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Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Speak Out!: Elusive Rivers of Brilliance, Guest Post by Lauren Alissa Hunter

Elusive Rivers of Brilliance

by Lauren Alissa Hunter

As writers, we are feverishly jealous for writing time. Splitting our identities between the various roles we encompass, we know that only another writer can understand what it is like to be singularly possessed by an untold story, a persistent character, or a deeper message. We seek solace in blogs, comforted always to read and share each other’s frustrations and triumphs. To some, we may be rare birds, but we also know we’re a common breed. We possess the same lurking fear of rejection, the dream of eventual success, and the subtle but persistent conviction that we secretly possess hidden and untapped brilliance. Most of all, there is a glorification of Time—that elusive mistress we can never get enough of. Somehow we all believe that if we were just able to Get Away and Escape Distraction we would suddenly and magically spill forth rivers of literary brilliance.

Well... I pursued and wooed this mistress. I Got Away. I Escaped Distraction. And… while my writing has increased, I am still waiting for the rivers of brilliance, still waiting for the magic and untapped potential to suddenly burst from me. What began as a sneaking suspicion is now full blown epiphany: It doesn’t work that way. All the distractions I blamed and eliminated… were not the problem. My big distraction is simply Me.

For the last five years I have worked to complete my bachelors degree and keep my “good job,” where I wasted days in scribbled plans and online flight searches. And then… I did it. One way flight to Asia, two weeks notice, storage unit, all of it. Oh, Time—she would finally be mine.

So I arrive in China, alone in my apartment with no people or internet to distract me. Just me, my writing, and my hard-won solitude. I waited for the rivers and I waited for the brilliance, and what came? A fascination for cooking elaborate breakfasts, a deep desire to keep everything impeccably clean and a passion for long evening walks. Eventually I ran out of self-imposed distractions and once again it was just me and the writing. Did the rivers come? Sudden brilliance? Not exactly.

I traveled more, escaping solitary confinement and embracing new distractions. There were so many palaces to see and temples to visit. Monks needed me to give alms and children needed books and the beaches required me to lay on them, and the long awaited rivers of brilliance faded like a myth back into the land of that which is pined after but never sought. Then, the old longing returned and I found myself thinking “Oh, if I could just find some stability, I would write more!”

Regardless of where we are, we will always find ways to fill our lives, and we must be careful not to levy blame where it is not due. Yes, superfluous cooking and facebooking are dangerous time wasters, but the others: family, work, friends… if we’re not careful we make them scapegoats when the common denominator is simply ourselves. So, remain feverishly jealous and seek the solace of solidarity, but know that like all things, writing, and rivers of brilliance, require balance.

* * *

Lauren Alissa Hunter is currently distracting herself from the novel she dreams of writing by focusing on writing a memoir entitled Same Same But Different. While it is told largely from the backdrop of international travel, it is not about one particular journey but about layers of realization within the larger context of the world and its people.

She holds a bachelors degree in African & African American Studies from the University of Oklahoma.

You can find her blogging about at


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



  1. Lauren,

    Your post resonated with me. No, actually it was like being hit with a bucket of cold water. Waking me up to the realization that I've become a Mistress of Distraction. I've put 4 books "on the back burner" over the past few years while I deal with family issues, take online writing workshops, listen to motivational webinars, read blogs on writing and cooking, outline a new writing idea, and of course taking care of my home and teaching my college classes.

    Even when I moved my teaching to completely online working from home---I still manage to create distractions.

    I recently found a niftly little item that actually helps me. It's a sticky note that stays on my computer screen all the time. I put my daily "to do" list on it, which includes book writing. There is also a timer that clangs (a more agressive reminder than a lovely chime) when my time is up for reading blogs, grading classes, writing a blog entry, research. Writing a book chapter holds the primary spot on the sticky note. I love it, it's cute & fun~~~it's in my face. Most of all it helps manage my time and prompts me to get on to the next task.

    Here's to both of us taking control of those distractions!

  2. Seems like there is a river of controlled moderation running through both posts here--great perspective! Great hints!

  3. Even though I know it is me that is the problem, I don't seem to be able to shake the distractions. Most of them are superfluous, a complete waste of time, and yet I can't seem to stop myself from indulging. I'd rather waste time than write. But that can't be right - because I know I want to write, I need to write, yet it is the last thing I do after a long list of pointless endeavours.


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