Once again I’ve remained single-mindedly focused on my paranormal romance and haven’t gotten much of anything else done this week, but I met my writing goal, wrote nearly every day and I’m now up to 60,051 words in my main manuscript.
I have not been able to switch gears and work on short stories or blog posts as well, but hopefully I’ll be able to work on some of those in the next couple weeks. I did, however, force myself to get back into reading. I’ve found it difficult to focus on reading given the war in Ukraine and general geopolitics; but then again, I found it difficult to focus during the thick of the pandemic, too.
I am trying to take the lessons I learned from my year in 2021 of not really doing much of anything creative for sustained periods of time. People talk about forcing yourself as a bad thing, that the work will feel uninspired or bland. But sometimes you really do just have to sit down and do it, instead of giving into your excuses. There are always so many good excuses.
Then you show up every day, every week, and eventually, you start reading again, you start writing again, you start exercising again. If you can’t make yourself do it or if doing it becomes bad for your mental health, maybe it’s time you to admit you need help, or to do something else entirely.
I am not tackling anything light for my reading material either – I’ve got an essay collection by Wendell Berry and Homer’s The Iliad. I realized part of my boredom burnout is that I am starved for intellectual stimulation. I hope to change that by varying my reading and taking some classes.
I have also realized that my ability to crank out fairly clean copy is apparently rare among writers. It comes from my journalism days, I think; I thought fiction was harder because it is not as formulaic as journalistic writing, but turns out when I really put my whole self into it, I can crank out fiction too. I hear about other writers who take three hours to produce 500 words or take all day on some emotionally involved short story. Makes me wonder if my writing is somehow lesser than the writing of those other writers because I don’t necessarily slave away at it. It just… flows. But I’ve been doing it almost every day since I was 12. I did it professionally on deadline. I guess it is just a unique talent of mine, just the way my brain works. It’s not like I am emotionally divorced from the work either; couple scenes this last week made me cry.
I was the same way in school. I called it the art of bullshit. I was a terrible procrastinator and always cranked out my essays the night before the due date with copious amounts of Coca-Cola… and just the right amount of bullshit. And they would still get A’s. Perhaps it was because teachers are used to reading such poor writing from students that when they read good writing it blows them away. I don’t know. Maybe I’m biased and my writing is really terrible and could use some more time and concentration. Who’s to say. All I know is I can’t stop doing it, it’s like a compulsion. Something feels off whenever I don’t do it.
It’s not always like this; I gravitate between periods of despair as well. My horror novel took six months to write 47,000 words and it’s still not done. But my mindset was in a dark, angry place. I couldn’t think of writing. Writing just made me mad. This year I finally figured out that was my whole problem. That was what was making me more depressed – the not writing, the demonizing of writing. I had to show up to the page and just do it.
So maybe it’s not a drug. Maybe it’s more like a medicine.
My goals for this next week are my same exercise goals from last week that I never did, to get to 70,000 words in my WIP, to write a short story and a blog post, to keep practicing guitar and read for a half hour every day, and not just The Economist.