Friday, September 17, 2010

Discipline vs. Inspiration in Writing

It's September, which is usually a fun and exciting writing time for me. The Other Worlds Writers' Workshop sponsors a Short Story in a Week challenge throughout the month, which is a hoot and something I really look forward to. However, this month has been a challenge of a different sort.

The well is a bit dry of words this time out. This tends to make it harder to write...

I could blame it on the very real and intense schedule I've been keeping the past several months, which has sucked up most of my creative energy. I'm tired, cranky, and really need a vacation. But life is life, and I want to write anyway, so here I sit, staring at the page and the two lists of required words, hoping inspiration will strike. This is not, generally, the best way to progress.
It is sooooooo much more fun when the great idea strikes from nowhere and you risk breaking bones in the dash back to the house to get at writing utensils. I remember scribbling on the backs of paper plates on a camping trip because that's all there was and I needed needed needed to capture the moment.

Ah, the good old days!

To be a writer is to face up to the fact that it's hard. To develop the discipline necessary to finish a story, or a novel, or a proposal, or a synopsis, you have to turn off the "maybe later" gene and just do it. Words will not fill the screen by themselves, even when the muse is red-hot eager to work with you. I picked at one long story for days the first week, and poured out a second in less than four hours. Then the muse went back to bed and I only managed one (semi-decent) story in Week 2. Since it came from a leisurely walk down to the old stone house a mile or so from my house, I really need to remember the value of downtime.

Is it good to push? I think so. Giving in to "later" is like deciding you don't want to work out today. I read somewhere that it takes three weeks to build a good habit and three days to break it. Speaking from experience, that's true. All it takes is a couple of days' break in a routine and suddenly it is quite easy to justify extending that break another day, and another. Losing momentum on a writing project can be fatal to the project. Or a diet. Or an exercise routine.

Oh, how I prefer inspiration, when the words pour out in a flood and every one of them seems golden. The characters are alive, the plot is tight, the vision is clear. But perspiration is the only substitute for those days when the characters are cranky, the plot is wandering in circles, and you have not a clue what happened to the great idea you started with. I'm stuck in perspiration mode this week, and hammering through is the only answer. BUT--I will concede and take the muse to town shopping tomorrow. I think she's seen a bit too much of this computer this week.

Perhaps if I bribe her with Coldstone Creamery for lunch...