25 January 2010


As this post - er, posts, I will be primping my hair, having my face painted and putting on shiny shoes and a lustrous dress - in other words, I'll be getting dressed for my sister's wedding. How excitement! O:)

Also, on Friday it is my own wedding anniversary; and there are at least 3 other couples I can think of off the top of my head who we are friends with who have wedding anniversaries this week.* So clearly, it's Commitment Week! Huzzah!

Commitment Week? I hear you say with undue scepticism. What does Commitment Week have to do with writing?

Ah, I say with a knowing smile. Allow me to elaborate.

It's quite simple, really. In order to be a writer, you have to be committed to the act of writing. It's not enough to just talk about writing, to want to be a writer, to have great ideas and hang out with writers. You have to actually write. Pretty simple, pretty straightforward.


Like a relationship, really. To have a successful relationship, all you need to do is love each other and communicate, and you're sweet. Simple as that.

Uh huh, reeeeeeeal simple.

But having a commitment to writing is much like having a commitment in a relationship. After all, you have your ups and downs, your good days and your bad days, your lovey-dovey moments where everything is great and you've never felt so inspired and oh my goodness your feet are just walking on air the words keep coming and coming and coming...

Aaaaand there are the days where, seriously? You'd rather bash your head with significant force against a brick wall than go home. I mean, write. O:)

Like any relationship, it's the knowledge that the bad times will get better, and the knowledge that this is a decision you made, that gets you through.

Coincedently, a good friend of mine is also having a commitment crisis right now; she's questioning her commitment to writing. She feels like she hasn't written seriously in a couple of months and is wondering whether she either needs to get a move on with writing or admit that she's quit.

At this point, let me point out that she has, in actual fact, written 25k in the last two months, which for some of us is phenomenal. But for her, it's less than up to par. And it's left her feeling unproductive and uncommitted.

So what's a writer to do?

First of all, something I'm having to learn in all areas of my life, one day at a time: Life isn't all or nothing.

It's not a matter of do something perfectly or don't do it all. It isn't a case of wash all 3 million dishes or don't touch them. It's actually okay to just wash the first few hundred thousand and save the rest for later. It isn't that you need to teach every single class perfectly and to an outstanding standard. It's enough to get most of them right.

It isn't that you have to write a thousand words every single day come rain, come hail, come shine - come illness, come death, come exhaustion, come work, come study, come family, come life.

It isn't. It really isn't.

Going through the mechanical motions of writing because you have to will give you about as much success as going through the motions in any other relationship - which is to say, you'll quite probably get results that look good from the outside, but you run the very serious risk of losing the heart of your work.

In writing, taking a break doesn't mean giving up. Having a month of lowered productivity - or two, or three - doesn't mean giving up. And having days where you don't write doesn't mean giving up either.

I counted them up in talking to said friend: So far this month I've written a mere 11 out of 23 days. In December, I had 19 days where I didn't write. September and October boasted 12 days each of no writing, and in August I didn't write for 17 days.

Life happens.

Things get in the way of writing.

It's up to you whether or not that will break your commitment to writing, or whether you'll give yourself permission to go at the pace you need, and accept what productivity you can get.

Life isn't all or nothing - and neither is writing. And it's a proven fact that stress lowers creativity, so taking the pressure to perform away can actually boost your productivity (like my September).

Do what you can. Write what you can, when you can. And most importantly, as for everything in life, Know Yourself. Know whether your behaviour is laziness and lack of commitment, or whether it's life getting in the way. And feeling unmotivated to write isn't an indicator either way - you can feel unmotivated because you're lazy, or because you're exhausted.

It's okay for writing not to be your number 1 priority, even if you are aiming for publication; sure paper can keep you warm at night, but it's not as cosy as your family ;)

In the end:

Commitment. It's all in your head. Which means it's up to you.



Beth said...

That was an excellent post, Inkster. I like Marriage as a simile for a relationship with one's writing.

Makes me want to call up an editor and take my vows!

You're a lovely person, girl. I believe there are great things in store for you :-)

Keep your stick on the ice!


Yunaleska said...

Yes, some days it isn't possible to write. But on those days the writing still goes on in my head. My Muse never sleeps.

Wulf said...

Happy Versey!

Yes, yes. Keep your stick on the ice. How aptly put.

One trick I like to use is the journal. If my stories are stalled, I resort to la revista and crank out whatever is in my head--typically complaints about my stories being stalled. This is like purging some engine cleaner through the fuel lines and gets things moving.

Another thing I will do if I just can't bring myself to write is research and develop characters or places. Any time spent on this is well worth it as the stories simply become richer and richer.

But more important than the technique is the pig-headed determination to keep at it :)

WindyA said...

I love it! When so many people out there are posting word counts and pages edited, it's nice to be reminded that it isn't all or nothing, and everyone's life is a little different.

Thanks for keeping things in perspective.

Merc said...

Very nicely put, Inky One!

Also, happy anniversary to you and congrats to the sis. B-)

Suzette Saxton said...

Your blog is so pretty. Love all the shades of blue.

Congrats to your sister. And you are right - commitment is all in the head. Well said!

Bethany Wiggins said...

Commitment is a hard thing to learn. It takes, dare I say, commitment? Big time commitment. But the things that come from following through with commitment are amazing.

Krispy said...

Thanks for this excellent reminder. :)

Congrats, by the way, to your sister and to you!

Inkblot said...

Beth - I can just hear the phone call now: Hi, Editor! I just wanted to tell you how much I love you!

Editor: Er, thanks?

You: Yes! And you know what? I really thing we're ready to take our relationship to The Next Level!

Editor: Er, you do??

You: Oh, totally! So, I was wondering... will you preside over a ceremony in which I marry my writing?

Editor: (mildly relieved) Oh, is that all? I mean, um, sure! No problem....


Yuna - Good on your Muse. My Muse naps for days at a time sometimes \:|

Wulf - Thanks :D I love journalling as a technique for Working Things Out. Unfortunately, it usually takes a few days of *headdesk* to remember it :D hehe.

Windy - Perspective is something I often need to be reminded of. I'm glad I'm not alone in that :D

Merc - thanks :o)

Suzette - glad you agree! :D And thanks for the compliments/well-wishes :)

Bethany - *giggle* Yes, learning commitment takes commitment :D But you're right, it's definitely worth it :o)

Krispy - thank you, and you're welcome! :D

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