1. Bass
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    Bass New Member

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    What was this euphoria?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Bass, Mar 21, 2012.

    This may seem strange, or maybe not. I guess it all depends on the comments I get.

    Early in February of this year, I started writing a story. Up until the day I started writing, this was far from my ambition, and really still isn’t my ambition, other than to finish. I am not a writer and do not want to be. After six weeks I have over 230 pages written, and I have edited them to the point that they are presentable and I find the story entertaining to say the least. But the story is not the point of this post.

    How I felt as I wrote is what I would like to discuss. For the first 5 days, I woke up and began writing immediately(I had to because my head began to fill with story related information from the moment my eyes opened). Those 5 days went something like this: I wrote uninterrupted for 12hrs, 15 hrs, even 17 hours one day. I ate nothing till late at night, usually 9pm. It was not an uncommon experience in as much as I had on several previous occasions found that I had spent the whole day in a similar fashion when I would compose music, but those occasions only lasted for a day or two. I was driven to write this story, and nothing else I did, whether it was to turn on the TV, wash dishes, or try to read a book, nothing else distracted my mind. It was probably not even a good idea to drive actually. The characters and the story just kept playing out in my head and ideas would avalanche constantly from some part of my brain forcing me to scurry about no matter what else I was trying to do in order to make note of them before they disappeared or were buried by the next round of thoughts that just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was almost unsettling, but intriguing at the same time. I was buzzing inside as though I had ingested some type of stimulant, but I used no drugs or stimulants. Nevertheless I was experiencing an extreme feeling of euphoria.

    By the 6th day, a Sunday, I had worn myself out and stepped away to see if I was getting sick or had just run myself down. As I rested I tried to analyze the situation in order to resolve some issues that were troubling me. First I considered that maybe this could be a sort of bi-polar symptom, but while I was too tired and a little sad that I didn’t have the strength to continue, my enthusiasm was still strong. The next thing I considered was the possibility that I was deluding myself. I liked the story a lot, I liked how I was telling it, but like I have said, I am not a writer and really don’t want to be. I do want to finish this story, but I don't wish to write or think I will want to again.

    I decided that I would take the first 80 pages I had written and bring them to a friend who lived 220 miles away in Missouri. So on that following Tuesday I left early in the morning. He has a nice secluded place and he reads a lot. I explained my concern that I may be deluding myself and asked him to be objective an assess what I had written. I stayed two nights and then returned home, leaving the 80 pages with him. Nothing really changed, except that I had rested and ate regularly in a normal fashion. Both the drive there and back, and the time spent with my friend was a constant barrage of thoughts and ideas related to the story. I had to keep a pad of paper handy to make notes.

    Before returning home I shopped for snacks and food that was easy and quick to prepare so I could avoid the same exhausting pace when I resumed writing again. This worked, but I also had to resolve another dissonance that was plaguing me when I wrote. My cat who I was quite attentive to normally, seemed to be perplexed by my new routine, so I had to take occasional breaks to assure her of my affection. That first day of writing upon my return went smoothly as I incorporated these adjustments. The euphoria was still there and increased as I settled back in to writing.

    The next day when I woke up, with the usual 4 or 5 ideas crowding my thoughts, I went to boot up my PC and it was stone cold dead. Luckily I had backed up my work each night to my lap top, but the PC had so much information, notes from ideas and online searches, that it still felt like a disaster. I had to hold back everything, feelings and thoughts, to resolve this problem by taking the PC to be fixed, if possible. It felt like a pressure inside me was about to explode out of my chest. I arranged to bring it to the computer business and decided to run one other errand when I did bring it in. The other errand involved a close friend and when I contacted him, I found I had another unexpected and troublesome predicament to negotiate. He was upset with something I had done previously and apparently had been stewing over it. Within a couple minutes of speaking with him on the phone, he had told me he had a bone to pick with me and to not contact him again and hung up.

    Now this may not seem to be very significant, but the point is that I felt I needed to focus on the writing of this story. It was easy to accept the PC problem as it was out of my control at this point, but the unsettling thoughts of the damaged friendship were able to distract me quite often, till I decided that there had been a misunderstanding to which there was nothing more I could do except to respect my friends desire that I not contact him. He had handled his displeasure in a very immature fashion and all because of something he misinterpreted. I had played a part possibly poorly, but it was now also beyond my control. What was significant about these two events was that I was concerned that I was going to lose momentum, and possibly lose this euphoria that seemed to be fueling so much of the inspirations which seemed more often than not to be coming from outside of my consciousness.

    I continued writing in this curious state for a few more weeks. My friend who had read the first 80 pages told me he thought it was good and was eagerly waiting to read more, he even seemed excited. He had mailed back the 80 pages with some grammatical corrections and in a note praised several aspects of the story. The euphoria came back stronger than ever, and while I was eating, it was little and I lost 15 pounds. I usually could only manage to sleep for 3.5 hrs then I would resume writing for 7 hrs and sleep for another 3.5 again and that went on continually there after. Nothing I did resembled the days before this writing began. I found my silverware to be all mixed up, forks in the spoons, knifes in the forks section. The days of the week were a mystery to me, accept that I regularly mistook any day as the day I was writing about.

    On March 13th, in anticipation of having an over night guest for a few nights for a St. Patrick’s day get together, I had to step away again to clean my now neglected home. I also knew that it would be hard to entertain my friend and still be totally absorbed in writing, so I printed the 220 pages I had so far and sent them off to my friend in Missouri.

    My over night guest stayed for 4 nights. I did very little work on the story during that time. I sensed the drugged like euphoria subsiding and it worried me that I may lose this bewildering high octane fuel that seemed to be at the heart of my inspirations and enthusiasm. I thought it was a gamble, but could not tell my friend that this sudden freak ambition was more important than that he come here for what had been an annual event for us since I moved her 10 years ago.

    I was hoping to be through with this by the end of March. I understand that some books take very long to write, but also know that some just pour out in a matter of a few weeks for some writers. I still like what I have written and like how I intend to finish it. But here I am now and the Euphoria seems to have come and mostly gone. I can sit down and add to the story and still be surprised by what comes out of my head, in as much that I will wonder where it came from. Working on the lap top is much harder. My back gets tired and sore in three hours, while 12 hours on the desk top PC never hinted at making me uncomfortable. So the pace has slowed. It seems possible that the remaining text will require some additional skill in bringing the story and clues together in conclusion and in an acceptable fashion, one that pleases me and not just something forced to get the whole experience over with.

    Well if you have stayed with me so far, then here is what I am after.

    What happened? What was this euphoria? I buzzed and vibrated and tingled all over for weeks. It was though I was stoned but my senses weren’t dulled. Was it just adrenalin, endorphins or a mix of both, or maybe a chemical imbalance, or could it have been voices from somewhere else? Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Has it happened to you? Will it comeback so I can finish in the same way?

    And one more thought, could this be a reason why some artists end up resorting to drugs? To recapture this strange euphoric state that comes out of nowhere, so they can continue to create, or be inspired, or just feel so... alive?
     
  2. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    The honeymoon period has worn off, and now you need to work on motivation.

    That buzz can wane and fluctuate. You've already answered this yourself. Get your ego stroked. *grins*


    Look into the expression 'honeymoon period', and it should give you some insight.

    Just a few thoughts.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There is nothing like that sense of giving your life over to your writing. I once took a week's vacation by myself to do nothing but write (it was on my first novel), and it was pure joy. The novel itself took a couple of years to write (first draft, that is) but I completed about 20% of it in that 5 day stretch. But writing isn't just about the euphoric creative moments. It's hard work of reviewing, editing, analyzing, seeking to make it the best it can be, and sometimes even keeping the creative process moving forward when you feel you've hit a snag. What's more, as you found out to your discomfort, real life has a tendency to intrude, usually when it is least convenient.

    There is no single piece of advice about this, other than to deal with life and soldier on. There's no magic pill. If you rely solely on euphoric stretches to complete your work, it will never be completed. Just enjoy them when you have them and make sure you make the most of them.

    A lot of the questions you asked - what is the euphoria? etc - are distractions. Forget them. Concentrate on the story you are trying to tell.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    This. Everything Ed said.

    It's great when it hits, but it doesn't last (thank goodness.) Heck, I've worked on a piece for close to two days on accident. Suddenly I look down and have no clue where the time went except there's a lot of stuff written. Personally, I try to control those rushes because being healthy means better writing to me. That's how I work. Sometimes the results are a burn out (where you just can't and do not want to) and sometimes it's just a return to the normal.

    Artist and drugs is the same as people and drugs, the reason they get into it is different and personal to them. Cookie cutter reasons won't fit.
     
  5. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Congratulations, you have been visited by your muse. Most writers are at some point in their lives - that's why they're writers (and despite all your protests, if you are compelled to write like this, you ARE a writer).

    The Muse messes with us for a while, gives us that giddy feeling of falling in love, but as someone said before me, sooner or later the honeymoon period is over - the excitement of a new romance eventually wears off, and then the hard work really starts.

    Now comes the hard slog - the editing and rewriting. I've been in that phase for about 5 years - I don't even recognise it from the first draft anymore.

    This is the bit that will truly test whether you're a writer or just an inspiration junky. If the former, you'll finish it. If the latter, you'll just keep pining for that Muse until she visits you again.
     
  6. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    The sort of thing you describe is not healthy or conducive to writing long-term. If you write for 12 hours you probably are young and don't have much else going on. And, like someone else said, it appears the honeymoon is over. Back to reality. Writing is a hard slog. I forget who said it, but it's true: waiting on inspiration is for amateurs.
     
  7. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    I could not agree more. What you are talking about is an unhealthy obsession. Be it video games, TV, work, writing or playing football - losing your identity and your life to it is definitely not psychologically healthy.

    A little bit of everything in moderation is good - too much of one all encompassing thing is not. Perhaps you need to look at what other areas of your life are unfulfilling you rather than using writing as a crutch for something?
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's nothing unusual or worrisome about your experience... it's commonplace to many writers, nowadays called being 'in the zone' and in the 'old days' was simply considered being 'on a roll'...

    i've often worked 18-20 hours a day every single day for weeks, when caught up in writing a book or a screeplay... but, as mentioned above, now come the hard parts--editing/revising/polishing... that's what separates the serious writers from the dabblers...
     
  9. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Like the others I'd agree that it sounds as though you've been hit by your muse, and that's no bad thing. Most writers, most artists of any sort, experience this from time to time, some to a greater extent than others. But I get the feeling that you're bothered by the experience, that you think it might be unhealthy.

    My thought would be to put aside psych terms like bipolar as you used, and instead judge whether your obsession was healthy or not more in terms of how it works or worked in your life. Long days writing, some days that can be wonderful, some days terrible, but the real question is can you afford the time? Does it keep you from work? Is it limiting your life? If yes, then yes, you need to find some balance and reign it in a little. If no then why worry? Its no different to finding a new fantastic video game to play and losing yourself for a while, save that at the end you hopefully end up with a book.

    The sad part for me is that you say its more or less gone now, and I can understand that. Passions can't last forever, but when they go it's always sad. You feel bereft in some way, empty, as though your life has lost some of its meaning. That too is normal. But I wouldn't worry about it. Passions often tend to return, and if they don't you can still have fond memories of them. When you've obtained some distance from this time in your life I suspect you'll find that looking back on it you feel pleased.

    There's one other thing to consider- writing is and always should be a passion as you've experienced, but it's also a business. I don't know if you have plans to finish your work and publish it, but if you do, at some stage you're going to have to settle down and concentrating on the will sapping chores of editing and proofing, and pulling your work together into a professional book. Now that's the part that hurts. My last book took me three wonderful weeks to write, and five miserable weeks to edit. The first three were pure joy, the last five - not so much.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  10. Bass
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    Bass New Member

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    I’d like to thank you all who helped me understand what happened, and what is happening now. It was interesting reading everyone’s input. Most of you were working in the dark, so to be fair, I’ll give with some particulars. I am 63, retired, and a pretty happy person. Among many of the things that interest me, I enjoy music and music making, composing and playing as my prime creative pass time. Though I have been at it most of my life, I’ve never done it professionally. I have experienced those 12 to 18 hr non stop days when creating music, and to some extent felt a touch of the “muse” I suppose, but never strung more than 3 of those days together at one time. I think while I enjoy it, I’m not particularly talented, which may explain the short hold it has on me at times.

    Now, not that I think I’m talented as a writer, but I do think what I am writing about (and my passion for the message) combined with the fact that I’m probably more skilled in English than in music, may have given me the confidence to go deeper into the creative process, and that in part may explain to me the surprising time that this feeling of euphoria lasted. Also since I live alone and am very isolated in a rural setting in which no other buildings can be seen from my property, and have been so for the last 10 years, I have spent a good amount of time thinking, or contemplating. This kind of thinking seems to be a bit like muscle building in that the more I do it, the more I seem to be able to lift more from inside my subconscious mind and thoughts. It may be also that these thoughts become sort of subroutines for the subconscious mind to expand and explain. Over the past 6 years I have been on a quest to understand human indifference, and that quest has led me on a revealing journey in which I’ve read many many very informative books and learned more than I thought would be possible for someone who had not a single clue where or how to begin to start with, and hardly the credentials to understand the subject.

    I think the initial seed was planted sometime around 1997 by what I’m not sure, but it was only a notion more than an ambition when the thought occurred to me that I might want to write something connecting some dots about the human condition when I retired. But I never gave it another thought ever again till I was suddenly struck by this writing frenzy. There were two catalysts that were significant in focusing my attention on the subject, the first occurred in 2003 when I read Charles Bowden’s “Down by the River, which started me trying to understand not only the enormous wealth accumulated by devious cartels, but also the need for such hard to imagine wealth. Sounds simple I suppose, but it triggered some deep thoughts for quite a few years. Then in 2006 on Earth Day after seeing two PBS programs, my quest began. Over the next 5+ years that followed I read books that raised questions, and then to answer those questions, I read more books and did other research. Some of the books were by Robert Kennedy Jr., Richard Heinberg, John Perkins, Barbara Tuchman, Jared Diamond, Jimmy Carter, Naomi Klein, Janine Wedel, Kevin Mattson, to name the ones I remember. Much of what I learned also came from documentaries, and if you have a desire to view hard to find documentaries, I recommend the Netflix library.

    If anything felt unhealthy, it was when I spent too much time and effort concentrating on subjects that were less than comforting. Usually after a week of this sort of steady diet I would have to turn away, just to keep from dropping into some dark abyss that I might not be able to climb out of. Whether or not the days I spent 12 to 18 hrs engrossed in whatever enjoyable pursuits were unhealthy, while I have wondered if it was at times, I have also wondered if in effect it was also healthy in a sort of fasting way.

    Regarding your “grin” comment on ego, doghouse, thanks, no need to grin. I read a book once called “The Wisdom of the Ego” and I think I have a pretty good grasp of what the ego is. Mine maybe be of the frail type and I think you’re right in that I may need to have it stroked and maybe more than most. But that book explained to me the purpose of the ego, which if I understand it correctly, it is a psychological mechanism that, through our creative actions, attempts to keep us from going bonkers. (my ego has its work cut out for it)

    Where I’m at now is as some of you suggested. The thrill of the buzzing euphoria that appeared to be the reasons for the inspirations that poured out of me faster than I could get them down has resided. I’m still highly motivated but find the present mode of operation to be a sort of tightrope act where I can’t force the writing, but I do find that once I sit and begin to add more, if I’m patient, it still happens to yield an occasional surprising inspiration. What I see coming is some more tedious research in order to continue and ultimately finish in a fashion that doesn’t reek of settling for less so I can get on with something else.

    An interesting problem I find I have is to be hard on my characters. The idea of it makes me think that writing is a bit like playing God. I create a world and populate it and can do whatever I want, but it’s complicated too. And actually part of what I write about is that our world has become very complicated with technologies and issues that demand more from the masses then the hunt and gather mode of which the common person’s life more closely still resembles.

    A friend sent me this quote by Winston Churchill that is probably what can be considered the outline of which I may be destined to follow.
    “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”

    So thank you all for putting in the time to shed some light on this path that I am sure I will still stumble down now and then. I think this is a very nice community of people, so good luck to you all.
    Bass
     

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