Breaking the Seal

I don’t know what happened last year.
The last two months were incredibly unproductive for me in terms of writing. Sure I was finish up some editorial projects and they were giving their last gasp hassles, and yes there were the holidays (and me being gone in Ohio for a bit). But that’s no excuse. I just flat out wasn’t writing.
Given that I’m a writer, and a professional one since I’ve been paid more than once to do that thing I claim to do, I wasn’t cutting it. But I couldn’t do it. I would agonize over easy stuff (taking my polish/revision stab at the latest draft in the Hill/Levin saga), and flat out freeze when it came to other things (like that damnable screenplay). I just couldn’t get anything going. Sure, I could blame certain projects for not moving fast enough. I’d expel creative energy in one direction, get hyped, and then wait weeks (or longer) to hear what the next step was, or even if there would be one. But excuses are like assholes. No one needs ’em even if they come in handy once in a while.
When I made the resolution (on this very site), I was very clear not to set unobtainable goals. It wasn’t that I was going to write X amount every day. It was just that I was going to sit here and write every day. Chances are, between the 30 or so projects gestating at any given time, I’d be able to get something out there, even if it’s just notes for something I haven’t really thought out yet.
So last night I got a late start after dinner and did just that. I spent a few hours working and made actual progress on something that was already 3 weeks overdue. Tonight I worked on it again. A later start, and now it’s almost 3am, but I got more written than yesterday and that thing is inching closer to completion.
Is it good? Probably not. There are parts I’m not happy with in the slightest, but it’s just a draft. And as I’ve come to realize, the first step is getting something on paper. You can have the best idea ever, and in your head it may be genius, but a) it’s not real yet, and b) it’s much easier to fix something when it’s in some kind of form, rather than nebulous headspace. So I push on, trying to get this scene done, and then the next one, and then the next. And when it’s finished, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I can take a look and make it better. I can pass it off to a co-writer or a trusted reader. I can make it better on the next pass, but I have to get this one done first.
Aspiring writers, never forget that bit. You can always make it better, but you have to get it written first. Write, then edit, then write some more.
Writing is not a young man’s game. Most of what is written is crap. But the more you write, the more likely you are to get that crap out of your system. If I were a pessimist I would say all I’ve done the last two days is “get more crap out of my system.”
I’m constantly amazed at how consistent my co-writer Bryan Hill is. There’s a very high level to everything he does, and that could be the idea he just typed up after a phone call, or a screenplay he’s toiled over. It’s always there. And I believe his secret is that he’s written out his bad stuff. Sure, some stuff is better than others; that’s always going to happen. Not every idea can be a winner. But the overall quality is astounding.
I don’t like most of what I write. I’m overly self-critical, but I’ve learned to put that aside. Malcom Gladwell talks about talent in his book Outliers. He calls talent the result of several factors, the largest of which is 10,000 hours of practice. I don’t need the process of writing to get easier, and I don’t need to think that everything will make me feel happier once it’s on the page. But knowing that I’m getting more and more of my bad writing out of my system and getting ever closer to 10,000 hours/talent… that’s what keeps me going when I feel like I’m writing crappy pap and should put down the keyboard.
So what was this post about? Oh yeah, I’ve written a decent amount (and been very productive, despite watching three movies today) the last two days. I feel like whatever excuse hex I was putting on myself is gone, and committing to “something” is really paying off. I broke the seal, so to speak.
Again with the 2010… Totally feeling it.
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