So an interesting thought came to me while I was sitting in my 19th Century British Literature class this morning. We are reading poems by William Wordsworth, and within one of the early stanzas within his poem, Resolution and Independence, he sort of deifies writers, or implies that writers (poets, in this case) are gods. Another student raises her hand and asks, “Wouldn’t that be a tad controversial for his time? I mean, he’s basically calling himself God”. My teacher is quick to remark that he is not really calling himself God, or even calling writers gods. He’s really saying that many people tend to deify writers in general, or praise them, or call their work “godly”. Or, more specifically, maybe he is commenting on the idea that many writers believe that by creating great works of art, they become impervious to life and the world.
When my professor said this, I couldn’t help but laugh - it really is the greatest example of poetic irony that I’ve ever heard. I’m just a writing student: I don’t mean to sound like I have my head up my own ass or that I even know a fraction of anything about writing (because despite all that i read and write, it really is only a fraction of what i COULD know), but isn’t the writing experience completely different from this observation? Most writers - Bukowski, Kerouac, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, O’Toole, and a plethora of others - lived extremely self-destructive lives! Even today, the typical image of a writer is a slightly melancholy intellectual, having tons of drinks (probably alone) and smoking heavily. We FEEL in excess, and to write is to ease the pain of what we see is our own destruction.
When my professor said this, I thought, “Gods? More like demons!” and it’s sort of true, in an eerie sort of way - we sit in dark corners of bars, wrapped in smoke,twisting the truth, or creating new lies all together. We bait the world with our words to survive, gathering strength from the works of the dead, almost worshipping them. We’re Devils, trampling each other to gain those one or two followers.
Then I thought, if writers are demons then the masses are pagans. They read our work and praise us! They call us great, geniuses, fantastic, divine … But it’s all another story, a grand lie. And when we finally destroy ourselves (in one way or another - smoking, drinking, or just plain neglect - although I guess a lot of people have died from such causes, and they weren’t writers), and our bones our buried in the mud with the rest of them, you become more famous than when you were alive! They would burn incense, or kiss your grave, or give memorials in your honor.
It’s all really weird, but an interesting juxtaposition, in my opinion!
Before I came home for summer break, I was determined to set about writing on a consistent basis. My theory at the time had been to write in small bursts, and only when it was fun or interesting to me. This theory inevitably failed me during the school year for a number of reasons, the main one being that school work always seemed to get in the way. I began to notice a trend: I wanted to write whenever I had a giant pile of work to do, but whenever I managed to scratch up some free time, writing just didn’t appeal to me. I would literally do anything else, from playing video games to just sitting on my bed, staring at the ceiling.
This puzzled me for a while, especially with the end of the semester getting closer and closer. I was asking all of my friends for advice on how to get the bug to write back. Finally, my closest friend (who happens to be an art major studying at a University in the New England area) suggested that I try a different mindset. He said that I was going about it all wrong: “man, you just have to set a huge amount of time aside and force yourself to write! You have to sit down at your desk and say to yourself, ‘All right, I’m not leaving this desk for however-many hours, and in that time, I’m going to write!’”
That’s it! I thought. I just need the proper drive, and I’ll be golden! With so much free time over the summer, how couldn’t I get anything down? With this in mind and my semester finally at an end, I made a mental schedule with myself; the original plan was to write down something - ANYTHING - from 8 AM to 4 PM. That would be Writing Time. Any time after that would be used to anything other than writing: video games, reading, doing nothing, etc. At the time, I thought that this would help me get a novel written out in no time! On the first day that my new schedule was to take effect, I practically woke up with a clipboard in my hand, and I actually got a moderate amount done with a bit of effort. But this burst of productivity, I’m ashamed to say, only lasted me those few hours in the afternoon when I had gotten a fresh idea in my head.
Every day after that, my writing came to a frightening halt. I wasn’t brainstorming, outlining… ANYTHING. My mentality during this time (as my best guess, since hindsight is always 20/20) was that before I did something as monumental and start writing my first big novel, it would be probably be best to get some chores out the way first. I cleaned my room. I finished unpacking. I cleaned and reorganized my hard drive. I cleaned out my parents’ garage. After all of the chores were done, I spent the majority of my free time doing absolutely nothing of worth: I watched videos on Youtube, watched my Facebook News Feed refresh, and surfed Instagram dozens of times a day. I did anything at all to keep myself from writing.
Why? Because writing was no longer a hobby to occupy small pockets of time. It became WORK, a giant mountain to climb. My writing had become Mount Everest, and the ascension was looking pretty steep from the bottom. By setting a time solely to write, I had taken away the one thing that had kept me coming back to my writing during the school year: the sheer fun and easiness of it.
My conclusion is this: that no matter how important or essential it is, ANYTHING at all can become work. And once it becomes work, you’re instantly less likely to do it. It’s negative reinforcement! Nobody wants to do something stale and boring, and if what you’re trying to accomplish becomes stale, boring, and monumental in scale, you’re not going to want to do it anymore. You’ll think, “Vacuuming my entire house isn’t that great, but at least it isn’t boring, and won’t take me forever!” I believe that in order to keep productivity up in your writing, you have to keep it new, fun and exciting! And one of the main ways to do that is to do it when you want to it, and not force yourself to. I’m happy to say that those dark days of creative stasis are behind me; whether it’s on the blog, my book or just my personal journal, I’m always working on something related to my writing, and it’s because I want to work on those things when I’m working on them. Writing is writing, and when you’re a writer practicing your craft, any step is a step in the right direction.