Something in one of the writing communities I follow caught my eye and I felt like saying a little something about it, because in a small way, it’s been life-changing.
Don’t wait until you “feel inspired,” because most of the time, you won’t.
A couple of years ago, I went through horrible writer’s block. Or at least, I thought that’s what it was. I now think that not understanding the above was my problem. Some of it was energy–or rather, a lack of it–because I was in college and a lot of the time I was busy. But I’m in grad school now and I’m still managing at least 500 words a day, and most of the time I’m doing two or three times that much. 500 is my hard minimum (unless I grant myself a rare day off) because I know that even at my most exhausted and cranky, I can do that much. But I’ve also discovered that most of the time, I can do a lot more. But the thing about this is that I rarely ever feel like I can. It’s not a flash of inspiration and a thrilling sense of drive. It’s sitting down with a blank space in front of me and filling it with something, even if I think that something is utter shit.
And the thing is, that also rarely happens now. Lots of times I’m not overjoyed by it, but I can tell that I have something that can at least be worked with. Minimum daily wordcounts are something I have fresh appreciation for, and editing is something else, though when I write I’m lucky enough to still usually get things that are at least two thirds complete on the first pass.
But yes, no more of waiting for inspiration. Because even if it comes initially, it often doesn’t stick around, and then the only thing to keep me going on is sheer bloody-minded determination. Stubbornness, even. This fucking thing is not going to beat me.
And something else I’ve discovered: I used to think that inspiration led to writing, but in the past year or so, I’ve discovered to my joy that writing usually leads to inspiration. I’m hammering away at the keyboard and then suddenly everything is wonderfully clear and I know what I have to do. Even if it’s just a second, a second is usually all it takes, and I’m set for the day. Sometimes, on very good days, what happens is enough to get me through a week.
I’m sure that for a number of you out there this is something you picked up early on, but for me it’s a relatively recent discovery, especially considering how long I’ve been writing, and the process of learning it and incorporating it into my daily life has been deeply satisfying. I don’t know to what degree I’ll do this professionally–academic writing, sure, but while I’ve been paid for creative stuff, I still don’t feel like I can call myself at all a pro–and in fact it may never be more than a hobby. But it’s something that’s been great fun to discover, and to rediscover.
I said above that even when I’m exhausted and cranky, I can still do 500 words; in truth, those are some of the times where I find my wind and can just keep going and going. Because maybe the most important thing I’ve discovered is that no matter how miserable I am about shit, writing usually has a funny way of making me feel okay again.
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