How much of writing is muscle memory?
I sat down at the desk in my office yesterday and just... sat. I haven't worked in here for a while.
May was incredibly busy with travel, unusually stressful personal goings-on, and end of school. I ran through May with a tightened chest and my head down like a quarterback trying to break through, um, a bunch of other football players. Look, I don't know sports, but I kept my heart tucked under my arm and I plowed through a wall of offensive obstacles. With my head down. You know, football.
What I was not was head-down in writing. My writing was done in fits and spurts at the loud family computer in the even louder family room or on a glitchy laptop with a screen that keeps falling backward on the couch and keys that won't catch despite the fact that I type like I'm mad at the letters.
All the while, my office became the catch-all for life's detritus. Stress made physical in the form of piles and stacks. Everything I couldn't face moved into my office.
Including my own words.
So I put on figurative horse-blinders yesterday and sat at my desk in my office. I'm working on not needing everything to be perfect before I can write, so the blinders were necessary. Just sit. At the desk. No pressure. Just sit and look at the computer. Maybe blind type on the keys into nowhere. Jot some abstract words into my notebook and underline my favorites.
I ended up watching Hulu.
20 minutes in and I felt like writing. Hey now! My body remembered what it was supposed to do at this desk and the ideas followed.
While researching a bit for a piece I'm writing for Babble (one of half a dozen pieces I've written a few lovely paragraphs for and then abandoned during the terribly May), I came across a Reddit AMA that Ethan Hawke did this week. AMA is an "ask me anything" in which Reddit users ask the OP (original poster) questions and they answer. Fairly self-explanatory, but click the link and it will become obvious.
All-around solid AMA, this quote made me scroll back and re-read:
"Write every day. Not every other day. Not tomorrow. Not after the party. But before. The more you write, the more comes out of you. If you don't give inspiration an opportunity, it will never arrive."
Write every day. It is the most repeated advice we hear. I've honestly stopped hearing it and I give that advice. I even give detailed life-hack consultation on how to actually pull it off, not just want to pull it off. Because I know how difficult making yourself write every day is. It is painful. It feels impossibly insurmountable.
It's damn good advice. I hate that advice.
I write far more than I publish on Velveteen Mind. That said, almost every brilliant opportunity I've secured has materialized because of this blog. This is my home base. No matter how much changes, this platform remains.
This is my springboard, as ever a platform should be. When I land in untested waters and decide I'd rather not stay, I return here. When I find new loves elsewhere, I keep the fire burning here. Smoldering. Let's say smoldering.
Hawke's statement pleading "If you don't give inspiration an opportunity, it will never arrive." is the line that made me stop and re-read. It took a moment for it to sink in, so I found myself halfway down the page when I stopped and returned to it.
I give myself far too many rules here. I know that.
- "Don't post twice in one week if you haven't posted in a month before that."
- "Don't post less than five paragraphs if you haven't published anything recently."
- "Don't post a photo on Velveteen Mind's Rummage Blog if there's nothing new on Velveteen Mind."
- "Don't just jump into a random story if no one has heard from you recently. Sweet Valley High** it!"
I frequently write about the writing process and, specifically, my writing process here. I am a champion of the transparent struggle. I let you see me trying and I, more often than not, let you see me abandon the plan and wander off again.
No one reads blogs during the summer. Sounds like a great time to write, don't you think? Abaondon some of those rules? Just sit down and sit and sit and see what happens. Nope, don't get up, yet. Sit.
In the meantime, let's talk about your own writing process. What is your biggest struggle? Do you saddle yourself with arbitrary rules like I do?
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*Hawking refers to this comment in the Ethan Hawke AMA, though works on a couple of levels so yay for double entendres
** "Sweet Valley High it" is my personal shorthand for catching the audience up before you start a new story.
photos via www.istockphoto.com and linked through awesome affiliate links because nickels