I meant to post hours ago, though I hadn’t quite decided what to write about for today. It’s funny really (at least to me). Part of what we talk about as writers, part of what Catie’s post from yesterday (and my reply) was getting at, is the fact that when writing is a job you write on demand all the time. None of this waiting for inspiration stuff. I sit down at my computer in the morning, knowing that I’ll be working on Chapter Whatever, taking characters x and y from this place to that place. You get my meaning. I write what I have to write everyday.
But when it comes to writing blog entries, I sometimes find that my mind just goes blank. I don’t know what to write. My mind was filled with Super Tuesday stuff this morning, but I didn’t want to bring in more political stuff to this site. And I had nothing else on my mind.
So I got to work, and promised myself that I’d blog later. I’ve been working on this story for a couple of weeks now. I’ve known generally what was going to happen, and I’ve been excited about where I thought the story was going. But I’m not used to writing short fiction, and I was having trouble getting past the middle section of the piece. Some stories are like that, I guess, just like some books are like that. Sometimes the words just flow, and other times it’s a real slog, and it’s not always clear to me what it is that’s slowing me down.
Anyway, today, at last, I broke through. I hadn’t written more than a page or two in any of the last nine days working on this thing. Today I wrote eight pages — two thousand words. As I said, I don’t know what was holding me back before, and I don’t know what changed today, but suddenly I was just writing. And maybe that’s the secret. At some point I stopped thinking about the story; I stopped trying to make something happen. Instead, I listened. I listened to myself and I listened to my characters. Rather than trying to impose my will on the story, I gave in to it and let it guide me toward what I think will be a pretty good ending. And as soon as I did that — as soon as I stopped pushing and just let it flow — everything became easier.
Yes, to be successful in this profession, you have to apply butt to chair and write. You can’t wait for the Muse. But neither can you push your creativity in specific directions, at least not all the time. This is a job. It’s also art, a creative process. There’s a balance that each of us has to find. I know authors who swear that you really can control every part of the writing process, who control their characters and plot and know exactly where their stories and books are going from start to finish. I know others who just write — no outline, nothing more than a vague sense of where the project should go. I’m somewhere in between. I make myself write each day, but when I try to grip a story too hard it fights me. For me at least, writing is both an act of discipline and an exercise in relinquishing control.
Anyway, it worked today. I wrote and wrote, and completely lost track of the time. And that’s why my post is late.