Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If You Want to Write....Then Write

This is as much a post to kick myself in the pants (which requires more flexibility than I really have, especially when wearing these jeans) as it is a word of encouragement to you writer-folk out there.

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I often find that my "muse" (such as it is) is very cyclical.  I go through stages of obsessive inspiration.  For a few weeks or months at a time, I'll be itching to write a story; during that period, the only thing that really holds my interest is working on fiction, and everything else feels like terrible drudgery.  Then that inspiration will dry up a little and my left brain will take over, leading me to getting massive waves of inspiration for more technical things -- non-fiction articles, or research or social media networking.  Then all I'll want to do is roleplay online with a few friends, or read, or watch Buffy on DVD for the zillionth time.

The problem with this, of course, is that you can't really afford to give in to these urges.   All the successful writers will tell you that if you want to be serious, you have to practice "butt in chair, words on the keyboard" regular (if not daily) writing habits.  And, of course, when you're writing for a living, be it articles or short stories, if you don't put words to paper, you don't get paid.

But the corollary of this is also true.  If you're feeling an insane, manic urge to work on something that you're not supposed to be doing...you might be better off just doing it.  If every second that you're sitting there working on one project, all you can do is wish you were working on something else...maybe you time is better spent just pulling it up and starting it.  Otherwise, you end up wasting your entire day wishing you were working, which is entirely unproductive -- you don't do what you want to do, but you don't do much of anything else, either.

When inspiration strikes, you're better off just setting down what you're doing and scribbling out whatever it is that you want to do.  Get it off your chest.  Devote an hour or something to getting the thing in your brain down on paper so that you can relax and go back to whatever you're supposed to be doing.

That's my theory, anyway.  Then again, maybe I'm just telling myself that because I'm too busy daydreaming to concentrate on the roughly infinite number of insurance articles I have to plow through this week....

...But, anyway, what about you guys?  Do you give in to inspiration when it strikes, or do you tell it to take a number and wait its turn?  Do you find that it affects your productivity or the quality of your output one way or the other?

((Incidentally, about these jeans.  Here's a valuable piece of advice:  when an in-law asks you what your pants size is, don't tell them something two sizes too small.  Yes, I know that you feel super self-conscious and you don't want to actually admit to your significant other's family that you really do wear that size, but you'll feel like an idiot when you have to shimmy and squirm to get into your new Christmas present.  And you will have to wear them.  Not only because you're expected to show up in them at the next family function...but because, one day, you will have no laundry money and the only pair of clean pants anywhere in the house will be the dreaded skinny jeans.  Just trust me on this one.))


  1. There seems to be a lot of this going around. Kat (also from Absolute Write) was just blogging about the same problem here:http://katharinabrendel.blogspot.se/

    I have the same problem of being fickle about my projects. It's hard to stick to a project when I keep getting inspiration for new projects.

    My instincts tell me that the best thing to do is take a planned break from a project for a pre-determined amount of time. Get up and do other stuff, then hopefully you have your mojo back when you return. It's just important that you really do sit down and get back to it after the break time is over. I'm going to give that a try, so I'll see how it goes. Then again, I'm an amateur, so I don't have to worry about deadlines like you do.

    1. Time management is really one of my worst skills. Every day is a learning experiment. You're quite right, though -- the real trick is to make sure you get back on track after distractions (whether chasing plot bunnies or posting on Facebook).

    2. Hehe, chasing plot bunnies. :-D

  2. Ahh, here it was that Runebug was shamelessly promoting my blog ;) Thank you again for coming by!
    I definitely get you about the muse cycle! I must say that until now I have been lucky enough that since my story has gripped me I have not been distracted by others. If something else does pop in my mind I might try to write it down a little. But I don't want to stop on this WIP because I unfortunately have a bad not-seeing-things-through habit and would be afraid never to finish it at all!
    Oh, and I will definitely follow your advice about the jeans ;)