I suspect that I can come off as making writing every day sound pretty easy. In concept it is, once you figure out what works for you. But the act of writing, and storytelling, depends on a lot of things coming together. Three of the most important ingredients for me are desire, energy and inspiration. On most days, two of the three are there. On the really good days, all three are there. That’s what I call “writing on all cylinders.
Once in a while, I’m firing on only one cylinder, meaning only of those three things is working. Usually it is desire, while I’m just out of energy or inspiration. On very rare occasions, my engine just won’t turnover. Since last February, I’ve only experienced this two or three times, but since today is one of those days, I’d thought I’d write a little about it.
I’m just wrapping up big projects at the day job. I’m fairly worn out. On top of that, I am the Nebula Award Commissioner this year for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and as we are coming to the end of our nomination period, the work on that has picked up. (I spent all afternoon today on that work.) Two weeks ago, I gave a seminar in Kentucky on Evernote and paperless. Long story short, I’ve passed through a really busy period, and while things look like they easy up in the coming weeks, I’m exhausted.
At a practical level, I’ve noticed that for the last two days, none of those three writing ingredients have been working for me. And yet, I still write every day. So what do I do when none of the cylinders are firing? Well, to keep the analogy going, I guess I put the car in neutral and begin to push.
Yesterday, I added maybe 100 words to my novella. It wasn’t going well, so in addition to those words, I added another 500 words of brainstorming notes. I do these right in the manuscript, and I count them as part of my daily writing. To me, it is legitimate work on the story. It is me, trying to figure things out. I set up a framework for my story yesterday, to help clarify things.
Today, I woke up completely unmotivated. In addition to everything else, my right knee is acting up. I think it is a tendon, but I’ll find out soon–I’ve scheduled a doctor appointment. But the aches and pains don’t help. I only added about 50 words to the story today. I was ready to add more, and then I received a email rejection slip for another story. I’ve gotten so many rejections over the course of my writing career that each one bare stings now. But in the context of everything, it’s a little disappointing. I tried using it as motivation to plow forward on the novella, but being tired, feeling uninspired, and lacking desire today worked against me.
However, I had a thought last night, about how I could take an idea from another story I was planning to write, and use it in this story, bringing the two together. So in addition to my 20 words, I added a few hundred more notes on how that might work out. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve turned a corner on this one. We’ll see how things go tomorrow.
I think the lesson here is that even when I lack energy, inspiration, and desire, I still sit down in front of the computer and add some words. And when the words don’t come, I try to puzzle out why, but adding words about that. For me, it means no day goes by when I am not working at my writing, even if I am not firing on any, let alone all, cylinders. I’ve learned to trust that eventually, I’ll figure it out.