Bookfox: Writerly Questions #4

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First things first: Merry Christmas. I hope you were all good little boys and girls and that Santa brought you that lovely little notebook/pen/laptop/other writer’s tool you were eyeing up all year.

Christmas is, obviously, the reason for the late posting of this week’s Bookfox question/answer, the fourth in the Bookfox series.

Question: Does writing energise or exhaust you? (Question found on Bookfox’s blog, here)

Answer: I’ve been looking forward to answering this one as I really like how well it addresses the full-on, bittersweet experience of being a writer. Or any kind of creator, I suppose. Writing is a labour of passion and love that brings a glorious euphoria when I am in full flow, knocking out words at a fantastical rate. The moment it stops, though, can be one of tremendous existential pain and melancholy.

When my writing is going well, I find that I am able to block out almost all distraction and the pictures in my head become words on the page almost of their own volition. One good writing session bleeds into another and I can build up momentum quite quickly so that I write every day for a few weeks. I go to work bouncing on the balls of my feet, everything I do seems to fall into a single rhythm. Everything I need is in the first place I look. I plan my next action whilst completing my current one. I am like a master of some mundane martial art, able to pick up keys and place them in my pocket whilst simultaneously donning my coat and slipping my feet into my boots. The world falls into place for me, ready to be navigated and exploited as my needs dictate.

Or so it can feel. I have no doubt that my day job suffers a little from this. I can often be a bit distracted and find myself thinking about what my characters will do next and what horrible things I can do to them. This authorial sadism would not go down well in social care! As it is less than appropriate at work, I find myself doing everything I can to finish the tasks of my day-job as quickly as possible so I can get home again and back to the work that really matters to me.

However, it only takes one day of not writing, for any reason, to knock me out of my stride. It’s like going to the gym. When I’m exercising regularly, it feels great and I just want to keep running/swimming/lifting/whatever. When the day comes that I skip on my routine, the next day of exercise – or writing, as the case may be – is much more difficult. Miss more than one day and I may as well be starting from scratch. On these days, starting to write can be particularly daunting. I have to overcome the fear that I will open up Scrivener and just not know what to do next or that what I see when the document loads up will be a steaming pile of literary faeces. I hate those days, when I don’t want to write because trying to do so might confirm all of my worst self-doubts. Then comes the drinking and obsessive tweeting and a renewed focus on blogging (erm… oops.). I have, in the past, gone months without loading Scrivener because of this self-defeating perturbation.

One thing I have found to help with getting back into writing after a long break is having an outline. I’m sure I will come back to this in another post, some point in the future but outlining allows me to do two things, depending on my most pressing need. First, a novel outline lets me see what I’m writing to, how the current chapter has to feed into the next to keep the story moving. That pre-planned self-direction can be invaluable. Second, a chapter- or scene-level outline can provide the bones for the writing that I’m about to do. This would usually be written as I open Scrivener which can help to get the juices flowing.

So there you go. Six-and-a-bit hundred words to say that writing is both energising and exhausting, depending on how well it is going and a little bit of writing advice thrown in as a reward for reading it all.

As always, I would really enjoy reading your response to this post’s question so please leave your answer in the comments section, below. If you want to answer the question in your own blog post then I’m more than happy for you post a link in the comments, too (I would appreciate a mention, though 🙂 ). Until next week, I hope you have a most glorious new year! See you in 2018.

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