I’d hazard a guess that most readers have, at one time or another, thought of writing as “probably not that hard”. After all, how much time could it take to write a book if it only takes a couple of hours to read it, right? Since statistics show that up to 95% of people think they might write a book “one day”, I’m guessing the “it’s not that hard” thought is fairly common one.
Turns out, however, that writing is not quite as easy as it may seem from the reader side of the page. Some might even describe it as challenging, difficult, or “a real pain.”
While some of the ladies here on the blog have finished the stories they started with when we first began this blog and gone on to pen additional books, others have had to drag their stories to the page, kicking and screaming, one word at a time. For those of us working on our first novels, the process has been a great learning experience but, as Justine pointed out in her post yesterday, it has also meant stories that felt “almost done” 6 months ago (or even 3 months ago),now appear rife with gaps and weaknesses. Add to that the problem of finding the time and inclination to maintain a consistent writing process and writing is definitely not a “piece of cake.”
I read an interesting blog post by Wil Wheaton recently (you may remember him as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek or more recently from his repeated cameos in The Big Bang Theory). In the post, he talked about how he was getting in the way of his own creativity with the choices he was making.
“This thing that I’m doing? This series of choices I make every day? It isn’t working. . . Things need to change.” ~ Wil Wheaton
I can relate to that. Being in the right frame of mind to be creative is challenging, and blending a consistent, sustainable writing process into an already full life can be a real balancing act. There never seems to be enough time or energy to do everything we want to do (or think we should do). Or is there?
Make time to write
I had to give a talk a few months back as part of a communications training class. My random topic was exercise and when doing some quick research I found a graphic out on the web that said “if you have time to be on Facebook, you have time to exercise.” The idea being that we all have little bits of time here and there that we could “re-purpose” for something that we really want to do.
I know that was certainly true for me when I made a concerted effort a few years back to start going to the gym every day. I didn’t stop doing anything that was really important to me, but I did manage to find 45 minutes a day that I could put to better use. Sure it did mean that I didn’t spend quite so much time on the internet and there’s an amazing amount of dust under the couch, but really, who cares? In the grand scheme of things, going to the gym was more important than those things, so it took priority.
“. . . looking at the Internet isn’t making me happier, more creative, more productive, or more inspired.” ~ Wil Wheaton
Take care of yourself
Making the time to write but being so tired or frazzled or preoccupied that you can’t concentrate isn’t likely to be of much use. If you’re going to take the time to write, then you need to have the energy and focus to actually write. That means getting enough sleep so you’re not yawning your way through your story; eating well so you’re not distracted by feeling bloated or hungry; and exercising so you’re not sluggish and ache-y. If you’re feeling strong and healthy, then you’re likely to be more creative and more productive. As a bonus, you’re likely to have more energy for other things you’d like to do. A win-win.
Read so your imagination inspired
Look at any list of Top 10 Recommendations for Writers and you’ll find “read widely” near or at the top of the list. Reading widens your horizons and triggers thoughts, letting you go places you’ve never been and see things you’ve never seen. Well-written books help you see craft-in-action, while poorly-written ones provide an example of what to avoid.
“I need to read because if I don’t, I’m not going to make time to write.” ~ Wil Wheaton
I’d expand this “read” advice to include all forms of narrative. Whether you’re reading a book, watching a television show (or movie), or playing a video game, you’re learning about narrative and absorbing information that can be of real value to your creative process.
But what if you’ve rearranged your days to find the time to write, you’re healthy and well-rested, and you’ve been absorbing narrative like a sponge, yet you still aren’t writing? If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to step back and decide whether writing is what you really want to do right now.
That’s exactly what I did this past summer after the draft of The Traitor was finished. I had plenty of time, but no inclination, so I stopped beating myself up about “I should be writing” and did other things. I made a quilt. I took photographs. I worked in the yard. I painted walls. I gave myself permission to do something else for a while and eventually, thoughts of story started competing for attention again.
Second Chances, the story I’ve been talking about in this “Back to Basics” series, is that story. I didn’t sit down and force myself to think of it; it came to me when it was good and ready. I’m guessing the story was marinating in my mind while I was off doing other things and giving my creativity a chance to rest and rejuvenate was just what I needed.
Now that I’ve got my creativity back, a new story, my health, and the time to write, there should be nothing keeping me from getting words on the page. I’ll be able to test that theory during the 30 days of NaNo coming up. I can’t wait.
So, how about you? Is there anything keeping you from writing or have you found process that works for you?