publication with a large readership accepted and published one of my first stories. I did not see a wider readership for that story than my other stories but it targets a niche audience and I had no followers at that time. All stories target a niche audience but as one reads other stories published on Medium, one gets a sense of being part of a global conversation. I also need to make some money to advance my own life goals, and so it is time to embrace popular advice but without letting go of what is valued most deeply.

Since the large publication that published my early story took a long time to respond I had stopped submitting to it, not having the patience required by that process. I didn’t want to let waiting around create a limbo in my work flow, but one day I read an article by its new editor and decided to submit again. This time I got rejected within the space of twenty four hours. My story wasn’t right for their publication, which is the publication’s version of asking “where does a painting fit in the market ?”

I don’t mind a rejection based on not fitting in when it comes within a day of submission. My creative cycle can accommodate a day, and I appreciate that the rejections sound like they are from humans who actually read my story. The most recent one said “ It is an interesting story but..it doesn’t fit”. I place more importance on the first part of the statement than the latter. I know I don’t fit….but the world is evolving, not always the same. I am the world. It is me. We are all One. There is a time and a place for everything. Patience is a virtue, as I always tell my cats but they don’t listen to me.

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