This weekend, I once again found myself writing on a train. My first blog entry on train travel described the cathartic process of writing in response to travel. This entry discussed the space one can create by getting out of town and clearing one’s mind. This weekend, however, the process was an altogether different one, as I was writing under deadline in preparation for the latest issue of AMRI.
Part of me believes that the traveling process will always spark new ideas. Yet, under deadline, one often fails to have this same transformative experience. As I write this blog entry, I am now looking out the train window for first time on my trip. I see the leaves have begun to change. The sun is shining onto my computer screen, yet I am squinting, managing to write still.
I suppose I am discussing the process of production here—and how it might interfere with the need for reflection. Sometimes one requires travel in order to write well, and sometimes one just needs to write. On this trip, I found myself slightly stressed, attempting to finish my work in time for my visit to Amherst, Massachusetts. More than that, I worried my work would not be perfect. Each time I write a review, article, or blog entry, I read it out loud afterwards. Then, I save and close my document, set it aside, and review it a few days later. If it’s a novel or longer piece, I might even set the work aside for a few weeks or a month. This was clearly not an option this weekend. I found myself having to turn in work that had not been given the proper resting time.
In a way this dilemma gets to the very question of writing for art versus writing for commercial value. I used to believe that writing every day would ruin my process. I believed that I needed time to reflect on what I was writing. While I still believe this to be true (the mind certainly needs a break at times), I also believe a writer needs to be capable of producing under strict deadline. If a writer cannot do this, she cannot fully consider herself a professional.
As I am pulling into another station on the Northeast Regional line from Amherst to New York, I wonder how my experience would have been different this weekend had I not been writing under deadline. Would I have enjoyed the ride more? Would I have been in less of a rush to produce a thoughtful review? Perhaps . . . but on the other hand, I can reassure myself with one simple thought: Sometimes a writer just needs to get it done.