Not a great start to the New Year as far as writing goes. I haven’t posted in I don’t know how long. The demands of other people and of my “real job” are overwhelming. And, of course, there’s the pressure of the New Year’s Resolution. If you want to fail at something, make it your resolution.
I had an idea for a book and I lost it. Just, poof, it vanished. I sat down to write about it, expand on it a little bit, and it was gone. It no longer made sense. I had no idea what the point of it was, who my protagonist was, what was going to happen.
Every day I sit down, hoping it will come back to me, and nothing. It’s just gibberish that comes out. Sometimes I bitch about work, complain about the amount of dishes in the sink, how much time I spend doing laundry. I lament the time I’ve lost to chores and the demands of real life that could’ve been spent writing. I wonder what it all means.
Does this writing count? Can it even be considered writing if you aren’t creating something? Are my hours spent bitching on paper in any way contributing to my future as a writer?
I think so. Here’s why:
1. Creating is a Confusing, Chaotic Shitstorm:
Writing is one of those jobs that looks super fun on the outside. I’m going to be a writer and lounge around all day smoking skinny cigarettes and thinking deep thoughts in my silky bathrobe. Six months later I’ll emerge with a novel and a place on the best seller list. No, you won’t.
Creating seems glamorous. You think it’s fun. You think it’ll be like when you were a kid and brilliant ideas just came to you. Not so. Creating is work. It’s time spent in the trenches, covered in mud, digging for ideas. They don’t always fall into your head, a gift from the Magical Gods of Writing on high. Other times you get too many ideas and don’t know which one to pick. While your brain sorts through this mess, it needs a little break. Maybe you aren’t writing great literature. But something is going on in the background. Your subconscious is still chewing over the idea while you’re bitching about life.
2. Life. Just life:
It gets in the way. The real world loves bursting my pretty little writer bubble. Leave dishes in the sink too long and they start to stink. Quit doing laundry and random people start trying to shove twenties in your hand when you walk by. Quit showing up to work and you get fired. These are the unfortunate necessities that have to be attended to whether we like it or not. Occasionally these things pile up so bad that we become overwhelmed and just getting through the day alive deserves congratulations. Forget trying to write a novel. This is called being an adult and it sucks most of the time. If I could pay someone to adopt me to tell me when I need to sleep and work and eat so I could focus all my attention on writing, I would. But how many people want to take in a clumsy, rambling 30 year old woman? Not as cute and fluffy as a puppy but I won’t make messes on your carpet.
So, yeah, you sit down to write and your mind is still running through the 10,000 things you did today and the 2,000 you have to go. You may not be able to slip into that creative mode right away. Some days it’s almost impossible. But, still, you try and you never know when you’ll be rewarded from a visit from the muse.
3. You Need to Sort Out Your Shit:
As we’ve seen in points 1 and 2, life gets messy. It gets confusing. We can’t control extenuating circumstances. But we still have to process them. Writing is a good way to do that. You don’t always have to sort out your shit before you can write. But it is good to get it out of your head. Writing may not fix the problem but it gives your brain a little more breathing room. And, I’ve said it before, a little free writing can generate ideas. Maybe you’ll sort shit out along the way. Maybe you don’t. Either way, don’t stress over it. Just write.
This turned out to be a more depressing post than I planned but don’t despair. Writing makes me feel better. Even when I’m not creating, I feel better. No time spent writing is time wasted, even if you’re just venting about how pissed off you are that they cancelled Firefly.
Writing isn’t just a job. It’s not just a way to get published and make money and have freedom. It’s a way of life. It’s a part of you. Don’t feel bad when your brain isn’t churning out one idea after another. You aren’t a book factory. Or Stephen King.
We spend too much time feeling bad and beating ourselves up over what I feel is just part of the creative process. There are ups and downs to everything. Yin and Yang. Hot and cold. Wet and dry. Can’t have love without hate. You know where I’m going. What does feeling bad do? It creates pressure. What is pressure? It’s like a paralytic to creativity. You just can’t. Some of my best ideas come when I’m just playing around.
Writing is serious and should be held in high regard. But it should be fun too. It should be all the reasons you wanted to be a writer in the first place. And it shouldn’t be the same thing for everyone. Your process may involve down time, a few days without writing, a few days writing nonsense. That’s okay. Don’t judge yourself too harshly.
Eventually the next idea will come. One day you’ll look up and find that you started creating again without even realizing it. That’s what happened to me as I typed the last few sentences of this blog post.