I once heard artists described as ‘selfish’ people. This came from an artist. Having ruminated over this for a while, I can see where they were coming from. Most forms of art require a lot of focus and dedication, often at the expense of focus on the world (and its people) outside. Isn’t this the very definition of selfish? Being lost in one’s self?
There are a lot of negative connotations around selfishness, in fact I can only think of negative aspects of it, other than for the person who is being selfish of course. But maybe this is where art breaks through the selfish definition? I think of all those novels, songs and art which have given me so much joy. I am so grateful to those artists that they didn’t let family commitments or overdue friend catch-ups come between them and their art. I benefit daily from the artistic selfishness of others.
Perhaps the truly selfish thing for the artist to do would be to hold that creativity in so that no-one else gets to experience it? Maybe I need to get a bit more selfish to become less selfish? In summary; I need to write.
This time last year I had started my novel. The one I wrote in 4 months. This year I’m doing nothing, barely dragging myself to the computer to write a blog post. So I guess that answers the question about if my writing is seasonal.
There is no doubting that it is uncomfortable to sit down at a heat-generating computer in the middle of summer, but summer finished over a month ago now and I’m currently wearing a jumper. There must be another reason why I’m not writing.
I think the thing that gets me writing is faith. Faith that someone will want to read it once I’ve finished. I’m sorely lacking in faith at the moment. I floated one of my story ideas past a work colleague the other day. He clearly thought it was silly. I know he was a test market of just one, but I can’t help but thinking maybe I am the only person interested in my novel ideas?
I know the world is a big place, so there is a good chance I could find others who enjoy what I enjoy, but I think the market is small. That’s killing my faith. And it is so easy to lose myself in my imagination, uncovering stories while sitting on the lounge, or staring out the window on the bus, or in particularly boring meetings at work, so I’ll never have to go without them.
If I thought the world might miss out by not getting to share my stories I might be more motivated to write them down. I think that explains why I did exactly zero words this week.
It was tempting to take another week off, if only to avoid the 200+ spam emails that have come in over the last month, but I suspect that if I didn’t come back today I might never. So here I am!
Typically the New Year brings a lot of reflection and self-analysis; questions about where one wants to be at the end of the year. Well I took a break from that too. Don’t get me wrong, I made a list, but I made it far more open than just what I wanted to achieve this year, it was what I wanted to achieve ever. No time limits, no deadlines, no sense of failure to be felt if it wasn’t ticked off by the end of 2016.
In fact the things are not even written up in a way conducive to being ticked off. I wrote things sideways, upside down, in circles, along the edge of the page… I let my imagination run riot and I dared to dream big.
I think it is my favourite list ever. And there is a lot to be said for starting the year with a sense of hope and inspiration instead of feeling the pressure of self-imposed expectations.
I hope you year has started with positive feelings too. See you next week.
I have a very short fuse at the moment. Everyone is feeling it; friends, family, my computer (but in my defence the computer has seriously been provoking me this week). What’s even worse is I feel justified in every outburst, which is very out of character for me. The guilt module has apparently been uninstalled.
There is a lot of stress at work again, with 200 people being made redundant last month and a threat of more on the way. I’ve also managed to over-book my weekends, leaving the precious little time at home to be filled with unavoidable chores.
But I wonder if the stress is not really the cause of my grumpiness, after all, it is usually there in one form or other. I am starting to think it is the lack of writing.
True, the stress has impacted on the urge to write, but maybe when I have been turning away from the computer I should actually be turning to it? It is like when you start feeling sad, so you avoid going out, but when you do get forced to go out you realise it is the best medicine for your sadness. I think writing might actually be my stress outlet.
So I will say no to a few people this week (lucky for the guilt un-installation), turn the phone off, detach the internet, unplug the TV and force myself to write. I will commit to Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday ALL morning. Let’s see if this is the kick-start that starts to improve my mood as well as my productivity.
A couple of months ago I was working on my novel nearly every night and each day of the weekend. Now I rarely ever turn my computer on at home. I’d like to try and blame it on external factors; work is very full on and stressful, I’ve been really busy… but I know that those things applied equally a couple of months ago too, but I worked around them.
Is it possible that sometimes you just need a break?
While I was in swing of things with writing my previous novel it felt like I had completely changed my attitude to writing and this new method was going to stick. I even blogged about it. The moment I finished the novel all drive dried up.
A writing friend of mine was going through a non-writing period at the same time I was going through my burst, her energy was instead directed into a different creative pursuit. She is now writing again, and I don’t think it is just that we are sharing the same writing daemon and he can only be in one house at a time.
I can feel the stir of anticipation as I start to get into the next project. Maybe this month off was necessary to cut ties with the last piece so I could dedicate myself to the next. Or maybe I just needed a break?
Every time I sit down to write I begin with three games of Freecell. The only time I play Freecell is before I write. This was a conscious ‘habit’ that I forced myself into so that on those days when I don’t want to write, my games of Freecell tell my brain that it has no choice; writing is about to happen because it ALWAYS happens after three games of Freecell.
Some days I want to jump straight into the writing, but I still play the Freecell. Some days I can feel myself dragging the games out so that it will take me longer to get to the writing bit, but there always is a writing bit. I can honestly say that many times the Freecell has been the difference between getting words on the page and staring into space for an hour. It works.
So if you often find yourself lost for motivation or inspiration, just start programming yourself instead so you no longer rely on those –ations. Habit is reliable, hard to break once it is set, and something every writer should get into if they ever want to finish that novel.
If I asked myself why I write, the only answer I could give is that I need to set free the stories that haunt me. If I don’t write them they keep coming back and dance at the edge of my imagination. I like to be haunted by them, but I also like to see how they end. When the stories are doing their haunting-thing it is usually only the middle bits and I always want to know more.
If I asked myself why is it important that I get them published, well that’s a question I don’t find so easy to answer. It feels like I just want to share them with others. I enjoy them, so I think others will too. In a genre where it is considered a ‘good sale’ if you get $20 for your short stories I can definitely say I’m not doing it for the money. I just want them to be read by other people. It’s like giving them life again.
I sometimes wonder if I quit writing would it all go away? I’m not just talking about the haunting, but the guilt when I don’t write, the desire to share my ideas, the joy at watching a character develop. Could I be satisfied with a life bereft of those things? I don’t think so, I’m certainly not willing to try it.
Will I one day find a balance between doing what I love and earning a living? I hope so. I don’t want to have to wait for retirement to get the bulk of my writing done. Often the most important things are only gained through risk and sacrifice. I think it might be time for some long, hard thinking about what is important…
A while ago I mentioned I was going to try a new method of writing where I was to focus on one project at a time. The thinking behind it was that I was meant to be inspired to finish my current project so I could move onto a new one.
It hasn’t worked.
I’ve been stuck on the one project since January, and it is making extremely slow progress. I’ve felt massive pulls to other projects, but I rejected them because of my new philosophy. Must… finish… current… project… Ugh!
I broke my rule last week and wrote an entire short story. It just slipped out of me, from start to finish in one sitting. It felt great. And it made me realise that one project at a time just doesn’t seem to work for me.
I might revisit this idea at a time when I have a bigger abundance of time to work on my writing. At the moment I want to get the most writing-bang for my writing time buck. So if that means working on what I feel inspired to work on, then so be it. So it looks like I might start spreading myself too thin over multiple projects again…
Then again, perhaps I picked the wrong first project?
I’m doing my annual read of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ –this book always inspires me to write more. In one part of the book King talks about how after his accident he found that none of his usual tricks worked to get him writing. He doesn’t actually detail what his tricks are, and I think that is because the tricks are things that you set up that work for you, no-one can make them up for you.
Let me give you an example; when I can’t write I play three games (no more, no less) of Freecell. It was a habit I forcefully set some years ago where I only EVER allowed myself to play Freecell before I wrote. If I played the game I had to write. This programmed me to get ready to write any time I play Freecell. It works beautifully.
But it doesn’t have to be habitual programming, I’ve heard of lots of tricks that writers use to get them writing; have a conversation with your protagonist about anything, write a back-story scene that you are never going to use, write the most exciting scene in your story even if you are not yet up to that, type whatever words come into your mind about any topic, write freehand while laying on the lounge. There are as many tricks as there are writers.
I’m into NLP, hypnotherapy and psychology, so I like the idea of programming myself to get over these humps, hence setting the Freecell habit at a time when the writing was going well. But if you are not into that, experiment to find the trick that works for you, and be prepared to think outside the box – it may be a location or type of tea that gets you writing. Just remember, if the trick you are trying takes you away from writing it is not a successful trick. There is a big difference between something inspiring you (like watching a move) and something getting you to sit down at the page and write.
It has been said many times that writing is a lonely occupation. Many of us who write talk about the difficulty of sitting down at a computer and actually putting words on the page. You have to make a lot of sacrifices; skip social events, let the garden go, ignore the dishes and deny yourself relaxation time. That is a big ask for what sometimes seems like a little reward; some words on a page.
This is where your motivation really comes into play. If you want to see your name in print, or earn millions of dollars, then pretty quickly you will crash and burn. Those things take years, and you can spend a lifetime writing and still not be guaranteed of achieving either fame or fortune – even if you are good!
If you want the satisfaction of writing a novel, then you will probably find that slow and steady will see you through. I have a lot of friends who have a novel bouncing around inside them and they just want to get it written. These, I think, are the most successful writers when it comes to personal satisfaction.
Then you get writers like me. I don’t have just one novel in my head, I have a library of them. I have actually finished writing two novels, but the satisfaction of doing so is fleeting. I have barely typed ‘The End’ and sneakily printed off a copy at work before I start stressing about finishing one of the other novels (I can’t even say next novel, there are just too many to know which one should be next).
After so many years I’m finding a mixed up motivation issue. I’ve come to the realisation that they will never all be finished, so I go through long periods of writing lethargy where I figure ‘why bother’ – but then I also get haunted by everything from a flying obsidian dog to a boy who thinks cat poo smells like perfume. I have to let them out or they are going to drive me mad.
I guess that means that I’m going to be a writer forever, whether I like it or not.