Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Bunch of Head-cases, Aren't We All?

Here I am with a few moments to spare. What shall I write? All this seems like such a head game; I'd be better off just jumping right in. I sit and ponder, often about the things that I don't want to do. No matter how bad it seems, I often find that once I’ve invested the first hour, it’s not so bad. I tend to think clearer and make better decisions when I simply start writing.

So why the hesitation? Seems like one can be more productive if they clear their mind and dive in. Why do we think it’s imperative to gather motivation before starting a task? Every project has them: chapters we don't want to write, time-consuming rewrites and edits, weak scenes that need to be overhauled, characters we grow less and less fond of. Ruing the things that we don’t want doesn't clear them from our plate.

It’s amusing that I often find myself pondering whether or not I really want to do a task before committing to it. You can imagine what the answer usually is: Oh, there’s something on TV, a new movie that just arrived from Netflix, a website that I absolutely must check out! But all that disappears when I finally enter the story and begin typing away.

In so many ways I’m my worst enemy; the less amount of time between tasks, the better. Action beats contemplation; and while taking action, it’s better to keep inundating your mind so that you won’t be tempted to go off course.

I find continuous writing exercises fulfilling on many levels, whether typed in or by hand. Obviously there are times that you absolutely must grind to a halt and think at length, but perhaps they’re fewer than we realize. In many cases, listening takes precedence over thinking, especially when grinding out that very first draft.

So is thinking, to a degree, the dilemma? Would it be better for an author to think a little less and write a little more? (There are many that would argue it’s exactly the opposite.)

It seems like a ridiculous notion, but I find my thoughts leading me down self-defeating paths more and more; paths I am not even aware of when engrossed in my work. Defeat requires thought, perhaps on the same level as giving birth to new ideas. So why not keep the mind preoccupied? You’ll get more done, and avoid dark thoughts from sneaking in.

I've written before about Guinness World Record-holder Ryoki Inoue, and his assertion on "abandoning inertia." This is an interesting concept, highlighting the importance of staying in motion. At a gut level, don't give your mind too much time to act. Just do it. Put down the idea and move on. Correct later, if need be.

This is excellent advice, especially during the early stages of a work in progress. Considering his output (over 1,000 novels in the past 20 years, occasionally writing three novels a day), perhaps the wily, old surgeon knows what he’s talking about. If you also turned off your inner scrutiny, how productive could you be?

Sure, rapid-fire drafts typically aren't anything to write home about; but you’ll be surprised at what winds up on the page. I took this advice one evening, and blasted out a short story called Literary Dynamite, a funny little tale about an author struggling with writer's block, and the unique solution she comes up with to break through. The story was an absolute blast to write, and would not have been possible if I had given into self-doubt. Enthusiasm can carry you a long way, especially when you don't know where you're going or how everything will tie up.

In the end, it's imperative that a writer enjoys the process just as much as what they're writing. I truly believe that they will find a way to make it work, even if the first draft is a load of crap (and I specialize in authoring massive dung heaps).

So we must ask ourselves what is truly gained by heeding self-destructive thoughts. Even worse, what are we missing out on? If I had listened to all the negativity, the self-doubt, laziness, confusion, conjecture, etc., none of this would have been possible. I love my little short story. It won’t win any awards, but who cares? It brings smiles to the faces of my readers. What more validation do I need?

With this fresh perspective, what truly can be achieved? Instead of passing up opportunities because we "don’t feel like it" or "don’t have the time" imagine if we told ourselves, “Hey, you know what? I’m going for it! I’m going to make something out of this opportunity because I love what I'm doing, and know that I’ll find a way to get it done. I’m a success, regardless.”

So enough of the head games. Jump right in. It’s time to live up to our potential.

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