Up, down, up, down, in and out, and roundabout.
Yep, it’s one of those mornings. Like many writers, I spend an inordinate amount of time griping about the fact that I don’t have enough time to write. And yet there are times, like today, when I have a good stretch of a few hours – enough to write, oh, say, about 4,000 words – and I can’t seem to sit still. I fidget, squirm, sit on one leg, chew a nail, everything but concentrate. Perhaps that LARGE mug of coffee wasn’t the best idea in the world!
Oh, look, there’s another email. Which reminds me, I need to get back to so-and-so… And I need to look up that site I promised to review… And the cats need feeding… And the dishwasher needs emptying… And I’m feeling peckish again….
So many things I could spend my morning on. And, to crown it all, I have a brand new IMac on my desk so I now have an excuse to look through my ITunes library, try my hand at composing music with GarageBand and import my photos from that ancient laptop. Agh!
And, to top it all off, Raw Attraction Magazine is looking for another article.
In all honesty, apart from the obvious distractions, there are a few other things I’ve learned about myself and my writing process since taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge.
The first was a bit of a surprise. I’m a regular article writer, mainly for Elephant Journal and Raw Attraction, and I’ve always considered articles to be part of my therapy work as they fall broadly under spirituality, relationship and self-help categories. But, after several days of focussed novel-writing, I can feel the pull to spend time writing articles instead and I’m realising that they play another role for me as well. They are part of my desire for instant gratification. Hmm.
See, I’ve never been the most patient person in the world. With myself, that is. I can be incredibly patient with others but when it comes to myself, when I want it, I want it NOW! And articles play to that desire, with the potential for a quick hit and instant feedback. Novels, on the other hand, take sustained effort not only to write but also to edit, choose covers for, publish and market. So while I enjoy the process of writing novels, my impatience has been creeping in this week, hidden under the guise of article-writing. Do I give in or resist? Both, I suspect. I’ll probably end up borrowing time from some other source (like my quickly-evaporating exercise routine) to write more.
Another thing I’ve been learning about my writing process is that it’s not predictable. Some days, I can sit at the desk at the designated time and write consistently for a few hours. Other days, I can sit at the desk, stare out the window, agonise over words and end up writing only a few hundred words. But then, I’ll be winding down for bed and all I can feel is the pull of the computer and my imagination. Creativity has no time limits or sense of propriety. I’ve scribbled on the back of napkins when I’ve gone out without a pad. I’ve stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the office, wanting to forget that I haven’t seen my lover all day and feeling guilty at how much I really just want to write. I’ve started novels I had never planned, writing thousands of words and leap-frogging my carefully planned timetable for which books were going to get precedence. And, conversely, I’ve abandoned writing projects I had spent enthusiastic weeks on. I’m learning, with humility, that I can’t timetable my creativity and that forcing myself to write when it’s not flowing is counter-productive. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder whether I can even claim that the creativity is mine or whether it is a universal creativity which is just turned on and off by some greater force, to which I happen to be tuned into at certain times.
I’m also learning, though, that writing something everyday is as essential for me as moving. When I don’t write, I get irritable, frustrated, edgy. I resent the life which I normally love, feeling as if it’s not delivering the satisfaction I hunger for. And then I remember. Ah yes, it’s been two days since I last wrote. So I write and all is right again with the world.
But one of the most astonishing things I’m learning is that I don’t stretch myself enough. I know some writers agonise over their work, delaying its release until they are almost 100% happy with every single detail. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m not talking about the detail. I’m talking more about the level of creativity that goes into the art of writing. Because novel-writing is a slower process than writing articles, I’m discovering deeper and deeper levels of creativity. I write a chapter and then start to question whether it could be written differently, whether the characters could do something more interesting, or be more quirky – or whether there is even a way of totally changing the presentation to some new novel format that hasn’t been tried yet. Like artists who forged new schools of painting, I can’t help looking for new ways to write that might fire the imagination. (Just for the record, I haven’t yet arrived at a satisfactory result on that one which would both serve a creative purpose while not alienating readers).
For now, though, I’ll keep going – balancing my ability to write in the time available with my need to write at unavailable times. And trying to avoid setting ITunes on shuffle (I just end up singing along and forgetting that I’m supposed to be writing). After all, I’m more than half way to the monthly target and have every intention of having an edited manuscript to end 2014 with.
And I’ll handle the allure of instant gratification offered by self-publishing at that stage.