Can we chat for a second?
Great, because I’d really rather do that today than write. (Just please don’t read too much into that as a reason for Wreadcasts.)
What I’m wrestling with is the age-old crux, that unvarnished heart of every worn writing adage: the only way to improve writing is to keep writing. Supposedly it’s not about muses or talent or even luck. Success, our forebears have promised, comes through the repetition of writing something—anything—each and every day. It’s been said a trillion different ways, but that’s what it always seems to come down to.
Still Waiting for the Muse
And back to that concept of a muse . . . Could it really just a trick we play on ourselves to feel allowed to write without criticism or restraint? You can supposedly book an encounter with that inner guide in one of two ways:
- wait impatiently for a moment of inspiration to strike at a party, on the road, in the middle of a bath, or in the middle of the road on the way to a party (perhaps running late after a bath)
- keep showing up to that daily blank page, until the muses slowly come to trust you will be punctual. One of them will then, on select days, start showing up in turn to see you and to show you what you were so desperate for all along
I know all of this; you probably do, too. And I’ve tested it out too many times. I’ve tried writing and not writing in all kinds of weather, so I should know better.
But today I still don’t want to write.
My thoughts usually push back against me like this: “Sure, take a little break. Given in and let life happen a little first so you actually have something to write about it. How else can you write what you know? You know there is an order of operations here. After all, you have to pay the bills before the reward of creative writing, no? Or do some cleaning or keeping in touch with friends and family—at least the ones who still hold out hope of hearing from you.”
Writing About Not Writing
You are all a clever crew here, and I’m sure you had the ruse of the title “I Don’t Want to Write Today” figured out from the beginning. I start out not wanting to write . . . but of course, in venting about it, I end up doing just that. After all, there’s now a thing here to read, right?
So you might be here under the promise of some writer’s block commiseration and perhaps advice for the next time you, too, feel less-than-giddy about gluing words together (mostly for the sake of keeping a streak going; you probably know what happens to momentum once a streak breaks).
I would expect the same thing, just from the title. I’d probably also try to predict some of the tips beforehand and scan down the post to see if there were anything unexpected listed:
- Imagine how good it always feels after you have written something
- Challenge yourself to write anything for just fifteen minutes and let yourself off the hook if you want to stop after the timer
- Get some leverage on yourself through accountability to someone else about your vow of writing (“So, how has that 500 words a day thing been working out, Jane?”)
- Set up a deadline to push your brain into getting it done
- Try not to write for a while somewhere without pen or paper (or cellphone?)
- Stop now and go do some reading, perchance to be inspired
And those would all be worth considering. Except, I didn’t want to write yesterday either. Or the day before that. Any streak I have had has long since been stricken. I think I’ve been away from the keyboard so long, they’re talking of renaming AFK after me.
Back in Business Again
I have made all of the usual excuses, of course. I’m busy and tired and already have things waiting to be edited. I’m doing a lot of preliminary research for, uh, timely inspiration . . . via social media and introspection. (Also: those expensive audio books and video games aren’t going to play themselves! Sometimes you need a quick and decisive victory. Or three.)
So this Writer Who Doesn’t Write gathers unto himself and begins to doubt the whole business for a minute. I’ve noticed that this far-flung writing community doesn’t tend to rest on past laurels it can’t quite bring itself to believe it’s earned. We don’t want to jinx our artistic humility, I suppose. So I won’t even go there.
So what happened? What broke the spell this time?
For me, it just finally came down to getting more tired of not writing than of trying to make myself write. Ultimately it’s another worn adage proving itself again: a writer will always write. Might not be consistent in any reliable way, but eventually there will be more writing. This is both the curse and the natural definition of our kind.
Next Time Around
Now that I’ve pitched a writerly fit, it’s time to process. In sum, I’ve been here before. Between bouts of routine writing there will always be lulls in motivation. I will keep experimenting with tips and tricks, but eventually I’ll get back on track writing again. It’s just a party of my process until further notice.