Musings

[Blog] Relearning Old Lessons

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Man. There was a time (last summer, actually) that I was doing a very good job of actually writing fiction every day. Part or most of that had to do with the fact that I’d finally started accepting that whole “the only good writing is rewriting” thing. And, of course, there was also a pretty solid understanding that it’s a lot easier to edit something that already exists.

And then I fell out of practice. I’m inclined to say that I had a couple of great reasons for it– world travel, moving, new job– but regardless of whether it made sense or not, the upshot is the same: it’s really hard to write. Again.

Sigh.

It’s a bit like working out. You get into the rhythm and the habit and it’s a bit easier. Your brain and your fingers know what it’s like to produce a regular wordcount, and whether or not its some great masterpiece, it’s getting better every day. And then something happens, maybe an injury, maybe something else. But whatever it is, it breaks the rhythm, and after a week, it suddenly seems so hard to just work out. You’ve already missed a few days, what’s one more?

And then one more, and one more, and one more…

And just like that, you’ve suckered yourself out of months of hard work at building a good habit.

For me, I think I’m slowly getting it back. Provided, of course, that I didn’t just jinx it by saying so. It helps to have encouragement and writing buddies (you all know who you are!), and the fact that I’m actually feeling pretty settled in my new routine with work and travel and such doesn’t hurt either. And I think there’s still a long climb before I’m as settled with it as I used to be, but for the first time since I fell out of the habit, I’m feeling a bit of it coming back. Which makes me really happy.

Musings

[Blog] Static Friction

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The last month has, to say the least, been a little busy. Between traveling, moving, and the holidays it’s hardly surprising that I’ve missed a few days of writing, and while the rest was welcome and needed, it hasn’t made it any easier to get back into the swing of things. If the storytelling process can be compared to pushing a block of stone up a long, slow incline (and believe me, it can), then I’ve let my block come to a stop while I catch my breath and prepare to get it going up the next segment of the path. I may have needed to stop and catch my breath, but it’s still going to be difficult to get it moving again.

I’m tempted to compare the whole thing to the torment of Sisyphus, but that might give the wrong impression. I enjoy writing. (No. Shush. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome. Stop looking at me like that.) I’m just also keenly aware that if I want to get anywhere with writing, there’s an awful lot of work involved. Plotting, planning. First draft. Second draft. Editing. And that’s before there’s even a finished product that needs to be marketed and promoted. Sure, today I just need to write a few hundred words, but then I need to do the same thing tomorrow and the day after that and again after that until I’m done.

On the bright side, I’ve done this whole starting-and-stopping thing enough times that I know it’s going to get easier again as soon as I hit my rhythm. The cursor on the screen won’t feel like it’s mocking me quite so much. Words won’t play hide and seek with me for ten minutes before I can find the one I want. My inner editor will stop muttering and fluffing its feathers and will remember that it’s turn is coming soon enough. The block will be moving up the hill again, and I’ll just have to keep the pace.

Musings

[Blog] Battering Rams

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I am a huge proponent of brute forcing your way through writer’s block.

Some days, you just want to write. The words are coming and you like them and the story is unrolling before you in all its glory. Some days, you think it’s going to work out like that, only to have it all melt away as soon as you put your hands to the keyboard. You know the ideas are still there. They’re just out of reach. And then there’s the days when you feel like this whole writing business is absolutely nuts, you’re a hack, and why did you ever think you could do it?

And then, sometimes, that last kind of day stretches out into that kind of week. Or even that kind of month– or longer. Writing anything feels like pulling teeth, or pushing on a locked door, or trying to convince your cat that she should come cuddle with you. It’s awful, and it makes you wonder whether it’s worth all the trouble.

Which brings us back to the battering ram method of pushing through writer’s block. As a little background, I do my best to write two hundred fifty words six days a week. I can tell you right now that there are days that sitting down and doing it is the last thing I want to do. Maybe my mind is just wandering. Maybe everything I do manage to get onto the page feels trite and shallow. Maybe the last ten ways I’ve tried to start a scene have fallen flat, and I’ve already got a sinking feeling that Attempt No. 11 is going to do the exact same thing.

The only reliable way I’ve found to get myself past all that is to just sit and write. I can’t guarantee the quality. I can’t guarantee that the scene will suddenly sublimate into something wonderful. I certainly can’t guarantee that it will get easier to write on any given day. But I can guarantee that I keep writing. Despite the horrid, stuck feeling and everything that comes with it, I still have raw words that can be used, formed, and edited. Or I’ve crossed another narrative path off the list, which means I’m one try closer to finding the one that will actually work.

I can hardly take credit for this idea, of course. Many writers far better than myself have said something similar many times before; in particular, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie come to mind. It’s also, more or less, the concept behind NaNoWriMo. And I suppose, in some ways, it takes some of the mystery out of writing, making it seem more like mining than anything else.

But that’s okay. Because writing is like mining, and there’s a lot of dirt and much less ore. It takes work– hard work– to create. And I’m not the first person to have that thought either.