Right in the Spleen

Another two weeks, another blog post. So it goes.

Really. That’s what it looks like it’s gonna be from here on out, at least for the duration of this school year. I can’t seem to find time to post more often than that. And I’ve got even more bad news.

I won’t be making my goal for the word count of my book. Not even close, in fact. Now I know you’ve already begun gnashing your teeth and tearing at your clothes in sympathy for my plight. But of course, this was a deliberate decision made by me, the reasons for which are twofold. One: I know that you, the countless masses, will be clamoring for many more posts about the creation of my first draft, and I can hardly provide those sustaining posts if the draft is completed. Two: I’m basically out of material at this point; once this book is finished, I’ll have nothing else to write about. So, bearing that in mind, the first draft should be completed by about the year 2050.

Now let’s talk about the book!

Sticking points are on the mind today. By now I’ve probably hit about twenty serious sticking points. You see, when you get set to write a book, it’s best to outline and develop a basic beginning, middle, and end to your story. That’s at least how I’ve gone about it. And when you have all of that laid out you might think, “Great! Now all I have to do is fill in the in-betweens.” Ha! Good luck, smart guy. How little you truly know, and how ignorant of your own ignorance you are! All the little transitions and pieces that fit between the pivotal moments of your story? They take ages to create. Sometimes two scenes really, really don’t want to join together, so you’ll spend a couple days mulling over how the hell to get from A to B. Other times you’ll realize that you don’t know how something mundane and heretofore unthought-of works (“Did they have rubber in 1890? How was a medieval tournament organized? Where does a merchant keep his wares? How the hell do taxes work? No, seriously, can someone help me with my taxes?”). So then you have to spend hours finding out how exactly to write your own story correctly.

This is where that previously mentioned writer’s perseverance has to kick in. Because this kind of thing really makes you want to quit. I’ll compare it to boxing. The exciting challenges of writing a good plot are like getting hit in the face. If you’ve never experienced it, you might think it hurts. But more than anything it makes you grit your teeth and try harder. The aforementioned sticking points, on the other hand, are like body shots. You can get hit in the face a bunch of times and still come back for more. But one unbraced-for bodyshot, and you’ll be ready to crawl meekly under the ropes and out of the ring. They make you want to quit, you see.

So yeah. I’ve been experiencing a lot of those recently. Literary body shots, man. Ouch.

But see, in the long run, it’s probably better to get hit in the body a lot than it is to have your braincase rattled on a regular basis. It’s just hard to keep that in mind when you’re in the moment. When you’re a wimp like me, you don’t realize that mostly it’s just pain, and for the most part pain won’t really stop you unless you let it. Writing stories is the same. You might prefer the challenge of creating a plot and characters, but sticking points are the hurdles that are really going to hurt in the moment. The trick is just not letting them make you quit. It’s just momentary pain, and you’ve got to push through it. Don’t walk away when things get hard. Either try your best, or get knocked out. And I’ve yet to be knocked out by a book, so I think my record is pretty good actually.

I just need to stop letting these sticking points get in my way. Are you ready to see my pitiful progress, reader? The current word count is 32,219. Not great. But we’ll set a new goal right now. Even with impending school work, I’m going to shoot for that 75,000 word goal by the end of October. Two months to write about 50,000 words. And this time, not even the hardest liver shot’s gonna turn me away.

If you want to sop me, book, you’re gonna have to knock me out. And I’d like to see you try.

Please don’t.

Motivation in a Vacuum

So if you’ve read any of my other rambling posts, you’ve realized by now that this blog will have a lot to do with writing. In truth, that’s what I want to do with my life. Just like a child imagining himself as his favorite pro wrestler, or baseball player, or… I don’t know, what’s a third dream occupation? Celebrity glass-blower? Well, just like that little boy, I often imagine myself as a successful, well-loved writer of fantasy fiction. It’s not about the fame, of course. I simply love to write. But if the jolt of joy I felt when I saw that this amateur hour weblog had six views in one day is any indication, having George R. R. Martin-level success feels amazing. So that would be nice, too.

Today, however, I don’t want to talk about my future aspirations. I won’t even talk about the story I’m working on currently, although I’ll probably shed some light on my pet project later. Please, please. Return to the softer, more spacious parts of your seats. No, today I would like to talk about what it takes to write–at least, what it takes for me to write.

I think that every story–screenplays, books, and short stories alike–comes from some source of inspiration somewhere. I don’t think any writer has a problem with inspiration, at least not in their glorious creative youth, before they become jaded and angry and alcoholic. Inspiration is that little spark that sets off the story. It’s the question that must be answered, or the character that won’t stop pacing around in your head, or the world that must exist in more imaginations than your own. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, but there’s on aspect of inspiration that you don’t realize when you first aspire to write: it’s very, very rare.

Inspiration can happen at any moment. Aha! Eureka! That sort of thing. It’s like a bolt of sexy, creative lightning. But how often can you expect to get struck by lightning? Even writers. I guess if inspiration is like lightning then writers are like lightning rods; they’re more prone to the phenomenon than other people, who… I guess are like people lying in a ditch? That metaphor seems to have wandered away from me. Anyway, my point is that even writers don’t get to experience the privileged presence of inspiration that often.

Therein lies the rub, my friends. Because, no matter how much you think you enjoy writing, you’re going to have to hate it sometimes to get any work done. You’ll get that delicious taste of a truly inspired idea, and you’ll be raring to go. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll make a map, or maybe write up some character descriptions. Maybe you’ll jump in and try to start writing right from Chapter One. If you’ve got a little more juice in the tank, you might even outline most of the story–enough so that you have a vague idea of where you’re going.

And then you’ll drop the project for months at a time. Not entirely–you’ll still think of it. A lot, most likely. But thinking of cool new things and awesome future scenes is easier than actually writing. So you’ll just leave it. Either that, or you’ll suck it up and do the hard work.

For me? It was the first option. For two years the story I’m currently working on milled around on my hard drive wishing someone would talk to it. I still thought about the story. A few times I’d open up the document. But I rarely touched a key after doing so. Because motivation and inspiration are not necessarily the same thing. And motivating oneself in the absence of inspiration is a truly difficult task.

That’s the shitty part of being a would-be writer. You think you like writing. But you won’t enjoy it a lot of the time. Getting those first words down on the paper is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Finishing a first draft–not worrying about making it sound pretty, but just getting the damn thoughts out of your head and onto the page–that is a nightmare of a challenge. It sure as hell is for me.

But I’m not letting my lack of motivation halt me anymore. Sitting around always telling yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow, and just letting the fun ideas run the show is not the way to go. I won’t be a slave to the whims of inspiration, and if you’ve ever yearned to be a writer, published or otherwise, you shouldn’t either. Have your idea, and then kick that bastard book’s ass.

More on my stuff later, friends.

Pro-tip: Listen to Neil Young’s Harvest. Shit is the mood music of the gods.