|a.pitch via Flickr|
It was a busy, if unproductive, month. Four people came to stay with B and me, total, meaning we had at least one house guest, and usually two, at any given time. My mask of nice-normal-sociable-human-being began to wear and chip away by the end, leaving me twitching and smiling too bright, like a malfunctioning robot. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I am glad to return to an empty house.)
I didn't do a good job of fitting writing into the cracks of all of this. Superhero novel looms on the horizon, and my August 1st short story deadline smacked me in the face. And not for the reason you might think.
See, I learned a lot about my writing-self this month, the most important lesson being: I can sit and force myself to write words all day long, but I’m still not going to have a story at the end of the day, if I’m not inspired.
I know most writing advice tells you to just write. Just get it out. You can fix it later. But this is a simplistic watering down of writing-craft, to be honest. Because, yes, sometimes forcing it can lead to inspiration. But more often than not, forcing it breaks everything. If the core of your story is wrong at the beginning, it will be wrong at the end, and there is no fixing that. There is only deleting that and starting over. And maybe this kind of backward work is still good work—I learned one way not to write the story, yay—but it seems inefficient to me. I’d much rather get the bones of the story right the first time.
I have to know why I’m writing a story for it to turn out well. It’s an instinct. A resonance in my own core. The story has to mean something to me personally, or it will be empty and purposeless.
This story that I forced myself to write meant nothing.
And the reason is simple. I haven't been reading enough. I haven't been writing or thinking about writing enough. The creative cogs ground to a halt, and as a result, when I sat down to write, I got nothing but dust and grit. Creativity is a momentum. You have to add a little bit of fuel to it every day to keep it moving. You don’t have to write masterpieces every day. I’d argue that you don’t even have to create every day, but you do have to put time to the idea of it. You have to read critically, or brainstorm, or sift through columns of advice. You have to search for inspiring images, or take long walks, or go on artist dates with yourself to places you’ve never been with the express purpose of finding inspiration. You have to actively engage with your creativity on some level every day for it to stay lush and ripe.
And then, when that deadline comes calling, you can sit and write your masterpiece.
Or at least the bare bones of one.