Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Writing is such a funny thing. I would bet that almost any writer would say that have times of inspiration. These are not just the moments that a great plot idea occurs to you, but also those times when words just seem to flow forth in perfect rhythm. This is when I feel like I can churn out 3 books a year, that I can be a published author, that I can write multi-volume epics. And it's a fantastic feeling. Yet I would bet that almost any writer would say that you can't rely on these. You can't only write during these periods of inspiration. I know that if I waited for them to get any writing done, I'd be probably getting about one night of writing in a month. Not a recipe for success!

So if it's not pure inspiration that gets the writing done, is it nose-to-the-grindstone daily forcing? Isn't that a true adage--that to get any writing done, you have to WRITE, so ass in chair, get moving. Whether or not you're inspired, whether you can think of where the story is going, just write something. This is undeniably a useful tool, especially for projects that aren't for "fun." For reports, or articles, or letters, or whatever we need to write but don't really want to. But I would say that this is not a great route for writing your next great novel. Sure, you'll probably produce some words. But will you be happy with them? Or maybe you won't even produce--I know some of my worst cases of writer's block are when I am sitting at the computer telling myself that OMGIMUSTWRITESOMETHINGRIGHTNOW.

If it's not flashes of inspiration or pure daily grinding, how do we ever get any meaningful amount of writing done? I posit that it is through momentum. (I feel that I must clarify that I am speaking entirely in the vernacular sense of the words, as this has nothing to do with mass or velocity!) We must take those moments of inspiration and ride them for as long as possible. If I wrote every day for the past four days, including a good multi-thousand word day, then I feel okay about sitting down and writing a bit today. My personal daily goal is 800, and that's not a terrible lot. It's easy to do when I'm riding that momentum of getting ahead. It gets hard when I fall behind.

I'm not really talking about forming a habit, because last I heard that takes something like two weeks. Maybe that's possible for other people, but it'd be a cold month in hell when I got time to write every day around the same time for 2 weeks! So it's not really a habit. It's just knowing that if I did something already, I can do it again. So when I have 2 days in a row that I don't write, it's a momentum-killer. Even if it's for perfectly legitimate reasons--for example, flying across the country, like I did on Sunday--it just murders my writing. The next time I sit down after an extended absence, even one as short as 2 days, I feel overwhelmed. I think about all the writing I didn't do and wonder how I will ever catch up. I feel so obligated to produce more than usual that my writing often comes out forced and stilted (similar to "grindstone" writing).

I'm battling a bit of a momentum loss right now, and it's very frustrating. Here's to hoping that I get a new burst of inspiration soon that will propel me for a few more days!

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