(Photo by cayoo)
One of the other things I wanted to do on this blog was talk about the act of writing itself, because even though I’ve been writing professionally (or semi-professionally, by which I choose to mean that people want you to hit a deadline but don’t want to pay you) for most of my adult life, the past year has probably taught me more than the entire decade before it.
If anyone wants some context or a brief bio, I’ll keep it short: I’ve done a bunch of journalism in the past decade and a half, writing for magazines like VICE and Punk Planet and eventually ending with me being Editor-in-Chief of DiSCORDER (a Vancouver-based music monthly) and Terminal City (a Vancouver-based alt-weekly). On top of that I’ve written dubbing scripts for a couple of different anime series. Some older samples of my work can be found here.
So, it’s not like I’m a stranger to writing, but it’s funny that some of its main truths evaded me for so long, and that my most massive epiphany dispelled one of my most sacredly-held beliefs.
It was one of those things I wish someone had sat me down and told me twenty years ago. I really do. Got all up in my face and practiced some tough love on me, pounding the table and making me realize they weren’t fucking around—because figuring it out now makes me feel like I’ve been wasting way too much time. Still, I like to think I’m a reasonably decent guy, so in case there’s any impressionable young writers out there who want some hard-won advice, here it comes:
WAITING FOR INSPIRATION IS FUCKING BULLSHIT.
It is. It’s a bunch of crap that allows you to keep blissfully procrastinating. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about inspiration itself. When inspiration strikes, it can be one of the most euphoric sensations you’ll ever experience, but writing (and all art, I would imagine, though I’m not inclined toward music or visual art) is about sitting down and doing the work. It is, to quote the trite saying, 90% perspiration. But nobody ever explains what that means. It almost seems to imply that you should wait for inspiration to strike and then knuckle down to deal with the other 90%.
You need to sit down and start. Quite possibly what you’ll write will be crap, but as time goes on it just might evolve into something spectacular so keep going. And unless you’re one of the beat poets whose work is immutable AND CAN NEVER BE CHANGED (a view I think is one of the most gigantic loads of horseshit going), you’re free to go back and change the parts that suck. Rewrite the beginning. Change the sex of the main character. Hell, scrap the first five chapters if you need to. It’s yours to do with as you please, but unless you sit down and write the damn thing in the first place, you won’t have anything to change later.
Yeah, sometimes you’re not in the mood; I know. I don’t give a shit. Sit down and write. Pick a time when you can write every day. Super-early in the morning or really late at night are good options, because there’s less distractions. What matters ultimately is treating it like a job, because that’s what it has to be to you: a part-time job with a long internship but an amazing benefits package at the end.
And sure, it sounds like a lot of effort, but what’s the payout? Well, a book or screenplay or massive writing project that people respect and want to toss money at you for. Or maybe just something you’re happy with, or maybe something you’re not happy with at all. But even if that’s the case, there’s always the possibility of the next one, and let me make this perfectly clear: absolutely nothing will happen without you sitting down and writing.
Up until last year, over the course of my life I’d written multiple chunks of books, some as small as a few chapters and one that was 3/4 done and 125,000 words long. None of them are completed. So what spurred me on to finally finish one? Yeah, sitting down every day and just doing it. And what gave me the inspiration? Well… that was National Novel-Writing Month.
COMING SOON: On Writing, Part II – The NaNoWriMo