I’ve been seeing a certain phrase a lot lately. One that really makes me irrationally angry. You can find it on any social media post where someone has done something a bit creative or just plain fun:
Well, someone has too much time on their hands.Some Asshole.
I really really hate this phrase. It implies that if you have created anything that isn’t related to some kind of job (those things that suck away far too much of our lives), then you are wasting your time. It’s dismissive of the creative act. The same mentality that makes people assume that you’re doing nothing because you’re reading a book. Yes I am doing something, I’m reading a book. How did we get this frame of mind that doing something you love and enjoy is a waste of time?
Seriously, I’m asking because it baffles me. Maybe I’m a bit sensitive to it because the past few weeks I haven’t had as much time as I would like to do the things I love. Sometimes life just gets int he way. So surely then, it’s even more important to use what little time you find to do those things. We aren’t supposed to be drones who just go to work, slave away all day, then come home and stare blankly at the TV so we can repeat the whole process again tomorrow into perpetuity.
Do what you love whenever you get a chance. You want to build a massive LEGO rollercoaster in your back gaarden, do it. You want to spend a whole weekend as a level 5 Tiefling Druid battling owlbears, do it. There is no waste of time when it’s something you love and feel passionate about. Remember these words of wisdom from George Bernard Shaw:
We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.George Bernard Shaw
Read that book, build that LEGO fort and roll those dice. And most of all, do the things you love.
Everyone has heard of writers block but there is another malady that is less known outside of writing circles: Writer’s cramp.
Okay I may have just totally made that up but it’s a good analogy for what I’ve been feeling latley. Think of it like going back to the gym for the first time on over a year (something quite a few can relate to right now). Those mucles that you used to exercise on a regular basis have been neglected and they re not happy with the sudden shock of being put through their paces. You’ve maybe put on a few pounds since last time because it’s cream egg season and you have to get as many in as you can before they vanish again. So without thinking, you hop back on the treadmill and off you go. Five minutes later you’re being knifed in the ribs by an unseen gremlin.
Well writing can be very much like that as I discovered recently. The writing process can be very much like exercising. The more you do it, the stronger you get and the better your endurance. Spend enough time away though, your fitness level will start to drop down and you need to take a few steps back so you don’t do yourself a mischief. This is what happens after a prolonged bought of writers block. Like the one I’ve been going through for the past year.
The block finally shifted about a week ago after what was a pretty horrific dream. As awful as it was, this dream did grab my block by the throat, drag it into a dark alleyway and nick its wallet. The muse had returned and to be honest I don’t think she’s been taking her meds. So here I am once again writing. After two years of working on childrens stories, I’ve returned to my roots and started on a new horror novel. And you know what, I’m loveing every second of it.
Until the cramp sets in that is. Instead of being stabbed in the ribs like you would in the gym, this one punches you in the brain. Like right inside the brain. It all started like normal; a bit of research, make notes, plan things out, the usual. Then comes the day to start writing and get these wild ideas out of the meaty blob in my head and onto the screen. One sentence, then two, everything is going well and suddenly it hits you. You can’t remember how to convert those ideas into words. You can see it in your head but the pathways that go from your brain to your fingers are running on a go slow. What you have on the screen is not what you have in your head. All those bad habits you had trained yourself out of are coming back. Things like editing on the go and being able to filter out the 200 ideas that are all fighting for your attention.
So here I am writing for the first time in ages and I haven’t even managed to finish the prologue yet because the damn story keeps changing. And every new idea needs to be tied in with what’s already been written. It hurts but if you take it slow and steady, you can get back to that level of writer fitness before the block came on. Slow and steady is the key. If this ever hits you, the best advice I can give you is to let yourself work back up. Don’t be hard on yourself if the words don’t come like they used to straight away. You will get there again.
Over the years I have tried my hand at various genres. As most of you who have followed me since the beginning know, I have always learned towards horror and fantasy with a bit of sci-fi mixed in. Well that all changed about a year ago when i decided to change direction completely and have a go at writing a children’s story. I have the say, this is the hardest thing I have ever written. And you know what? I have enjoyed every moment of it.
But surely kids books are easy? They are just short stories aren’t they?
Yes they are short and that’s one of the things that make them difficult. I once attended a lecture at university where the professor said something that has stuck with me: “I wrote 10,000 words because I didn’t have to to write 2,000”. Never has that been more clear to me than now. When I write a scene in say one of the Guardian stories, I can go into great detail. I can get every nuance of every moment because it’s for a mature reader. Now imagine having to get that same level of detail in a fraction of the space to a younger audience. I had always read that children’s books were the hardest genre to get into. Not only is it a very difficult market but the actual challenge of the writing it.
Despite all that I think I’ve found my niche. I love it more than anything else I’ve ever written.
Now you will notice I havent said anything about the actual story. I’m leaving that for another post when things are a bit more polished. I am doing this in collaboration with my very talented best friend who has been a massive support throughout. She has some great ideas for things to make the stories more interactive. It’s a very exciting time.
I think the big take away for me from all this is to never be afraid to have a go at something different. You might just might surprise yourself. Take a chance and get that story out. Writing is about more than just getting the story out of your brain and onto the page. It’s about constantly challenging yourself. About pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers. So if you find yourself in a bit of a rut, try something new. You never know what you might discover about yourself.
That’s something I get asked a lot by my none writing friends. Why do write? Aren’t you little old to be making up stories?
Okay, number one: Too old? Care to ask Stephen King that same question!
As to the more serious point of why…well you will get a different answer from any writer you ask. You may even get the old stand by: “Because it isn’t there” (I love clichés don’t you?). The truth is that some of us just love to write. We have all of these wonderful worlds that we want to share with the world. Are we just hopeless dreamers? some of us are. yes. Are we wasting time that could be spent doing more “productive things”? Depends on how you define productive.
Too say that we don’t provide some of value to society is so wrong that it’s far beyond the scope of this particular rambling. Plus it’s really bad for my blood pressure.
To be honest my reasons for writing are a little more than just wanted to tell my stories.
A major part of why I write is due to my stammer. When you can take a 30 seconds to utter a 10 second sentence you quickly learn to find other ways of communicating. Even though I came to terms with my stutter a long time ago I still get self conscious on occasion. Meeting new people is generally less than pleasant (that’s why I keep all my friends in my computer ;-D ). To be honest I think it’s more uncomfortable for my listeners these days than it has me. Something that my more sadistic side has taken some pleasure from MWAHAHAHAHA!
But when I write it’s a different story. I can become the person that I hear when I speak, except now every one else can hear me as well. The pleasure you get from that feeling is greater than any high, legal or other, that will ever experience. This isn’t restricted to writing of course. Anyone who does the job that they love will know what this feeling is like. When they can truly be who they are and share that with the world.
Why do I write?
Simply put, it makes me happy. But more importantly; It’s who I am 🙂