Thursday, February 7, 2013

We'll Run Out Of Stuff To Write When We're Dead

A writing friend commented on Facebook the other day that she had so much left to do on her book. I made the offhanded comment that we always have so much left to do, and we'll run out of stuff to write when we're dead.

I've since thought about this comment. It says a lot about my new way of looking at writing. For years, I've been an on-again-off-again writer. If I don't write for three or four days, I'm done. The very thought of opening my manuscript is paralyzing to me. But the minute I actually force myself to start writing again, the other me takes over. The one who wanted to become a writer in the first place.

Consistency, for me, is the key.

And if I stop to think too much about the big picture, I get overwhelmed and freak out and stop for two or three days, which can become two or three months without even trying.

My point is, if I'm a writer, I write. Every day. But it doesn't have to consume every thought, every relationship, every interaction.

So, for me, learning to turn it on and off is important. And learning that as a writer, every day I do my time, and then I also live my life. And then the next day, I write again. It doesn't matter which piece of the puzzle I'm working on if I don't think so hard about the whole picture. I can navigate between projects, focusing on whatever is most pressing. I can switch to revising for my agent, and back to working on my WIP without initiating a writer's block breakdown

And I'm not planning to ever finish. The goal is not to be done. The goal is to write.

(Responsible, Real-World Heather chiming in here: Obviously we have to finish certain manuscripts and revisions on deadlines... but like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll think about that tomorrow. Nothing kills my creative flow like the demand that I be funny, poignant, and articulate on a schedule. If I think about it in a pressure-free way, I am my most productive.) 

And we're writers. So we'll run out of things to write about when we're dead. And even in heaven, I hope I can spend a little time each day with the heavenly equivalent of my laptop and characters and glorious, delicious words.


  1. I love this! Probably because my process is so similar. If I stop for a while, it feels like it could be impossible to get back into the book. So I become reluctant to try, which means I put it off even more, and then it's even harder. The only way to stop that cycle is to either write every single day or just realize that this is how it feels when I get back into writing, and to just push through it to the other side, where writing is a little playful and a little fun instead of all work and stress. Those first few days back are the hardest, but after that it's so much better.

    Oh, and like you I've been working at focusing on different aspects of my writing at once. In an ideal world we'd be able to work on one book until it's done, then switch gears to something else. In truth, though, there are revisions from agents, and critiques from CPs and contests, and blogging, and conferences, and our own epiphanies about earlier chapters (or new books). They all make us change our focus. But I think that flexibility can be learned, and when we *can* focus it feels more like a luxury.

    Happy writing!

  2. Amazing Caryn! My only reader. How I love your thoughtful comments. I never think of you as getting emo about writing, or paralyzed in your process. You just seem so professional and methodical. I'm amazed by you. And it was, therefore, comforting to find out we're in the same boat!