You may have a day job that pays the bills and keeps your head above water, this is what you do to get by but deep down you are a writer. You know this because you write. You do it because you must. You are compelled to write. Let’s face it, writing is an addiction.
I’ve been writing since I was a boy and I’ve never asked myself why I do it. I suspect the same can be said for anyone who thrive on their passion – a musician, fire fighter, wedding cake maker, teacher, lawyer…and so on, they do it because it’s who they are.
In September 2011 I finished the latest draft of my current writing project, The Range, to let it simmer on the back burner for a while. I started work on a follow-up called The Survivors and set that aside to embark on the NaNoWriMo challenge. I cranked out 85,000 words in 30 days and my story was left unfinished.
In between those big writing projects I love the challenge of writing short pieces for Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press. Some no more than 100 words, but more often than not my short fiction runs to around 3,000 words. Other tales have spanned 20-30,000 like Ground Fall and Arcane Insane. Short fiction is a different process compared to penning a novel, the writing has to be more concise, and more often than not you have to get to the point quicker.
Even when I’m not tapping away on a keyboard I’m still writing. In my head, my dreams, while I eat, brush my teeth, watch TV…every waking moment is occupied with writing. I think about my next scene, chunk of dialogue, chapter structure, possible short story idea, what to write on my blog – the stream of thoughts about writing is never-ending. I jest at times by saying the writing happens 24/7, and my fingers are just conduits for the deep torrent kept at bay by the writing damn until it can be unleashed onto the screen.
I’ll tell you about the Hollow.
I don’t have writer’s block and doubt I ever will. But the Hollow is different. It’s hard to describe but I’ll try. I want to write. The urge is there, bubbling away under my skin. It never goes away and, as I’ve said, the writing continues without pen or keyboard. But sometimes that drive is filled by a cold hollow feeling, not in my head but physically felt.
I hate the Hollow.
It feels as if my body has ejaculated every last scrap of passion, and all that’s left is my skin etched in words and ideas. A mannequin is a good metaphor. It has skin, of a sort, plastic that’s a few millimetres thin, the rest of it is empty. The Hollow is different to writers block because it doesn’t prevent me from writing, but it makes the act seem pointless, grey, devoid of emotional connection or purpose.
The Hollow makes me question whether being a writer is in my soul at all.
My closest friend once told me that I’ll never stop writing, that even in my darkest times (Hey, even a happy smiling chap like me can still have moments of darkness) I’ll still find a way to write, regardless of emotional state of mind or spirit. I know the obvious answers to combat this feeling, take a walk, leave the keyboard alone, do something else…take a break for God’s sake!
Does a daily writing regime really work?
I know there are many who say that if you want to be a writer you must write. A plumber plumbs, and when he doesn’t plumb he isn’t working. So the same goes for a writer. Write a hundred words and ninety of them may by total shite, but at least you have ten good ones. But what if you want to write and your inner author is screaming at you but the Hollow has filled you with icy black space that has robbed you of your passion? I can write through it but I wouldn’t enjoy it. And isn’t that the point?
So maybe if I try writing in bursts, as and when the inspiration comes, would that be better? Some will argue, hell yeah, let it scream out of you when the dam finally bursts. I like that method and it works for me. I write every day, well, more days than not let’s say. But I don’t get the same buzz as I do when I open those gates and let the creative surge thunder and roar.
It’s OK to question my motivation for writing, right?
Here’s a short story! On my desk I have three draft copies of The Range, read by close friends and littered with comments, spelling mistakes, grammar oopsies, suggestions, ideas, questions, plot holes – you name it, they’ve given excellent feedback. I’m still waiting for my dad to finish his feedback because, as writer himself, I value his feedback even if I may not agree with it.
I made start on my edit just after Christmas. I wanted one of those document holder things to rest my copy on, but they’re expensive! So I fashioned one out of a box file and it works a treat. I had my own notes, bits and pieces I wanted to change, extra scenes I felt were needed and so on. I got to work on the start, shifting the story back a little way, and wrote a new opening chapter.
I was happy with how it flowed as I wrote it but I haven’t looked at it since the first draft. I ploughed on into the next chapter, checking my notes, referencing comments made on the three drafts on my document holder sat on my desk.
Half way through that chapter I stopped. Other stuff got in the way. Life stuff. That’s acceptable I guess but now those three copies sit beside my PC gathering dust. They stare at me with papery eyes, begging for attention. I told Evelyn at Filling A Hole that she must crack on with her NaNo edit, how could she leave her precious words all alone and unloved?
Ha! Talk about being a hypocrite!
I know what my problem is. I can’t muster the energy to get back into the editing process. I need uninterrupted time. And when I do lash myself to my chair I know that sooner or later someone will call, or I’ll have to leave to cook dinner or something else will drag me away. So I think, why bother starting?
I know you what you must be saying to your screen right now, dear blog reader. Hey, Dave, you’re using up that precious time to write this blog post you moron, sheesh, that’s what we call procrastination you know!
Yeah, yeah. I know. I want to do it. But the Hollow is a bitch. I laid in bed this morning planning my day. Breakfast, washing, play with the dogs, then sit down and work on my edit. By the time I turned on my PC the mood had left me. I didn’t want to start editing and not be on top form. I don’t want to miss something or make a mistake. I checked my emails, sent a few texts then realised I had changed by blog schedule for Writing Tips Wednesday to Writing Tips Thursday.
Awesome! At least I had a reason to write, okay not on my novel edit, but my fingers would be doing something. So as I sat staring at my screen I wondered what to write about. Should I do a piece on characters or plot or the nuts and bolts of writing? That didn’t fit my mood, the Hollow was eating away at my body and my shell wasn’t feeling up to the task.
And the question popped into my head.
Is writing in my soul?
I once said that if they took all the pens, pencils, paper and computers away I would write on the ground with my blood because I have to let the words out somehow. But do I? If I stopped writing would that urge dissipate? Would I fill it with something else? And would I be happy going to work, coming home, watching TV and slipping quietly into a grey, unthinking drone like those I see around me?
Is my time well spent? When I spoke to my dad the other day he said he had the new Tomb Raider game but hadn’t had time to play it, and when he thought about it he figured it would be a waste of his time as there were more important things to do. I replied by saying it depends on how you value your time. Would he feel enriched by taking a few hours out to guide Lara around a tomb or two?
Increasingly I find that time is an annoying witch that steals moments when you’re not looking. I’ve been writing this post for an hour now, and at the back of my mind I know I have washing up to do, dog poo to pick up and dinner to think about. And maybe writing this probably isn’t a very effective use of my time. I admit it has been therapeutic but is that enough?
Is there a simple answer?
I wonder if I took a break from writing, would it make me a better writer? Would I enjoy it on my return? I honestly don’t think I could take a break, and I guess that probably answers my blog post question. For those regular reader you’ll hopefully have noticed I’m a happy, smiling kind of guy, but even the most positive person is allowed to have doubts, right?
What do you think, dear blog reader?
I’d love to hear what makes you tick and why you keep on writing.