Let’s discuss this plainly, without any academic guff. Writing. Why we do it. What we get out of it. It’s a simple enough business, putting words on paper. But I’m also a student of literature, so I get carried away when I talk about it. Today, we’ll try and steer clear of any verbiage. See? Slipping in the big words already, and we’re not even out of the first paragraph yet.
Moving on. I started writing about four years ago. I was off work for stress and I had a year to kill, and I decided to sit down and write a novel. Just for something to do. So I sat down and went to work, and after about six months I’d banged out a YA thriller. I was even naïve enough then to think it was worth reading, and so I polished it up and sent it out, and got ignored and got a few rejections, and it took another six months until I realised it was a piece of shit. Lest that’s not entirely clear, it was fucking awful. To this day it’s still on a hard drive somewhere, and I’m still afraid to look at it. But who hasn’t started out and written something so bad it’s frightening?
So I moved on. Wrote a few other things. I even wrote a children’s book. Not sure it was good, but it was better. The fog was starting to clear. But it took about half a million words before I started to relax into it, let go, feel it, feel it happening on the page, the way you get when you switch off and just let it spill out. Took a while, but I got there. I don’t feel it every time; sometimes it’s difficult, tenuous, tense, but I’m alright with that. It always comes eventually. So I keep at it, and the words keep coming, and each time I turn out stuff that I like a little bit better. Progress.
Why have I kept at it? To stay busy, mostly. I’m occupied, and therefore I’m not thinking. Like a lot of people who tend to the arts, I struggled, and continue to struggle, with poor (read ‘atrocious’) mental health. So there’s that too. Catharsis and what-have-ya. Flow. Purging all the shite that builds up in the psyche, day to day, week to week, year to year. It keeps me sane. Which, as much as I may have embraced insanity in my younger years, is underrated. I maintain some level of mental health, and I get to produce something too. It may not be pretty, but it’s something I created. By my own hands. I’ll be dead someday, but something I made will still be around. And who can’t get behind that?
Usually, I write in the morning. Sometimes I’ll get up and make a cup of tea, and with the fog of sleep still on me I’ll sit down and get into it. This is good; that time of the morning you’re still in touch with your subconscious, the place from where art springs. Even if you’re not fully compos mentis, you can still produce. Sometimes, I’ll get up and do a light workout, have breakfast, shower, and then get into it. This is also fine. Occasionally, I’ll get caught up in emails and other shite and I won’t get around to it until afternoon. This is not ideal, but I can still knock out a thousand words if I get focused enough and can successfully navigate all the other distractions. Once upon a time, I used to meditate before writing, and this was superb: I was relaxed, supple, and productivity went through the roof. Trouble is, I don’t have the persistence and the motivation to stick at the meditation routine. It should be done every day; if it’s not, it becomes a meaningless token practice.
What’s the point of this rambling diatribe? All of this to say, that I’m not as disciplined as I could be when it comes to my process. But why stress? I still get my words out, and regardless of output, the book will happen sooner or later. It’ll get there. I’ve heard of maniacs writing genre fiction and knocking out five or six thousand words a day, and fair play, if you can do that and keep the quality consistent, then good on ya. I couldn’t. And so I’m happy to do what I do, content in the knowledge that the next book is, if not right around the corner, then somewhere down the line. I’ll get there.
Reposted from Black Tarn Publishing.
Image by Art Lasovsky @ Unsplash.