This blog may be in danger of becoming a writing blog. I think I’m okay with that, since writing is what I’ve been wanting to do since I was about eight years old, but you should probably be forewarned.
I remember when we were talking about living together a long time ago (it never happened, though we are in much closer proximity for the time being), my friend Ariel said she had cooked up images of having friends over and sneaking around by candelight, shushing them and pointing upstairs to the literary nook. “Shh… he’s writing,” she imagined herself saying.
Sadly, this is probably more akin to what it’s like to live with me while I have a migraine than while I’m writing. Such romantic notions are (and were) fun, but the reality is much more like what happened with Emily and I today. She called on her way home from her evening Economics class while I was in the midst of a 7:00-9:30 burst of inspiration on a short story, the third I’ve done at least some work on in a week. I picked up the phone in case she needed a ride for some reason in the dark, but was cranky and annoyed when I realized she was just doing a routine check about something. Nearly derailed, I hung up as fast as possible and tried to recapture the magic.
It took a little bit, but I was back in the groove shortly. Then she came home after a long day at school, wanting to converse. But I could have none of it. We had an awkward interlude where I told her that I was really sorry, but I just couldn’t be interrupted while in the throes of inspiration. She thought I was talking about the phone call. I observed that too, but gently noted I was talking about now.
If you’re wondering what Emily was doing that was so unreasonable, the answer is absolutely nothing. The problem is that writing is a fickle beast, especially in this fragile first week of full-time focus. There may be people out there who are writing for eight to ten hours a day, but most of them are actually thinking about writing for that long (or longer). And this work and time is important, and should be scheduled and dedicated, but it’s not the same as being in the crosshairs of the muses, churning out words like the language will go extinct in 30 minutes and you have one last thing to say before they pack it in.
That time is precious, and it’s when most of what people think of as writing gets done. And if you disturb that time, you might as well punt a full day’s worth of work. Because, honestly, you’re spending the whole day trying to get yourself into just that state.
I think this is why so many writers use routines, and why so many of those routines involve alcohol. Artificial substances are so often used as an inducement or a proxy for a specific state of being. And routine, ritual, rote behavior can sometimes train us into the same stupor.
For me, routine is a part of it. I somehow seem to perform exceedingly well on a dawnish to noonish sleep schedule (which I’ve already discussed to excess), with around ten or midnight till dawn being the primary time set aside for the really intense writing work. I have always done my best work in the wee hours, being able to raise my mind the loudest when the surroundings are at their most still.
But the routine only gets me so far. A lot of it is just intensity, meditation, focused thought trained on the particular subject or problem at hand. Or flitting between several. Or just deeply taking in whatever the universe seems to be throwing down.
It is painfully unscientific, unscrupulous, and mercurial. Writer’s block is just what it’s called when the usual combination of meditation, routine, and mumbo-jumbo doesn’t somehow flip over into magic after a little more than the typical requisite time. It’s not that one can’t come up with words to put on a page, staring at a blank screen. It’s that the words are empty husks, severed from the life-giving inspiration that can only come when the mind of the writer is aflame and haunted, slaving away for a mysterious master who strikes at random but offers such sweet rewards.
Much has been said by so many writers about the process’ solitude, its pain, its pyrrhic feel. I say nonsense. Writing is just being the only thing it can be, which is this weird daily fight to create the platform for hours of mystic captivation. But every time that captivation descends, locking in place, it’s like rain coming to flood a drought-stricken land. Nothing has ever been so perfect, so blessed, so wonderful. And it’s all one can do to drink, absorb, wallow in the water before the clouds are spent and it’s time once more to trudge through the desert with a divining rod.
I love it. I love every minute. The coaxing of the next big thing, the slow exhilarating tumble of realizing that inspiration has struck, the torrid tempest of typing, the perfect conclusive feel when one knows the last sentence just finished has completed this segment of the festivities. Even if I didn’t like the results of writing, I would probably try to run through exercises like this just to feel this progression.
It makes me a pain in the behind to deal with. It makes me a logistical nightmare. It makes me even more sine-curvy in my emotional perspectives than normal. Yes, really.
But at eight pages (2,000 words) a day average, a week in, with four projects going (three short stories and, of course, American Dream On, the novel), I wouldn’t change a thing. I really didn’t think I’d get here this quickly, but, God, I never want to leave.
In a programming note, while I finished one story already, it still has some editing to be done before it is ready to send out to those of you out there who have so generously volunteered to be readers. Given the state of things right now, I’m actually thinking I might send out a small suite of three stories at once as the first dispatch, if only because they are all so different and thus demonstrate the range of what I’m working on. The first one is such a departure from my normal fare that I fear it might be somewhat off-putting, or at least distracting, if sent first and by itself.
I don’t want to start setting story deadlines for myself, so I can’t be more clear. But hopefully “Name Game”, “Life is Good”, and (gulp) “The Greatest Story Never Told” will be ready for other eyes sometime this month. American Dream On is the priority, though, so no promises.