Seventeenth in the 1K a Day Motivational Series, in which I talk about something that happened in the previous week that could have or did prevent me from writing a minimum of 1,000 words on a given day, or possibly talk about something that provided support to get me through the day. Or just rant, as I’m going to do today.
I do a lot of talking in these Motivationals that’s negative. Perhaps that’s a good focus, since most people I talk to about writing who are in the early stages of learning the craft are often looking for the negative stuff. They don’t need the “here’s what helped me and motivated me” but “here’s how I got over the block”. And that’s fine. It’s very hard to move beyond the initial excitement of starting a new project, or a new challenge, until you’ve done it a couple times.
And then it’s still difficult as hell. Every story of sufficient length I’ve written has hit those middle doldrums. That point wherein I look at what I’ve done and say “what am I doing?”
And in the past I have quit. My first attempt got to about 100 pages and then I lost interest. My second attempt I got to maybe 30 pages and chased some other dragon for a while.
But I came back to one of those and it became my first novel. I don’t even know how to describe that feeling of just knowing I had the novel in me and that this time I was going to claw my way to the top and grab that fucker by the throat, choke-slam that bastard to the dirt, and get my novel written. It was a 45-day sprint. I wrote most of another novel in the days to come, but never finished it, either. Then my second completed novel was done in 25 days.
The third took six months. The fourth is looking to be the same. I’ve worked on others in the meantime. Why does one stick and another slides down the wall like so much blood splatter?
The short answer is: Because I let it. The long answer is: Because I didn’t have the discipline, or the inspiration, or both, to keep it going.
You have to have one of those to be working. At least, I do. The problem with discipline is that you might be consistently writing, but you’re not writing consistently. By that I mean you’re not always churning out the inspired, wonderful, memorable, emotional scenes. But you’re getting the work in. You’re getting the story out. And all of that can be fixed in post.
The problem with inspiration is it’s fleeting. You can’t rely on it to complete a project. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Maybe those projects you lost the inspiration for weren’t good enough, anyway. Or you weren’t good enough for them, yet. Hard to say.
The obvious thing here that would be nice is to have both at the same time. To have the discipline to write on a consistent basis to completion, and to have that ephemeral, unknowable “inspiration” that seems to guide your fingers across the keys, or your pen across the page, or your tongue over the blood on the walls. Whatever works for you.
Getting both at the same time is incredibly challenging. But now that I’ve been consistently writing for over four months, I find the inspiration comes easier. I start writing and within a few minutes I’m back on track and everything’s gravy. On fries. Poutine. It’s a thing.
You may not always be able to write to the best of your ability, but if you want to be that thing in your mind that amalgamates a “writer”, you need to write. The discipline is more important than the inspiration in my world, but they’re both there.
Put the words to screen, to paper, to wall, whatever you have to do. Get your discipline, get your inspiration. Get ’em to go. Have a taco and some cheese fries with that.
And always remember to write the hell on, writers.