Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That sort of day

There are days when the idea I want to write about, arrives fully formed like a child born straight into adulthood with none of the pains of growing up. These are the best days.
Then there are those days that are full of grunts and moans. I may start with a word, a line or even an image, unsure where it is going or how it will turn out. In the end however, it all takes shape and acquires a certain tone and that’s when I realise what I am trying to say. To get to this stage requires discipline to see the process through. It also requires me to allow myself to waffle. Lost in the dross, gems may sparkle, or nothing may happen at all. I have to be willing to try and see. These are the good days and they are the domain within which most of my writing gets done.
I have learnt that whilst inspiration might give me the wings on which my idea might fly, it is best not to wait and write only when that happens. Those moments of ├ęclat are rare. Most of the time, all I get is a gentle nudge. Writing happens because I turn up at the page to write (almost) every day. It happens because I know I can, and want to write.
The bad days are the ones when I sit poised over the keyboard, only for little demons of self-doubt to worm their way into my head. This might happen when I have read a marvellous piece of writing and feel I can’t measure up, or when I am tired and stressed and every little thing sets me on edge. Sometimes, it happens for no reason I can fathom. The voices taunt me, and I believe them. I begin to wonder why I even bother trying because there is no way I could ever write as well as writer X. If I don’t crawl under my desk and hide there, it is only because a tiny voice whispers back to me and reminds me that I don’t really want to write like writer X, but as myself in a voice that is my own, whatever that may sound like.
It is during these times that I feel it is most important to write. While I am experiencing these feelings, the last thing I want to do is the very thing that might save me. It is hard to stop the belligerent demons from looting and burning every ounce of creativity. I try to remind myself that I have the tool that will fell them swiftly, and I pick up the pen, if only just to speak about how pathetic my feelings are.
I might time myself for ten minutes while I get the monstrous emotions down on paper. Ten minutes by my clock, is not a long time. I may not feel able to write that epic novel that will take me years like writer X did, but ten minutes I can certainly manage. If I feel the need, I may even go for another block of ten. I write until the sound of my gushing stream of words is loud enough to drown out the vexing voices.
I have often found that this exercise is so effective that at the end of the first round, my perspective changes immensely. The walls of Jericho turn to rubble and I can see further afield into the exciting and adventurous wilds of my imagination. From there I may take flight to wherever the word, the sentence, or the image might lead me. It is the joy I find in this process that makes it for me, a good writing day.

Picture by eddiedangerous


  1. I'm going to try this approach as I usually end up reading what I've already written before my fingers start back on that keyboard. I've just binned 25k of my first draft - I'm feeling a bit down-hearted - so I could spend ten minutes writing about loss!

  2. I hope you didn't actually bin it Stu? Put it in a little box somewhere which will help to keep your spirits up....

    I love how you are so disciplined, Brigid. I understand the need to write and I feel all at sea if I'm away from it for too long...but as you say, perseverance is the key.

  3. At Stu: OMG! That's a lot of words to bin! I can't beleive it was all bad. I'm sad with you I have to admit. Courage fails me to bin that many words. I reckon a lot of Vanilla ice-cream and a tremendous amount of writing might cure you. But still, oh gods!

    At J: Discipline is an attitude if you ask me. I have to admit i don't always make it to the page every single day but I always have the intention which means I end up writing more often than I don't (at least 5 days of the week) mostly dross but hey at least I'm writing, right?