Monday, 27 August 2012

What To Do When You Don't Want To Write.

There once was a time, many years ago, when I would write in all my spare time, just to write. My school diary instead of having a list of my homework each day had a new story beginning.

Sadly, that time has passed. There are occasions when I am at work or in the shower, and think 'Man, I really need to write that down now!' And those occasions are great. But tell yourself that you will be getting up two hours before you need to get ready for work to write, and come home from work and after dinner sit down for another two hours to write, every day for the rest of the week, and suddenly the thrill of it seems to be gone.

However, while the thrill might be gone: number of complete novels written through inspiration = 0, number written now through just sitting down and doing it = about 4.5. Therefore, the conclusion obviously isn't to just wait for inspiration to strike. It has to involve a good amount of just sitting down.

So I'm trying to implement some more advice from McDougall's 'Born to Run'. Previously I had been working on Caballo Blanco's advice 'Easy, Light, Smooth', see the post Born to Write. (Yup, have advanced to internal links! Will be going back and putting more in instead of just vaguely saying 'as I've said previously'). Now it was time to take Eric's advice:

p. 259

(just before the final 50 mile race that the whole book has been building up to)

My chest felt tight. Eric worked his way over beside me. 'Look, I got some bad news,' he said. 'You're not going to win. No matter what you do, you're going to be out there all day. So you might as well just relax, take your time, and enjoy it. Keep this in mind - if it feels like work, you're working too hard.'

Basically, I love this advice for three reasons: (I initially said two, but then realised there was a third. Good things always come in threes, like three point sermons, and blocks of chocolate.)

1. The challenge they are about to face is to run 50 miles, which ends up taking McDougall 12 hours. There is no short cut. If you want to do this, this is what it takes. 

2. He puts it all into perspective: you aren't going to win. McDougall's challenge was just to finish the race. My challenge is not to write a perfect masterpiece, that would be trying to win an ultra-race against the best in the world after just a few months training. My goal is to write a draft from beginning to end to see if there is a story there. That's it.

3. However, his advice is not 'if it feels like work, quit' or even 'if it feels like work, try and distract yourself with something else' which is sometimes suggested. Instead, his advice is that you mgiht as well just relax and enjoy it.

For me, I'm getting panicked about word counts per hour, if one hour is behind, I then get flustered and it gets me totally out of the flow, and I'm fixated on every word, etc. etc. I'm working too hard. It's time to just sit back, relax, and write.

So, in light of that, one thing I did tonight was copy all my documents off my little Eee PC, which is super useful for carrying around, but I have to admit that the smaller keyboard did give me more typos. I've now put it all on my nice big Macbook Pro, which has a full sized keyboard, and much nicer button responsivity (yes, computer, I know that is not a word, but I want it to be, so work with me, I am complimenting you after all). 

So, summary of what to do when you don't want to write:
1. Layout the challenge: do you want to write a book or not? If not, walk away now, if so, then it is going to take a long time, and you just have to live with that.
2. Put your current work into perspective: you don't have to write a masterpiece in this sitting, you just have to write.
3. Stop working so hard! Slow down and enjoy the ride.

On my own writing, am back on Book 2 of Castle Innis. Have not finished book 1, but it has had it's chance. I'm going to send it to my alpha reader and see what they think, is it worth finishing off as it is, with a major overhaul, or maybe they'll say not to bother with it and just focus on one of the other 100 drafts I'll have by the end.

Also, in major world stopping news: I've given up chocolate and caffeine.
But how can you be a writer without chocolate and caffeine, you ask?
That is a very good question. I am not yet sure, but will tell you soon.

I had been fooling myself into thinking I was only eating about half a block (yes, a family sized block of Cadbury's, the 220gram ones) a day. Unfortunately, on Wednesday I suddenly realised that I had opened the block only that morning, and by three pm it was completely gone. Worst part of it all, I didn't feel the least full or sick of it.

This was made worse by having weighed myself at the gym on Tuesday... not to give you exact figures, but heaviest I've ever been.

Strangely, spending all your time writing and eating large amounts of chocolate does have negative consequences.

So, since Wednesday I have gone cold turkey on chocolate and caffeine (okay, I'm not quite sure why caffeine got chucked in there, except that I noticed I was starting to drink coffee at work just as a matter of course, and I didn't want to get addicted). I have to admit I accidentally had chocolate on Thursday, as it was part of a dessert so was categorised in my head as 'pavlova topping' not as 'chocolate', but since then I haven't had any at all. (It's now Monday, by the way). This is the longest I've gone without chocolate for ... well, I gave it up for Lent once, but that was a few years ago.

And the most crazy thing is, I don't really miss it. So am taking that as divine help and approval.
If you notice that these blogs start to become weirder and weirder, please notify someone as I've possibly set off a psychotic episode through sudden withdrawal.

(Come to think of it, I did have super vivid dreams on the weekend. I wonder if that is connected? Like the opposite of the cheese effect.)

Good night.


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