I haven’t posted in half a year due to a pretty solid list of excuses which began with my pursuit of National Novel Writing Month and ended with me beating Grand Theft Auto V, Fight Night and Mass Effect, watching all three seasons of Star Trek, four Seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Firefly (possibly the best ever TV show). I’ve also been kicking some butt in school – which I’m quitting next semester.
I know what you’re thinking: What have you learned in your hiatus? Why are you dropping out of (graduate) school? Didn’t Firefly totally deserve a second, third and fourth season?
Here is the most valuable thing I’ve learned in the past six months. Creativity keeps office hours. Productivity, for creatives, does not begin when the muse strikes, it begins when you put you butt in the writers chair – or in front of the easel, or on the stage.
One of my biggest excuses in writing and creating is feeling uninspired. I would often think I hadn’t suffered enough or wasn’t sufficiently inspired. That led to me drinking or playing video games (but mostly both). The reality was, when I wasn’t creating, I wasn’t generating any real inspiration either.
In November, some coworkers and I participating in National Novel Writing Month, a month in which writers commit to writing 40,000 words in a novel in 30 days. With that sort of deadline there is no time to wait on inspiration, there is only time to write. My November began with a great deal of word vomit before I developed a rudimentary outline, which made it much easier to creative.
I always thought I could only have a good story if I developed a character and let the character make all of the decisions to dictate the path and ending. That was me being lazy and purposeless, which something I am wont to do. The truth is, when an outline is created, when a roadmap is drawn, when purpose is breathed into creativity, those characters have so much more freedom to live inside full and breathing scenes. The road map allows the writer to handle the writerly duties and let the characters have the freedom to live in each scene. Characters will always surprise and disappoint writers and outlines will always change.
So there is the challenge, don’t wait for the muse, put your ass where your aspirations are and you can complete your projects. This lesson also makes it much harder to get away with not creating. The excuses, “I’m feeling uninspired,” or “I’m just too busy,” or, “The muse hasn’t visited lately,” are no longer valid. When I was writing without any specially ordained creativity, I was able to practice my craft and then, when I was finally inspired, I already had content to mold into something beautiful.
So that’s where I am, I worked super hard in November, took a break in December and then was scared of my shadow (and by shadow I mean my pile of 30,000 words). The goal is to pick it back up when classes finish and make some sense of the characters and scenes. My friend Riley already made me polish the first chapter during our weekly writing nights.
That’s a second thing, accountability. If you are proximate to another creative, chances are they also struggle with production. Challenge them to create weekly or monthly and have them do the same for you. Don’t set some giant goal, just commit to create. It feels amazing. Find a comfortable or challenging space, focus on your topic and just go crazy, otherwise you’ll be left making excuses.
So here is my commitment, I’m not going to pursue any classes next semester because I don’t need a masters degree to get published (and plenty of other frustrations with Ole Miss’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media). I need to learn how to create on my own, daily and weekly terms. I’m going to write a few times a week and I’m going to share some of that each week with anyone who reads this blog. Some of that writing will be marriage oriented, some will be project oriented or just discussions about life, pop culture. I might even post some of my fiction.
My wife has been pretty good about posting on her blog lately – http://healthyandwhole.co/ – and I’ll probably steal some of that content or collaborate with her here.
As far as Firefly goes, Joss Whedon got to go on to other things like Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and the Avengers and I would rather great television end early than drag on and get bad so I’m glad it ended after one season.
Here are some quick tips I’ve been using to self-inspire
– Reward yourself. I took away movies, TV shows and video games during weekdays with the stipulation that if I meet my reading, writing, school goals each week I get unlimited couch time on the weekends.
– Make it fun. I’ve been pulling out some awesome and weird records to listen to while writing. I’ve been watching baseball – Go Rangers! – the whole time I’m writing this post. Just find a way to make your creative time fun.
– Set aside a weekly time to create with someone else. It’s a good way to renew your creativity and inspiration as well as affirm your hard work.
– Set realistic goals. If you haven’t written in a year don’t commit to writing a novel, commit to writing a short story, or a chapter, or an outline (or this blog post).
– Remind yourself of why you create.