My friend Cory Doctorow says that he can write simply by sitting down and opening up a vein. It doesn’t matter where he is, or what’s going on around him. When it’s time to write, it’s just his brain and the place he puts the words.
I admire that, and wish I could do it, but it’s just not possible for me. I need to be in a calm and quiet place, both emotionally and physically, and depending on what stage of a project I’m in (rough draft, last mile, rewriting, outlining), I may need other existential things, particular bits of music, types of coffee or tea, things like that.
I guess it’s different for every writer, but I have these — you know, I sat here for almost a full minute typing and deleting the word “silly”, before deciding that it isn’t silly at all — rituals that let me open the creative vein that Cory can tear open at will.
The important thing, I guess, is that the words get written and the story gets told, and what the specific the steps are from idea to publishing don’t really matter, at long as you take them.
Today, I had the barest hint of an idea, and I wanted to know what it would turn into, if I worked on it. Imagine seeing something far away, though clouds and haze. It could be a mountain, it could be a thunderhead, it could be a tumor pressing against your optic nerve. The thing is, you don’t know what it is until you get close enough to see it clearly. You have to take the steps.
So I put on my running shoes, and I went out for a jog, letting my mind wander around, until that hint of an idea began to coalesce into something more tangible. After about forty minutes, I had enough to write down some broad strokes, knowing that once I started writing the actual thing, I’ll know how to fill in the gaps that were left today.
I took literal steps to get my brain going, and to start the process of turning a few scattered “what if…” ideas into something that may turn into an actual story. I don’t know what will come of it, and I don’t know when it will be finished, but I took the steps, and now I have something where I didn’t have something before.
63 thoughts on “Now I have something where I didn’t have something before.”
I’ve always been in a little awe (and a lot of annoyance/jealousy) with artists who seeming can create at the drop of the hat. The artists who go on and on about they make art because they “must!”, that they “can’t help but create.”
Well, good for them, I suppose. Wish I could be the same. I have the desire to make art, but not the super easy ability to do it. I need to work at it, to push, to kick, to scream in order to create. Making art is not a fun or easy process. It’s fickle, it’s frustrating, it’s full of self-doubt. But, if I’m lucky, in the end I made something “where I didn’t have something before” (to quote Mr. Wheaton). And the birthing pains are all worth it.
Driving and showering – not simultaneously – can switch my brain gears.
IT’S NOT A TOOMAH!
the music, the focus, the other world swimming behind my eyes that’s trying to break through to this world. it’s all important. the idea that I can be a conduit for that world to come through. it’s magnificent. we all do what we must, Wil, to become that conduit. I’m glad you recognize your space. It’s wonderful.
Exercising is often good for writing/thinking/studying since it stimulates blood flow. Exercise, then sit down to work about 1/2 hour later. booyah!
Eating on the other hand….I try not to work too soon after lunch 🙂
I recently read the book “Hackers and Painters” by Paul Graham. In some of the essays, he compares programming and writing and painting to each other and describes them all as requiring hard work (well, I guess sometimes more than others). With all of them, people need to start somewhere and figure the rest out as they go and revise things countless times. So @Daniel Sroka, try not to feel bad about art being hard work for you – for many people, including some of the great artists in history, getting where they are now was a lot of work. I think pushing yourself to achieve something may just make it better in the end. I hope that makes sense (it’s getting late here).
If you’re interested, you can find one of the essays here:
I have to say that to me, it’s honestly not that much about hard work, nor do I think of it as really something that requires hard work.
Of course, it requires a great deal of effort often (especially the work that results in anything of much quality). However, I heard Mike Myers say on “Actors Studio” years ago that when he was on “SNL”, he wrote every idea he had down, as if you don’t write them all down, you never know when the great ones will come… Singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks expresses a similar idea in the current issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, saying the best songs often come with maybe a week’s worth of work or not at all.
Some creative projects can be started by simply starting them. Once the brain is active, all hell breaks loose. Other times, like costume designing, the process needs stillness and still won’t open up. But the job of a thousand stitches begins with a single stitch.
You know, I used to have all kinds of rituals and set the mood for myself when I wrote papers in college, but somehow I abandoned all of that when I graduated, even though I went on to grad school and a teaching position and now an alt-ac career, all of which have involved lots of writing. I should think about this.
Now, when it comes to poetry, I do exactly what one shouldn’t, which is wait for inspiration to strike instead of having a regular practice. Hmm. You seem to be giving me a lot to think about.
I am so glad to hear Wil is writing. I admire all the projects he works on (I have been looking for Stone Farking Wheaton w00tStout around here but with no luck) but I must say I enjoy his writing the most. I guess because he writes about being a geek and what that means, which is something I can relate to.
I know how you feel! After reading your blog, I got inspired, started a little blog of my own, and started writing. I happen to have a loving and supportive partner that let me quit my job for six months to pursue my writing.
It had been so many years since that creative writing class in Community College! But I still had a copy of Elements of Style, and picked up a copy of Steven Kings ‘On Writing.’ I polished up my grammar, and produced a 45 page science fiction novella I called ‘Cousins Under The Skin’. It was an acceptable start, but I had run out of money and time.
So here I type; between the carpeted walls of my new cubicle-cell, at my brand new dead-end job.
And the spark just died. I just don’t have the time and energy after eight hours of office work to do much of anything creative. My work just drains the life out of me.
People who can open that creative side… Create that wonderful vulnerability and let the ideas flow out their fingertips at will… They are like demi-Gods of the written word to me. I feel like as long my energies are dissipated in the slog of mediocrity, I’ll never write like I did for those months.
But still, for six months… Six wonderful, creative months… I felt complete.
Gotta go. This is choking me up at work, and I don’t need to draw any attention to myself.
Keep writing Wil!
So Cory Doctorow writes “by sitting down and opening a vein” never would have taken him for a blood mage.
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