Thursday, April 18, 2013

The 64-Day Hypocrite

Some of you may have noticed a general theme in the blog of late—a sort of general purposefulness that it really lacked several months ago. Among these is the overall productivity of it. I've written more on the blog in the last two months than I have for a long time. Part of that's due to a class (I'm required to do it) and part of it's due to the excitement I started feeling about five months ago.

In October or November, I applied to go to a writing conference happening in February. I was so excited about the idea that I started brainstorming and outlining and (most importantly) writing for three solid months. It got pretty crazy—during January, I pumped out about 2000 words a day. And I was enjoying it.

There's nothing quite like the languor after doing things you love to do. Added to that was the feeling of completeness that comes when you remember that you do love it, and why. In short, it was a good month.

By mid-February, I had nearly 95,000 words of a manuscript. When I first outlined the book, I anticipated something close to 100,000 words in total; by the time I reached 95k, it was looking more and more like the book would round out at 150,000. I was okay with that, though. I could handle doing more of this. With the resurgence of schoolwork and social commitments, it had become harder, but I was willing and ready. Another 50,000 words was nothing.


After the conference, the writing stopped. My momentum deadened, and my zeal to complete the project petered out. I became more concerned with other, ostensibly more important things: homework, sleep, reading, video games. I kept telling myself I would return to the project and finish it, because that's what a writer has to do.

About 30 days after I'd stopped, I returned to the project and realized there were a number of things I needed to hammer out. Following an old personal tradition, I restarted the project, beginning with pre-writing. What followed was a long period of vacillating over fiddly world-building details, like the history of the setting and the mechanics of its magic, and vain attempts at character sketches. I'm not good at character, so sketches are an important step in the pre-writing.

So I hacked out the kinks in the magic system. I drafted possible character types, and supplemented those by ingesting really good character drama (read: watching the first few episodes of Friday Night Lights). And time passed, and I didn't write.

Day 40 came and went, and I didn't write.

Day 47 came, and I noticed, and I said, "I'm definitely not going to go fifty whole days without getting back to it."

(Because I needed to, and I knew that—cognitively, at least. I didn't know it in my gut anymore. I'd gone too long without it, so my body forgot ardor in favor of languor.)

Day 50 came, and I wrote...and then stopped. I gained no momentum. I couldn't have written much more than 500 words.

Day 51 came and went, and I didn't write.


As of this writing, I've gone about 64 days without returning to that fierce, reckless creative passion. That's 64 days of pure, stupid hypocrisy, because I've been pretty dogmatic about the idea that writer's block is an excuse, and a really, really poor one at that.

So I'm taking a more optimistic view. I'm not blocking up. I'm stocking up.

After a period of intense activity, the body must rest. So, too, it is with creating, I think, because creativity is a muscle. Going and going and going—and then going some more—is not feasible at my level. I'm not an Olympian of this craft. Not yet.

So this is a rest period, and it's temporary. I cannot allow it to be permanent. That is within my power. Continuing in the lackluster boredom—this paltry excuse for creativity—is not permitted.

Because I have found a thing man searches for his entire life: joyful effort. "Making things up and writing them down," as Gaiman says, is the first thing I've found that makes me itch.

This is the crucial thing. This is the heart of it. I have written out of shallow pleasure, out a desire to be admired, and out of a need to validate my childhood hobby. None suffice. They cannot sustain creativity, because there is nothing undergirding them—no skeleton, no true fire. They are shaped (vaguely) like the true thing, but the longer I look at them, the more they are revealed to be grotesqueries. They are not willing to endure when creation is boring, or when it is hard to create.

No, writing must come from the central place, from the nucleus of the impulse, purely from a love for creating things. It cannot be swayed by storm or, more deadly, by stillness. It will be work, and it will be lovely.

What now? That's simple.


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