February 27, 2017

The worst time to start writing

This year, inspired by a friend's example, I've decided (somewhat skeptically, since I know my limitations) to try and "build a daily writing habit". For the past 18 years I've been very much a "feast and famine" writer, either writing like mad or not writing at all for months (or years) on end. I knew from the outset a DAILY writing habit wouldn't be realistic, but I figured that sitting down to write every second day or so would still be better than those long breaks that seem to "just happen" whenever life puts a lid on my creative well. 

Two months into the challenge, I think I've learned a couple of things. Firstly, blogging regularly is much easier than I thought, but to my mind, it doesn't really count as writing. Blogging seems to exercise different "writing muscles" than working on a literary project. Secondly, brief bouts of writing undertaken "just to write ANYTHING when I don't feel inspired" have left me with a pile of short random scenes and story outlines I'm not at all crazy about. No idea if any of this stuff will actually evolve into finished works in the long run.

The third lesson I've learned is something I might have to print out in large block letters and paste over my desk. Namely: the ABSOLUTELY WORST TIME to sit down for a short writing session is at night, after the day's tasks are done. Never mind that I'm very much an evening person and I love to work at my computer during those quiet hours when everyone is asleep (I'm not the only translator who does that!). If I want to write at night, I need to start earlier in the day, when my brain is clearer and better able to access those doors I need to unlock whenever I want to visualize a meaningful story (or even just a short scene).

At night, I can continue writing if I was sensible enough to begin earlier. That works perfectly! But I can't sit down after a full day of translating, writing emails, housekeeping and whatnot, and happily switch into creative mode. Sure, I can sit down and concentrate over a blank page... but the page will stay blank, the words don't come. Only frustration ensues.

The solution? Consistently making time for writing in the mornings, I guess. This might sound like a totally commonsense answer, but it's not. I constantly tell myself "you have to do X, Y and Z before you sit down to write", and before I know it, the morning has turned into evening! I'm working hard on a translation project right now, and since I prefer to focus on one thing, normally I'd just postpone writing until the translation is done... but that would mean at least a month-long break from creative pursuits.

I've been told recently by someone wiser than myself that I'm the one who's in charge of priorities here. For some reason, putting writing FIRST is something I repeatedly struggle with. The fear of creating lackluster, poor-quality stuff is very strong, as is the need to quickly see concrete results of what I do. With that mindset, one derives more satisfaction from several translated pages than from 300 words of prose that might never make it into a finished book.

Right now, I'm editing a novelette I wrote in Polish three months ago, a fantasy story set in the Darkgleam universe. I intend to translate it into English sooner or later.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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