PRIOR TO WRITING …
Sometimes, you know what you want to write about, but not how to write it.
And by “sometimes”, I mean “this is the essence of being a writer”. Or I hope it is anyway, because if not then I’m just bad at it.
I am more aware this year than in any year previous that my writing habits – specifically, the best way to gauge whether or not I will be doing writing at any given time – is dictated heavily by my mood. I’m not great at getting myself to write if I’m not in the mood for it; for years I have lamented my own lack of discipline, the ability to just get started, regardless of my mood – which is infuriating, not only because I keep fantasising about how much more writing I could have gotten done by this point if I had cultivated this habit, but also because after I get started, everything falls into place. Mood does not make my writing better or worse, either; if I go back and look at writing that I’ve done when I was inspired and energisied versus writing that I did while I was in a slump and wracking my brain just trying to figure out how to link sentences together coherently, I can’t tell which is which just by reading it. Forcing myself to write has the same result as being swept up on a wave of inspiration, in terms of the quality of the writing that gets produced.
That’s not the only way in which my writing habits are attuned to my feelings, though. Ever since I parted ways with my scumbag best friend from ages 12-20 and reconnected with myself, the stories that I’m the most passionate about have stood out because of the feeling I get when I think of them. They each have a specific tone, a particular vibe that compels me to maintain the thought of one day realising this feeling through my writing. Mark and Jessie is the big one, but Tallulah has it, too, though it’s shifted over the years; my reboot of Wolf Gang has it – hell, even the original Wolf Gang had it – my one vampire novel that I haven’t started work on since having the idea five years ago has it; my D&D-inspired story that will never get written has it; and a whole bunch of random stories that I started and discarded over the intervening years all have it, too. It’s a particular quality of my stories, and it drives me to distraction feeling like I have to find a way to put their particular mood into words, or I’m not doing it right.
The feelings, though, are not really feelings that I can even articulate. It might be due to the constraints of the English language; it might be that I’m overthinking it; it might be that the feelings I’m having aren’t actually about the stories at all, but rather the reflection of some part of my life that I see in the story. It’s always a wistful feeling, a sort of melancholic longing, but in a nice way. Nice melancholy, whatever the appropriate word for that is. Is it just that the stories I’m telling seem more appealing than the life that I live, and these “vibes” that I attribute to my various writing projects are actually moments of distorted recognition of my sense of unfulfilled desire, of life unlived?
I mean, yes, obviously it is. But I think it’s more than that, too. I think it’s me lingering on feelings and shutting myself off from taking action so that I can absorb them more deeply. I think this is why I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like, why I let opportunities slip by, moments of inspiration that I don’t leap on and follow through with; I think this is why I feel like I miss out on a lot of things in general. I just like feeling.
And what I think I’m ready to put into words now is this: it’s not enough to just feel.
There’s that philosophical question that I came across in my youth upon seeing The Matrix: how can you tell the difference between reality and a really immersive illusion? It’s all just electrical signals being interpreted by our brains, isn’t it? Well even without an intravenous digital simulation of physical reality being imposed upon me, I think I’m definitely someone who falls for the allure of electrical signals more easily than is healthy. I don’t need to be a test-tube clone swimming in a vat of liquefied human corpses (for those who haven’t seen The Matrix, no, I am not mixing any metaphors here) to be too easily contented by what I can feel as opposed to what I can do, or what could happen. I have this fear, I think, that if I try to act on these feelings, they’ll disappear. I’ll scare them off somehow, like trying to sneak up on a unicorn. So to make sure it stays where I can see it, experience it even if only from afar, I just stay still and let it be what it is.
It is not enough.
I guess maybe this is another way of me recognising that writing is never going to be enough to sustain me. I don’t know what is, or even what part of that is. I just have these feelings, these unrealised potential experiences that my brain translates into imperatives to write evocative prose. I think these kinds of feelings only really come to people who are passive and feel like they miss out on things. I think that if I become more active at some point in my life, I’ll stop having these feelings altogether, and feel different things instead. And that’s scary. It makes me kind of sad.
Don’t know why, seeing as I’m doing positively jack shit to actually make that sort of a lifestyle change, but whatever brain.
I know I see it as a barrier to my writing; I know that I use it as a private excuse for why I can’t write whatever project I currently have these wistful feels for. If I can’t write the right words, then no words will do. But I guess I’ve written a thousand words about how I need the right words, so I’ve gotten started – and that means the rest is about to fall into place.
AFTER WRITING …
God I’m dramatic sometimes.
Did I write the feeling? No. Which, I now realise, would have been impossible anyway, because these feelings aren’t a part of the story that is crying out for my attention. They are sort of like a canvas. Not a blank canvas; it is the story, but it’s the story before it’s been told. It’s the entire story calling out for my attention, saying “hey, you, writer person, come and put words here” …
And it’s not about the right words. It’s just about stories needing words in order to be told, to become more than just a thought or fantasy. I mean sure, there are stories you can tell without words, plenty of them; but my stories use words, because that’s how I tell them. My point is that these feelings – I’m the one looking for the right words, but that’s not what the stories are asking for. They’re just asking to be told. And they feel different because they’re different stories.
Yet still so alluring … oh well. One more element of my nebulous inner workings decoded. On to the next one, I guess.
I forget sometimes that this co-writing project is the main reason for why my word-count for the first few months of Weekly Words was so gratifyingly thicc. Yes, thicc can apply to word-count, I just applied it to word-count, and I’m a writer so I would know.
Three days out of seven is …
Next week. Next week, I will have decided whether I am going to get serious about writing this month. But for this week …
Weekly Total: 5245
I have planned many stories over the years, and most of them I have never even started. Planning stories, as I have said before on this blog, is really its own project for me; it’s not really ever connected to a story, but some self-contained mental exercise that I do every now and then so that I can give myself a fantasy cookie and pat myself on the back for being “productive”. Plans don’t do anything for me, unless I have a deadline I have to meet and only a plan is going to save me from imploding from nerves and anxiety.
That, or ambition.
Ambition gets shit done, and it is, I now realise, the driving force behind all of my stories that have gotten written, and definitely the ones that I’ve been the most excited about. So, rather than seeing if I can come up with a plan for my current writing projects and seeing if that kicks me into gear, I’m going to try to get some ambition going. Go big or go home, and I’m already home. Not really; I’m writing this from my co-writing friend’s house, but it’s a home, so I guess it counts, right?
Ambition is the only way I’m going to get shit done. I haven’t got any right now – but that’s partly because I’ve been distracting myself with various trivial time-wasting activities that derail whatever ambitions I do have. And I do have at least some for these projects. So, next week is going to be all about getting back in touch with that ambition, and seeing where it leads. Because it would be really cool to do a lot of writing this month.
And while I am not going to be able to get a book ready for submission this year, I think I can finish a zero draft.
I daresay, that almost sounds like a plan.