Let’s talk a little bit about the pros and cons of the “butt in the seat” method of writing.
But of course, I want to talk about it in a roundabout way so I don’t scare myself.
Two weeks ago, I went to the beach and got some really nice pictures of the jewelry ice. The light was perfect, the clouds cooperated, and I was there at the right place and the right time.*
I love it when that happens, and sometimes it happens with my writing. Writing is a joy, and it’s easy, and damn, it looks good.
It makes the other days feel like a waste of time.
This morning, I got up early (but not early enough) and went to take pictures of the Ice Festival in Obihiro. My pictures were blurry, and even though the weather forecasters had promised sunshine, it was cloudy with intermittent snow. The only nice thing I could say about this morning’s weather is that at -8C (17F), I wasn’t freezing my fingers off.
Almost all the time, my writing feels like this. Unfocused. Not quite right. Obscured.
So why should I write on the bad days?
Well, as the cliche goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Even though my ice pictures today weren’t of the kind of gleaming purity that made me gasp in wonder, I got one good picture.
Plus, there’s the matter of atmosphere. The light was terrible, and my camera didn’t capture the scene well, but the air had that really soft quality on my skin that you get during a snowstorm, sometimes. I could see the potential in the ice and snow sculptures, and got some good ideas (someone had carved an ice wasp! Can you imagine the terror of facing an ice wasp? I think my character Jack might . . . one day).
I spent an hour getting some decent exercise in fresh air, and dreaming.
And some days, my writing is like that. Even though the light of inspiration is gone, I’m practicing my craft so I can execute a sentence smoothly when the light comes back again. I find hidden little joys somewhere in those words – although sometimes I must admit, I have to discover them when I come back and re-read the next day. Sometimes, I close the computer feeling I committed 30 minutes of crap, and the next day, I find it’s not so bad after all.
So, I guess what I’m telling myself is that the “butt in the seat” method of daily writing may feel unproductive and frustrating, but it’s a worthwhile practice. Some days you’ve got the light, and some days you are working with something less visible. The secret is to keep working and not define that work too narrowly.
*Looking back at that post, you may want to factor in that odd quality of memory when “X is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and current project Y just sucks so much in comparison.” But that’s another topic for another day.