Writers should have something to say.
There are an awful lot of shoulds in life, and the among the most damaging of them apply to artists. Knowing the shoulds is my job as a writer. But I’d argue if the shoulds run the show, I’ll start to fail. I don’t write. And for a myriad of reasons, that’s bad for me.
Fear and self-editing aside, sometimes I start a post, or a scene, or a text, and then quit because it’s just not worth it. Then comes the guilt because lazy or unmotivated or is it just not worth saying (meaning my brain isn’t producing things of worth). That way lies a dark, silent path. I think that path is in the peripheral of a lot of writers these days.
My personal goal is to simply open the manuscript each day and spend some time. No real expectation of stellar work or massive progress. I am still doing the act of writing most days, so I thought I’d drop a few ideas here as to how I’m doing that, with the caveat that I’m not writing any great quantities, which has the further caveat that I am a slow writer, generally, so no change there. Obviously YMMV, and so on and so forth, yada yada. But maybe there’s a glimmer of something that might help you.
Metacognition. Something you learn in teacher school: It’s important to learn how you learn. I habitually spend time thinking about how I work best. I do know I’m just more content when I write. Kind of like how I’m happier when I eat well and exercise. So dropping writing altogether for months on end is not really an option for me. As far as right now, thank God and all the stars I’m not depressed because I don’t function well at all. But I am fearful. I lose sleep. I’m drinking more than usual. Writing often causes me unreasonable fear anyway. On top of the fairly valid fear of the virus and our future, it all often feels insurmountable. I’m actually very fortunate to be much less stressed than the last several years. But I am still stressed. So I know I need to find ways to sneak up on myself. I know I have to learn how I work best.
Fuck math. I’ve never been a word count writer (reason #187 NaNo would never work for me). I loathe math and applying any hint of numerical value to my writing makes me hate the writing too. It took me almost all of last year to learn how powerful that hate is. (And there are a lot of people who tell you that’s wrong, so screw them too and the math they rode in on.) Instead I tend to write to scenes. Sometimes those scenes are long and sometimes not.
Indulgence. I indulge my need to revise and ponder and read over old scenes that work well. I let myself skip the tough parts if I’m not up for it that day. (I figure those tough parts will still be there when I’ve had more sleep.) I’m not forcing myself to move forward right from where the manuscript drops off but I do add words every day. This works for me because I invariably draft lean.
Distraction. Last week I wrote 350 words while texting with a friend. My brain was so full it made it easy to toss off some of the scene.
Life. Really, all the stuff everyone is doing. Every day I try to do at least something outside, walking the dog, sitting on the porch last night with my kid, I’m going to lay out in the sun for a bit today and have a drink at my backyard bar. I’m enjoying cooking. I do Yoga with Adriene. I have online parties with my friends on Saturday night. I check in with family and friends almost daily. And I’m trying really hard not to sweat the small stuff.