Thursday, May 03, 2007

But I Don't Feel Like It!

By Kristine Coblitz

We’ve all had those days. Maybe we’re sick with the flu. Maybe we’ve had a rough day at the office, and the last thing we want to do is sit in front of a computer. Maybe we’re busy with household and family duties. Whatever the reason, we abandon our characters and our stories. We stomp our feet like we did as children. We long to crawl back into bed and take a sick day watching cartoons all day. Our characters nag at us for attention, but we look away.

The reason? We just don’t feel like writing.

I’ve read a lot of interviews and articles about the work ethic surrounding writing. Professional writers write. They don’t let anything stand in their way. I’m always reminded of a famous writer (I can’t remember his name) who said that he never, ever stopped writing. Not even for his son’s funeral. That may be pushing things to extreme, but I can see the logic.

In a way, I agree with that. An unwavering dedication to the craft is what separates the professionals from the wannabes. But even professional, serious writers have their days when temptation gets the best of them and they push aside that manuscript for something more…unwriterly. I’ve done it. You’ve done it (C’mon, admit it). I’m sure even a prolific writer such as this one has done it.

If you ask me, I think these bouts of writing burn-out are all part of the process. You can’t keep running a marathon day after day without stumbling a bit. Life is happening out there, folks. If you don’t stop and pay attention once in a while, you’re going to miss something important. Living life is when we gather the best material for our work. If you don’t experience or know what’s going on in the world, your writing will suffer. You need to touch reader’s hearts, and the only way to do so is to get out and learn what’s affecting people.

So I invite you all to take a mental health day or two in support of your writing. Go out and spend a few lazy hours at the park. Walk your dog. Go to the mall and window shop. Get your hair done. Get a massage. Whatever you want to do.

Then, dust off that computer and get back to work. Your characters are waiting.


Joyce said...

Great post, Kristine!

I think you're right. I've found that I do my best writing if I take a breather now and then. I don't know if it's as you said--you need to experience life--or that it lets the ideas simmer in my head for awhile. The trick is to not take too many days off.

Annette said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Besides, I think most of us are "working" all the time, whether we're actually putting words down on paper or typing at our computer. I might be out on my bike riding through the woods, but in my head, I'm thinking about how I could get my character out here and how I would describe the lay of the land or the color of the wildflowers. And often the solution to a plot problem I've been having just pops into my brain when I'm doing something other than "working."

Of course I always carry a pen and notepad or handheld recorder for just such occurances.

Tory said...

Yes, I think "incubation" (as it's called in the psych. literature) is very important. In the days I wrote too much, I found I'd rewrite a scene over and over again and it wouldn't really get better.

Of course, the last few months I've been erring in the other direction, so it's now time for some "bum glue."

Anonymous said...

Great observations!

Tory, I like the word "incubation." That sums up the process rather well.

Judy Schneider said...

Thanks for a great post, Kristine! Life does get in the way of productive writing time, but I think that serves to make it all the more enticing to get back to the grind.

Annette, you are the perfect example of how we writers never stop writing. (I can't stop editing when I read published books, either--a syndrome that can be quite annoying at times.)

Tory, I like thinking about it as incubation, but Joyce's warning is well taken. Over-incubation becomes hibernation.