Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Drudgery


Often when I write, I have no idea what I’m going to say.  I simply sit down and start writing.  Pressfield says the most important thing is to sit down and do your work.  So that’s what I do.  But it can sometimes be a little uncomfortable not knowing what’s going to happen.  It feels risky and dangerous, which may be a bit of an overstatement since all I’m doing is sitting here at a keyboard and putting words on a screen.  The only risk involved is the one in my head.  I don’t have to show this to anyone.  I don’t have to publish it.  I can even delete it if I wish.  Sometimes I do. 
            Often what I delete is the rambling I do when I begin writing.   What I do at the beginning is like stretching my writing muscles.  I’m not actually running or lifting weights; I’m just getting my body ready for what’s to come.   The writing that I’m doing now serves the same purpose.  I’m not actually writing; I’m just stretching my writing muscles, getting them warmed up.  The scary part is often the idea of showing this to anyone.  I’m just writing to put in my time.   I’m literally just filling up the page until something comes to me that’s worth publishing. 
            How long does this process take?  If I can stay focused and not allow distractions, I can start my real writing in 15 – 20 minutes.  If I allow myself to get distracted by anything – anything at all – then the process can take one to two hours…or longer.  So the real trick is to keep working.  Every time I allow a distraction, then I’m not working.  So if I take five minutes to play an online game, then I’ve lost that time, plus the time it takes to re-focus my mind.  Once I spent almost three hours at a coffee shop trying to write a blog.  It wasn’t that the blog was that hard; it’s that I kept allowing distractions.  So most of the time I stay inside.  Of course, there are plenty of distractions where I live, including on-line games, comic books, fatigue, the urge to snack, or a sudden interest in cleaning or taking care of some long-neglected project that suddenly and urgently needs to be done while I’m writing.  I am my own worst enemy here.
            But I’m also my own best friend, because despite doubts, fears, and distractions, I’m still writing, and I’m writing every day.  That’s all it takes.  I just sit down and work.  That’s it.  That’s really it.  As long as I do this, something will happen.  Right now I’m hungry and tired, but if I can keep working, I can fill up this page.  If I keep working, my Muse will give me my message. 
            Okay, here’s the crazy thing.  While writing, I fell asleep and I just woke up.  Even that’s okay.  Now I return to the work until it’s time to finish.
            By the way, when is it time to finish?   For a reason I don’t understand, I’m usually finished by the time I’ve reached my third page.  Sometimes I write more and sometimes less, but when I’ve reached my third page, I’m usually done. 
            And that’s it.  That’s how this works.  As Pressfield says, “A pro views her work as craft, not art.”
            The “art” will come when it will.  My job is to sit here and write until I’m done.  That’s it.  It’s really not that hard.  All I have to do is put words on a screen and then decide which of those words will stay, if any.  That’s not too romantic, is it?  If anyone thinks writing is glamorous or romantic, then I apologize if I’ve exploded the myth.  Maybe the picture in your head is the same as mine – sitting in a house near the beach and joyfully pounding away amazing and inspirational work to the sound of the surf.  The truth is you may not even hear the surf.  And the amazing and inspirational part isn’t up to you and doesn’t even come from you.   All you’re really doing is grinding out words, many of which (if not all) you may delete or someone else, perhaps an editor, may delete.  Let me be clear.  I may sit here for hour after hour, writing hundreds of blogs that only a handful of people may see.  Maybe only my Muse and I will see it. 
            It doesn’t matter.  This work doesn’t have to be romantic or glamorous or even appreciated or seen (though I know my Muse sees it and appreciates it).   It can be a daily grind of word after word, page after page, just pounding away on a keyboard with no end in sight, with little or no hope for financial success or recognition.  Doing this is a kind of drudgery.
            And I love it.
            Today someone said, “You’ve already reached your goals.  Open your eyes. You have health, love, loved ones, family, writing skills, work, home, friends, and money. Why don’t you just dedicate yourself to enjoying these blessings? I'm not saying that having goals is not good.  That’s required.  What is not necessary is frustration or obsession that generated when not achieved.  What is for you, come sooner or later.  Let it flow.”           
            So I’m letting it flow…when it will.  Until then I will enjoy my drudgery.  I’ll Get Started and Keep Going with the drudgery I love.