The Bear Emerges

It’s spring here in Australia, and I’m emerging from my writing hybernation.  For the past year, I’ve been concentrating on writing purely for entertainment.  My goal has been to get words out, without caring whether they’re good bad or indifferent.  Story is king, but I’m not allowed to think too much about it.  I can’t worry whether I’m writing something meaningful, or I get caught up with ‘what’s the message here?’.  Conversely, I’m not allowed to think ‘this is rubbish’, or I stop me writing ‘forwards’.  All of these judgements have to be left to the next draft.

It’s been hard work!  It’s amazing how often self-doubt and concern about brilliance (or lack thereof) crowds into my creative space.   But it’s been fun, and while I haven’t written as much as I would have liked, I’ve got a couple of finished shorter pieces and another on the way.

I’m also starting to notice something.  The faster I write, the better it is.  Starting something is usually clunky (although my current project is just singing along), but after I’ve warmed up a bit, the words start to flow.  The characters speak for themselves, the events lead one to the other and I’m driven to finish the event or scene I’m working on until the whole thing is finished.

I don’t know why the writing gets better.  It could be because I stop running interference – I can see an end in sight and start bolting for the finish line instead of holding myself up double guessing what I’m doing.  Or maybe it’s because when I get to a certain point, the weight of the story drives it along despite any interference from me.  Definitely passion has something to do with it – I get caught in the story and all I have to do is sit down and pick up the pen.  Whatever it is, I now know it will happen and feel more grounded having experienced it a number of times.  I’ve hit a bit of a flat patch in my current project, but I know if I keep going, I’ll get to the flow again and can worry about the less than brilliant parts in a redraft.  That might mean EVERYTHING gets worked over, but hey, it’s a lot easier to edit than to produce!

And above all else, while facing the blank page is something I dread, nothing beats writing ‘The End’!

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A Holiday from Writing is Sometimes Needed

After a few days doing nothing but resting and reading, I’m feeling great!  Having time out to recharge the batteries without feeling guilty was fantastic, and I now feel ready to get back to the empty page.  In fact, I feel energised about my project in a way I haven’t felt for a few weeks. 

It’s probably going to sound obvious, but when you’re mentally exhausted, you can’t write no matter how hard you try.  The harder you push yourself, the worse the situation gets.  What I’ve learned from this is that when I take a holiday in future, instead of rushing to my writing desk to get another chapter done, I’ll be quarantining the first 50% at least to relaxing instead.  If it makes the writing easier, it’s worth it!

Now, perhaps I should do that on weekends too…

To Writers Who Work Full-Time

I heard about a writer today who has the opportunity to take a break from full time employment when he’s writing a book (which takes him a year).  This is because he has a partner who supports him.  I was once told by another writer that success wouldn’t happen until I dedicated myself full time to writing, as ‘you can’t do it part time’.

That’s all very well and good, but I’m not being supported financially and I’m not someone who thrives on stress.  Therefore, I have two choices.  Wait until I’m retired to write or buckle down and get on with it now.  The former is not an option.  I’m left with the latter.

It’s not ideal to be working full time and writing around your day job (or night job, as the case may be), but it can be done.  It requires focus and perseverance.  It requires carving out a small amount of time consistently and committing to that writing time.  There are times when you wonder why you do it.  There are times when you consider giving it up.  There are times when you have a choice between sleep and another chapter or two and you take the sleep.  But you keep going.

What keeps you going is that you want to do it.  Who knows why, or how, but you do.  Being told you need to commit to it full time doesn’t help and isn’t worth worrying about.  Smile kindly, take what’s helpful in the advice and get back to your work. 

It’s your life, and you only get one.  When you get to eighty and you’re looking back on it, do you want to be saying that you gave up because you couldn’t do it like you would have preferred?  Hell no!

Sometimes, one has to wonder …

The universe moves in mysterious ways, and if you ignore it, it’ll come back and smack you on the backside good and hard. 

After finishing the first draft of my book a little while back, I’ve been trying to redraft it rather than taking a good break from it.  I knew it probably wasn’t a good idea, but persisted anyway.  So it seemed like fate when I developed yet another tummy bug that prevented even the idea of sitting at a computer screen to enter my head without making me feel very sick.  It was a sign, I think.  I should have a break, at least until the holidays.

Trouble is, I really miss writing.  It’s odd getting up on Saturday morning and not having anything to do.  What else am I, if not a writer?

Getting over stagnation

I’ve just read a great post over at LifeDev:  Empowering Creative People (in case you missed it, that’s a link – this theme doesn’t make them obvious).  It’s about how to avoid failing, but it’s the bit about laziness that caught my attention, particularly about the role that fear plays in moving things forward.  It got me thinking about why I keep writing, even when my project seems to be overwhelming.  

I asked myself the big ‘why’ question a couple of months ago.  Why do I do this when it’s so hard and exhausting?  Why don’t I choose something with a faster result, like art?  Then I thought about what would happen if I just gave the whole thing up and stopped writing.  I sat down and pictured myself putting down the pen, shelving the manuscript and turning to something else.  I felt the weight of the project lifting from my shoulders, and imagined myself rejoining the world out there where books are things you read, not write.

Truth is, it didn’t feel good.  In fact, it felt downright rotten.  Somewhere deep down, it feels like I’ve got something to say and I need to say it.  It might not be profound, it might not be important, it might not even be sensible, but it’s there and it’s mine.

The fact is, I love my craft.  To give it up doesn’t feel right.    To live without it feels empty and boring.  So next time I whinge about it, just remind me of that, OK?

Coming Up With an Artistic Life Purpose Statement

And I imagine that some people might have tuned out at that point.  A ‘Life Purpose Statement’ sounds so daunting, doesn’t it? 

I’ve been reading ‘Coaching the Artist Within’ by Eric Maisel and checking out a blog called ‘Life Unfolds by artistic coach, Jennifer Lee, and I was intrigued by the idea of coming up with a plan or principle that guides your artistic life.  I was struck with the similarity to coming up with a business goal or plan or vision statement in a business context, and thought why not become more focused in my creative life as well?

I didn’t want to get to the nitty gritty of ‘what strategies will be implemented when’ (a la business planning I’ve been involved with in the past).  I have a number of deadlines spread out for the rest of the year, and don’t want to add any more!  But a guiding principle broad enough not to trap me with failure but specific enough to be taken into account when making artistic decisions might be helpful.

So I have come up with the following goal:  I will support my artistic growth with integrity and positive feeling.

Maybe it needs a little work, but it’s a start.  I’ve already been finding it pops into my mind when I’ve been making decisions about what to writenext.  It makes me check in with how I feel in my gut, if it feels ‘right’ to continue with this plot point, or if I need to redirect.  An interesting exercise.

Overload

I’ve just had a week of difficult juggling my day job, my studies and my writing.  Let’s call it ‘overload’.  It’s not that I didn’t have time for all of them, it’s more that I was thinking about everything all the time and got a bit over always having to do something with my free time.  Whenever I get like that, I find that I’ll put something off (usually my assignments!) and then I get stressed about being behind.  This just makes the whole thing worse.

Times like this usually last about a week or so for me, and I’m perplexed as to why they happen.  What gets me past overload is having a day or two off, then allocating small lots of time and being strict with myself about committing to my given task.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  What gets me past overload is putting butt in seat and getting some creative work done!

But I’m curious about other strategies that people use in this situation.  Dare I hope that there is an easier way that I haven’t discovered yet, or am I fooling myself?  If you have any thoughts to share, would love to hear from you.