Verbally Constipated

27 Nov

One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to actually start doing so. Every good writer will do so as a matter of habit, if not every day then at least 6 days a week. I feel that a real writer is often led not by the desire to do so, but the need to. I don’t want to sit indoors on a Saturday afternoon in the spring and be alone typing away after doing so all week in an office, but I feel like there is an impulse which I can’t ignore. I have to get a story down. It’s work more than fun.

But getting started, especially on a new project, a fiction project at that, is no easy task. Here’s how my process goes. I’m minding my own business, walking somewhere, and suddenly one thought leads to another, and another, and some crazy synthesis happens and suddenly I have what I think is a pretty damn good idea. I try to remember it if I’m not near a pen and write it down for later, but later usually never comes. If it’s not in the moment the idea is probably lost to the depths of my mind, because the details and lines and quips are never quite as good even just a few hours later. Writing doesn’t let you choose when the inspiration hits.

It’s a very lonely process, being inside your head so much, and as a social person, it’s a big commitment to sit down and dedicate several hours of the day to writing. Once the idea has been sitting around and ruminating for a few days it’s even harder, and if there hasn’t at the very least been a couple pages of base laid down, I’m looking at a blank page for a while until getting bored. My idea today was to take advantage of a lousy day and start writing a new project. I had the idea for a graphic novel or comic book or something, but either way it’s just in an elementary stage and a few chapters need to be written to see how it is. Well, it’s gone no where so far. After getting a run in I took a shower, ate lunch, and then sat down to write. But a long and restive nap found its way right in front of me, and waking up, I saw that the weather hasn’t necessarily gotten much better, but improved enough so that I could stroll outside and enjoy a day off.

Writing is a struggle and sometimes you have to bleed for your work. I can’t break my arm, but maybe if I broke my leg I couldn’t go walking outside and would be forced to sit inside. But then I couldn’t run either, so scratch that idea. Hemingway was said to always take a shot of absinthe before writing, which kind of explains things if you read enough of his work. No absinthe in the house, but I do have Fernet and coke. It’s only 4 pm, and I’m not ready to get started on that yet. But as a writer sometimes you have to make sacrifices. We’ll see how desperate I get. I would love to go sit at a cafe and write, but I always get so distracted with people watching that I never write more than a few lines. Plus, I couldn’t put myself totally into the story while keeping my eyes up to see if anyone is going to swipe my laptop. Dammit.

You know what? I think I might just stretch out, crack the knuckles for a moment of joint relief, and see what Dr. Fernet has to say. The sad part of this is that this whole post has simply been a writing exercise. One trick to getting the creative juices flowing is to just write, whatever, no matter the topic, for a set period of time. Think of it like stretching out before going for a run or playing a sport. You don’t want to just start without prepping. I’m hoping this little writing blurb points me towards my first chapter in a new story. And maybe a chapter in something else too. After all, can’t keep saying I’m a writer if I’m not published.


2 Responses to “Verbally Constipated”

  1. Justin November 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    I definitely know what you mean, Jon. It’s a constant struggle for me just to get in the right state of mind to start writing. I actually do have a beer or a glass of whiskey sometimes and I find it calms my mind down enough to concentrate on one specific thing, like writing, rather than the millions of other things I could be doing/thinking.

    Also, I haven’t been able to make myself do it, but they say a routine helps. A writing regiment, if you will. Devote an hour a day to writing and just churn something out, even if it’s nothing special. If you could get into a routine of writing like you do with running, I bet you’d have more success.

    As for those brilliant little ideas that seem to come and go, you have to get a small notebook. Be that guy. It’s the only way to capture the details and pieces of conversation you want to use. I’ve gone so far as to make a voice recording of an idea if I didn’t have a pen & paper.

    A graphic novel sounds interesting! It would be cool to write it and collaborate with an illustrator in B.A. or something.


    • Jon November 29, 2010 at 8:24 am #

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply as always, JB! It’s nice to hear that other good writers face trouble in actually doing the writing too. I was also talking with a friend about it the other day, and it’s pretty ambitious to try to be a serious writer at a young age. You need more time to form your style and get the experiences necessary to make good stories. But the important thing is to keep writing and hone it all as best as you can.

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