Ahh, the dreaded "M" word.
Every writer struggles with it at some time, and I probably do more than most. I'm rounding the turnaround point on my month long hiatus from writing, and actually finding myself itching to get back to it.
Chuck Wendig over at terribleminds.com is of a no nonsense (terrible?) mind when it comes to writing. He says you just do it, get up the next morning, and do it again.
Great, but I've found that the work I put out when I do that is....umm.....how do I say this eloquently....shit.
My philosophy is this-try the 9-5 creative thing. If the regimen works for you, great. If not, then you are not meant to be a columnist, article writer, or uber-blogger. I, however, aspire to be none of these things. I aspire to write one or two novels a year, and hope to gain a modest fan base that enjoy my work.
I write because I enjoy it, and have no intention of quitting my day job until I reach the incredibly unlikely threshold of $120k/year in profit-not likely anytime soon, if ever.
In essence, have realistic expectations. It's kinda like my current exercise/eating healthier commitment. I realize that the more I eat, the more I need to work out to burn it off. If I eat reasonably, and work out, over the course of the next few months I will lose weight. If I continue to eat like I have been the past few months, I'm pretty much going to have to quit my job and run cross country non-stop like Forrest Gump to see any kind of results in that time frame. But I had to get to the point where I was in the right frame of mind to stick with it.
With practice, you may find that writing becomes easier, and that you are able to continue to write longer and longer each day, to be able to stay on task and produce workable copy. Don't get me wrong, that's awesome. If you can do that, rock out......however you choose to, I guess.
I can go two weeks without writing, sit down, and bust out 7500 words in one night, then go for a few thousand more later in the week, and I find myself generally happy with what I come up with. Which also means less rewrites in the end, and in the end it all comes out in the wash fairly equal to the drill sergeant 2000 words a day philosophy.
You may ask, "Is there anything I can do to cultivate my creativity between bursts of writing?"
Absolutely. I have several projects going at any one time, and I alternate between them to keep my creative juices flowing. I alternate between writing, graphic design, 3D CGI, compositing, Audio work for upcoming audiobooks, and even mix in the occasional hardware hack or xbox controller customization.
The point is to find something that you enjoy, to take your mind away from your story. Some writers will say to bang out the story balls to the wall, hide the finished manuscript in your house for three months, then come back to it to rewrite with fresh eyes. I say mix it up when you are writing, and not only will your story require LESS time in rewrites, it will also not drive you absolutely bat-shit insane in the process.
Which brings me to another thing. When in this country did we decide that the only way to get better at something is to idiotically bang your head against it perpetually? As if you are trying to find the cure for cancer, and the decide that the best way to go about it is to forgo sleep and work at it continually for 22 hours a day, only stopping for potty breaks?
I posted a status update the other day that fits with this well, it went as follors, "Hard work is no longer the sole currency of the realm. It has given way to ideas.".....or something like that. I may not have it exactly word for word, but the spirit of the insight remains.
Sure, I could look it up, but I'm not Fox News, having to defend my bullshit to the Daily Show because a Comedy Central show can see through it, my bullshit is water tight, son. My bullshit is unassailable.
Getting back to my point, is that hard work is important, but it's nothing without ideas. Ask any person in a very physically demanding career like construction, janitorial work, cleaning, etc, how hard they work versus how much they make. I'll save you some time-they work damn hard for an amount that is not equitable to the amount of abuse their bodies take on year after year. Someone has to do these jobs, and they have every ounce of my respect for showing up every day, don't get me wrong.
Then ask a marketing exec. Ask a movie star, ask an artist, ask a singer, a writer, or a programmer. These are all positions, that depending on how easily their ideas come to them, hard work is less important. Inspiration allows you to go from A to B to Z overnight, and while work remains to implement those jumps, once they are done more money can be made than the higher labor positions will ever make.
I hope you caught the metaphor I clumsily wove into the preceding two paragraphs, but i will distill the essence below as it pertains to my philosophy on writing.
If you are looking for that great idea, that plotline that will make everyone stop in the checkout line at the grocery store and say to their children, "That, kids, is a great writer", you need to let your brain breathe. You need to let your ideas air out and grow into something useful.
You can mindlessly type words upon words, not really saying anything but content with the fact that you are arranging letters in unique patterns for six hours a day, but in the end, that's all you will be doing, is filling a page with letters.
Fill the page with a STORY. Fill the page with emotion, characters so lifelike that you worry about running into the villains in a dark alley at night and long for the presence of the hero at your weekly poker(guys)/lingerie(girls) party. Put some damn THOUGHT into it.
Your characters and readers will thank you, and wait impatiently for the next well thought out, articulate and compelling thing you have to say. More importantly, they will buy it and tell their friends how brilliant you are, how you must be in the secret room of your writing loft, safely tucked away in an alternate dimension conjuring well thought out stories on the first pass as fast as your fingers can type.
It's okay, let them think that. Let them think it while you remember to have a life, to have the experiences that actually INSPIRE your writing, that fuel it.
And enjoy your children a little more, and enjoy yourself more when you do sit down to fire off that chapter that literally writes itself because it is so compelling.
PS-Those of you that are merely happy filling pages, let me hook you up. Once you get a suitably large block of text written. Click at the top of it, highlight it by dragging your mouse pointer over it, then press the CTRL+C buttons on your keyboard. Unhighlight the paragraph, place the cursor blow it, and repeatedly press CTRL+V until you explode with joy from the sheer number of words you've created in record time. You're welcome.