This pretty much sums up my weekend:
I registered for unemployment benefits, applied for a part-time job at a local bookstore, and sketched out a budget. I also slept for an extra twenty hours, played Skyrim for so long that my eyes went all glassy, and ate nothing but pizza, ice cream, and fluffernutters. The one thing I didn’t do was write. I tried. I even opened the Word document and revised a couple of clunky sentences. But I didn’t put any new material down on the page.
How many times have you said that you’re just not feeling inspired? You’ve got writer’s block! You’ll start working again when you lose weight/pay off your bills/get through this really rough week at work/move out/get married/get divorced/send the kids off to school…there are a million million excuses that we put in front of ourselves and then point to and say, “See that, there? That’s why I haven’t written today.”
If a waiter said he just didn’t feel like waiting tables today, he’d be fired. If a surgeon said she didn’t want to do another appendectomy because they were boring, she’d be fired. If you called into your job and said that you weren’t going to work because you were tired, and you felt fat, and your horoscope said that today wasn’t a good day to get out of bed, you’d be fired. But if you say that you don’t feel like writing today because you’ve got writer’s block, you somehow expect others to be sympathetic about your plight. Poor thing; being creative is so hard.
In the best and rarest moments I’ve ever experienced while working, it’s as if the words are coming from somewhere else. The characters are speaking and acting of their own volition, and I’m wonderfully, inexplicably surprised by what happens next. Invariably, these moments only happen after several solid hours of work. These aren’t the middle-of-the-night, moth-wing brushes of ideas that only occur when you’re half-asleep and there isn’t a pen nearby. Those ideas are never as good as they seem to your sleep-addled brain. I’m talking about the feeling that you are no longer the sole author of your work, that someone or something else is with you, guiding your hand. This isn’t as creepy as I’m making it sound, I swear. If you haven’t watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on creativity, I strongly recommend you do so now. It’s only twenty minutes, but she describes much more elegantly than I have the nature of genius.
The trouble comes when I try to bait the muse. If I could just recreate the circumstances of her last visit, maybe she would come again. If I worked at a special time of night, or drank a couple beers, or played loud music, or worked in total silence, or went back and re-read the last good passage that I wrote…but that moment of sparkling creativity doesn’t come, and I get discouraged, and then weeks go by and I haven’t written a damn thing. Revision doesn’t count as writing. I’ve spent countless hours sifting through finished chapters, picking up a word here and there and burnishing it with my shirtsleeve. This is just procrastination dressed up in a fancy hat.
I keep forgetting that the only way to get inspired is to work. It doesn’t happen the other way around.
Make a commitment to write 500-1000 new words today. Let me know what happens.