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A Racing Car Passing by Like Lady Godiva

Somewhere in A Canticle for Leibowitz, there is a parable of three men. Steel men force through anything, but eventually life's blows make them shatter. Brass men bend and conform to life, but life eventually bends them completely out of shape and dulls their edge. Men of mercury splatter, but eventually, all the bits come back together again.

Halloween is my years' end, for reasons I've explained before. October is generally the month I have for reconsidering and re-adjusting to the changes the year brought. Some of this is psychological, some of it physical.

Tallying up what I've learned about this strange activity called writing this year I know I've learned (more truthfully confirmed) one thing: I don't know what kind of man I am, but as a writer, I'm a mercury writer. I can't take disruption to my routine or to focus on anything but the story. This "anything else" includes the act of writing itself. I easily splatter and dissipate with even minor disturbances.

So much as I've enjoyed the challenge, I've got to give up writing to a word-goal. I've really damaged a couple of WIPs this year by trying to produce them regularly by word-count, and I don't have time for these games anymore. I need a routine, but this routine has got to be determined by something other than volume-of-words or hours-spent-working.

The gym routine may be a good template. I go in with a general process in mind, not a set of goals, and I get as much of it done as I can within "a reasonable time", the "reasonable time" being dictated by how much energy, focus, and craving for activity I have. Something similar works for me in writing, but I'll be damned if I can put it into a clearly defined description of what that something is. Now isn't that ironic?

But I think it touches on one of those fundamental truths about art. There's no room for self-reflection in the act of self-expression.