July 22, 2017

P1020698(4)

I shared a tune a while ago by Canadian folkists, The East Pointers, and I’m going to share another one today. I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you’re into instrumental folk music, as they always brighten my day whenever I listen to them. This one is called Cold, which it certainly is in Melbourne today.

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Current chain of writing days: 5

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My chain of writing days is once more in single digits.

This has happened for a number of reasons. The first is that last weekend I was exceptionally busy. From getting up last Saturday to going to sleep I was nonstop and while I could have set my alarm an hour earlier to write before it all kicked off, my heart wasn’t in it (it wanted sleep instead). Sunday was much the same, and when I finally did make it home my head was too dry and exhausted to try and squeeze any juice out of it.

The second reason is that I’ve hit a bit of a wall in the story I’m currently working on. It’s the one I revamped a few weeks ago and for the most part it was going along really well, but now I’m not so sure. Mostly, I think I’m overthinking it. This one is a horror novella that will be paired with three other novellas written by my podcasting pals, Sean, Gabe, and Tom, with the plan for us to put them all together as an anthology novel which we’ll then sell to any interested parties. Like I said I’m fairly confident my brain was doing me a disservice by second guessing itself at every given opportunity, and I even think I know the cause. This work already has an audience. Granted, the audience is (for now) just my mates, but even still, that’s new. In the past when I’ve written it’s just been for me and if it turned out to be the kind of garbage-writing even actual garbage wouldn’t be friends with, well, I didn’t have to show it to anybody. So, this series of facts  has caused me to slow down as well.

The final reason is that I just got into a mental lull. A day or two off had been building over the last few weeks as my brain had been making it hard to give up the goods whenever I sat down to write. I was still getting words down, and some of them were nice, but it was becoming more of a challenge, and I found myself dreading trying to pull sentences from my mind. So, that’s what I thought I would talk about today, the idea of someone who wants to be a writer temporarily not wanting to write.

From all the writerly blogs I follow and articles I read I am assured that this often happens, even to some of the most respected writers, but I still find it a hard thing to accept. Not only is it frustrating, there’s also an attached guilt for not having reached my daily word limit. I think part of the issue is that I’m so new to the practice. This makes it tougher to know if I’m going through a lull, or if I’m just being lazy, or if I don’t have what it takes. Without the decades of practice behind me it’s harder to say, ‘Oh, it’s a lull, I just need to wait it out.’ Ultimately though, that’s what I think it is.

It happens, we’re in a constant flow of ups and downs, cycles and spirals, which means there are days where I just need to give myself a break (this goes for all things, not just writing). The challenge is to recognise that I’m riding a downward slope and then put things on pause until I start riding back up again. Wait until my internal chemistry reconfigures so that I once more feel up to the task.

Of course, the question then becomes what to do why you’re waiting. This I don’t have a good answer for. Twiddling my thumbs while I wait for my mojo to come back is just as frustrating as not having the mojo in the first place, especially if there’s a time limit on the project. Like I said I don’t have a great answer but what I have been doing is writing through the problem, by which I mean writing down my train of thought as though I’m talking to myself. I put down on the page a literal conversation where I address all the issues I’m currently having with the story, give them form and, if possible, answers. Sometimes it can lead to real breakthroughs, other times it can shine a light on where the problem lays – in this case, my overthinking. By writing down all my concerns I could see that most of them could be solved with the simple adage, fix it in the second draft.

So, that’s where I am. I’m not completely through the lull but it’s rising (putting out this blog is some proof of that) and I hope it will continue rising, at least until the next lull, because that’s the important thing to remember; there will always be a next one, and that’s okay.

In the meantime I have a new personal best in the day’s-written-in-a-row category, which is sixty. It’s my new number to beat. Might as well start now.

Talk soon

Damian

April 19, 2017

19:04:2017

Today’s beats come to us from Canadian folk group The East Pointers. I use their music to write to as they do a lot of great instrumental tracks, however this one, Work That Way, does have lyrics as well.

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Current chain of writing days: 19

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I’ve been working on quite a few things recently. My WriEvDaFoAM (write every day for a month – I know, an acronym that you have to explain might not be doing its job) is progressing along well and because of that I’m getting things done. I’ve recently finished a short story that ended up turning itself into a novelette. Stories can be interesting like that. However, I haven’t edited it yet and so in the thinning down process it could well transform itself back into the short story I originally thought it would be. I’ve also started a few new projects. In addition to writing a minimum of 600 words everyday I’ve also decided to spread that 600+ words over multiple projects. This decision came after attending a screenwriters talk and having a chat with a few fellow writers afterwards. We got onto the topic of how each of us write. Some spoke about how they have to work on a multiple of things at once, some preferred having two projects they were working on at a time, and some, like me, focused solely on a single project; taking it completely from start to finish until moving on to the next thing. Interestingly this was a pretty even divide, proving once again that there’s no one way to do a thing. This got me thinking about my method and caused me to question if it’s the best way for me to do things.

Working on a single project at a time does have some pros. It usually means that individual project is completed faster as forcing yourself to keep writing the same piece every time you sit down naturally means it’s getting more hours of the day dedicated towards it. Maths. Likewise, having only the one project to work on means I’m more likely to obsess over it a bit, forcing my brain to work through idea after idea for it until it becomes the best it it can be. However, it also means that when I hit a wall with that story nothing’s getting done, no new words are being written. Ultimately, that’s why I decided to mix things up a bit. Hitting a wall with a story is, from my short experience, unavoidable. You never know the exact shape of a story – even if you’ve planned it all out things have a way of changing once you start writing – and so part of the process is wading into the mud of your mind and trying to sculpt something tangible and solid to continue the story (note: this is just a metaphor, mud is a terrible medium to sculpt with). Meaning that there will be times where you simply don’t know what comes next. You might know the bit that happens after whatever will come next, but you still need to get there, and you want to get there in the way that best serves the story. So, you hit a wall. I think this is a good thing, it just means you now have something to mull over. But here’s the thing. Turns out this ‘ol brain of mine is capable of doing two things at once, sometimes even three! I know! Amazing. So, while in the past I would focus hard on that mulling – mull away like a champion – now I’m minimize that word doc and opening another where, still amazingly, the mulling doesn’t get in the way of other writing. Arguably it even helps as my consciousness is focused on a new problem leaving my subconscious to work out the old one.

This learning how to write thing is a continual process, but that’s also the fun of it. It will take a lifetime to master – if not longer – which means I’ll always have something to do. I find that very comforting for some reason.

Alright, well I best get on with it. Lots to do.

Talk soon

Damian