I’m going to write about inspiration because at this moment I have none of it.
I’m more than 100 pages into my latest book yet sometimes — many times — I can’t see the way forward. I lose track of the story. I can’t focus. I lack concentration and confidence, I stare at a screen in a room by myself for days and weeks on end, the little flashing cursor taunting me with expectation: “Well? What have you got,’writer’? Or is it time for another snack break? Another hard boiled egg already, hmm?” This is usually when I wonder why I didn’t go into finance or baking or open a fitness studio or any profession, really, requiring lots of physical movement and interaction with fellow humans.
Writing is hard. Blogging is easy. Blogging requires short bursts of energy (with photos!) and when the energy and motivation wanes, you simply end the post, and wait for the next burst of energy for another post, even a post about your toddler’s boogers. I have unlimited energy for such things. I could blog all day and night if it paid better.
Long form narrative is another animal. It requires sustained concentration and focus over many months and years. It demands that I spend days and weeks alone with my thoughts, which isn’t always a pleasant place to dwell, with bits and pieces of plot and dialogue and structure swimming around my head and I’m never quite sure if what I want to express will be perceived as such by the reader and whether I have the artistic chops to pull it off, and even if I do, will anyone buy the book anyway?
This is the kind of day I’m having.
But these are precisely the moments I know I have to buckle down and keep going because the hardest part is the most valuable part. This applies to any endeavor in life, whether writing, performing, starting a new business, making one of those ice sculptures with a chainsaw. If I throw up my hands when things get sticky, I never get anywhere and I wonder why my dreams are not being realized. So today I operate under the illusion a creative breakthrough is right around the corner. It’s my job to push through, even if it turns out to be a mirage because that, my friends, is how to finish a creative work.
Some things that always help me keep pushing:
1) Music. It sounds dumb, but nothing fires me up more than a soundtrack to whatever mood I’m in. Whether it’s sad, happy, corny, twangy or some throwback Salt-N-Pepa! Yeah! Music helps me synthesize my thoughts and emotions which I am often able to reinterpret on paper. Though I draw the line at Nickelback. My brain cannot synthesize Canadian jock rock.
2) Giving voice to my insecurities. I used to try to pretend that these issues didn’t bother me, or that if I expressed them, I made myself weak and whiny, but I’ve learned that expressing the darker side of creativity allows me to CONTROL-ALT-DELETE that junk. It’s like being annoyed with a spouse or friend but not saying anything about it until the problem festers and eventually explodes. If I am able to admit blocks as they arise, I’m able to maintain equilibrium, hence this moving blog post.
3) Movement. When I’m in a creative hole, I know it’s because my body is stuck and I’m one of those people who draw little distinction between body and brain. It’s a single organism that requires physical movement to be fed, even if it’s some Tae Bo, yo. Gotta get this bod poppin!’ People ask me why I exercise as I often as I do and I say, ‘Well, it’s because I sit on my butt alone in front of computer in a small room all day! What would you do?’ Some days I leave my office feeling like cobwebs are growing between my fingers and toes! AAAARGH!
4) Reading. I read as much and as often as I can. I guess it’s no different than a painter visiting a gallery to draw inspiration from Matisse and Renoir. I always take away something from a book, even a not so great book, and think about how to apply it to my work, either real or imagined (usually the latter!). This is why I try to never read “bad” books — not only because I never have time — because I don’t want to absorb another writer’s bad habits. “Oh, Frosty!” she said, as the little dog leapt into her arms, covering her nose with tender kisses. Cue: Vomit.
5) Feeling grateful. I get to do what I was born to do and (somehow) make a living at it. I know not every creative person can say that, so I count my blessings and try to look at the glass half full instead of as a half cup of warm, flat, stale beer. Although a beer sounds pretty good right now and it’s only 11:30 a.m.
Aaaaah, I feel better already. Writing this down and admitting what I occasionally go through has given me the energy to muscle through yet another day of dizzying writing excitement.
Enjoy your weekend.