There’s a lot of faffing to be done before you can actually write, isn’t there? Or is it just me?
A lovely friend of mine recently referred to this inability to just sit down and write as “circling the chair”. How long do you have to circle the chair before you actually manage to sit in it and put pen to paper?
There’s a way round it, and it’s to do your chair-circling away from the chair.
Bear with me.
You know what you want to write. (I mean the basics: a blog post, a short story. You needn’t be any more specific than that.) Hold the thought in your mind as you go about your business. Write down anything, however mundane it seems, that comes into your mind about it as you load the dishwasher, change a nappy, write a business strategy – whatever you’re spending your time on each day. That way, when you do have your Chair Time, you don’t need to circle because you’ve got a small stack of random thoughts to work with. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re rubbish, or you don’t know where they’re going. Even if you just spend a few minutes typing them out, at least you’ll have started writing. And, like rolling downhill, once you’ve started it’s easier to keep going!
I understand why people advocate writing every day. It’s all about keeping the momentum and building a habit.
If you work on something regularly it stays in your head. Ideas come when you’re in the shower, and when you sit down to work on it again you can plunge straight in; you don’t have to spend half of your previous writing time trying to get back into it or working out where on earth it was going.
As I’ve written elsewhere today, habits stop you having to think. Training your brain to switch to autopilot – it’s 7am; I write at 7am – means you’re more likely to just sit down and begin. And it might just free up a few neurons to come up with creative ideas – even when you’re not in the shower.
Yes, we get rusty. We take time away from our writing and we forget how. We pursue shiny new ideas that have nothing to do with our creative dreams. But eventually we come back. We always come back.
We come back and nothing is right. Ideas are clunky, word choices even more so.
The urge to stop and do something – anything – else is strong. After all, there are so very many other things that need to be done.
But the only cure for this is to keep going. To fill the waste paper bin if we must, but keep going. Even when every word has to be dragged from the depths. Even when those hard-won words will never see the light of day.
The only cure is to keep going.
I will if you will.
Today’s story is about sitting on the sofa instead of at my desk because it feels less like work and more like having a little party all by myself. I’ve wrapped mysef in a blanket and am considering a second cup of tea in a minute. That’s how racy it’s getting around here. Today’s soundtrack is bucketloads of raindrops splattering the windows, and the visual inspiration of the day is the grey picture above. The cosiness of a rainy day from the right side of the glass. And the joy of remembering that working at home means you can work wherever you like.
Of course this was not the story I was going to tell you. I had some other plan which I thought of yesterday. I’m not sure now what it was, even when I look at the note I made at the time. It was probably a good idea, but it was yesterday’s idea and by the time I sat down today to write it, I wasn’t feeling it any more.
I know writers talk a lot about discipline, about writing regularly whether you’re in the mood or not, and I’m all for that. What I can’t do is make myself write something I’m not feeling. So I sit down to write at the allotted time, but when every word on the screen feels like another tooth being pulled, I’m probably not writing what I need to write today. The only thing to do is to begin again, and tell today’s story, even if it’s not what I planned. Even if today’s story means inventing a whole new chapter when I was supposed to be finishing chapter 3.
Today’s story can only ever be written when it’s fresh. Once it’s written you can do whatever you choose with it. You can edit and rewrite it many times. It can be a blog, a paragraph in the introduction to your book, a stand-alone essay or a passing reference in the middle of chapter 7. Or just a private note to self and some good writing practice which will never see the light of day. It’s all good.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t revisit yesterday’s ideas. If I was still feeling the truth of yesterday’s idea, you’d be reading a different blog and I’d probably have finished writing it half an hour earlier. But if we do nothing else, we must write the truth we feel. And if we can do that while enjoying a cup of tea on a comfy sofa, so much the better!