Writing is always a struggle.
Put aside questions of whether a story is “good” or not. Even the simple acts of spinning ideas together out of nothingness, giving life to characters who are mere inventions of the mind, building worlds out of the scraps of imagination, are beyond the reach of the average person. Sure, they could do it. But they don’t. Writing, it turns out, is too much like work.
Because like work, it’s taxing. We all have a battery powering the clockwork that makes our bodies tick, and the battery can only carry so much juice. Work. Exercise. Family. These things drain the battery, even when they’re enjoyable. So, too, with writing. The energy you use for writing comes at the expense of other things in your life. Reading. Working overtime. Vegging out and watching that Walking Dead marathon of a weekend.
It’s not an uncommon day that finds me taxed and tapped out. Rough night with the kids (ours have been fighting off sickness for, oh, I dunno, A MONTH). Extra reports and paperwork to fill out at work. Meetings that run long even though everything that gets talked about could easily have been sent out in an e-mail. Traffic on roads that, on an ordinary day, flow like melted butter, but when it rains out, clog up like the arteries of a sixty-year-old meatatarian. On those days (and often more than once on those days) I’ll have the moment when I say, nope. Too much. Can’t do it. Not writing today.
The thought comforts me. I reclaim that hour. I don’t have to think about my spaghetti-plate plot. My oddly malformed characters. How I’m going to possibly bring the whole thing to an ending that makes any sort of sense.
But as is its wont, reality starts creeping in at the edges. My (admittedly arbitrary) deadline isn’t going anywhere. If I don’t write, my characters will stay lost. If I don’t pick at the plot (like a kitten snagging its claws in a strand of yarn), it’s going to stay tangled. If I don’t get out and push, the story is getting no closer to its ending.
In short, just like anything else in life, if I don’t sit down and do it, it ain’t gonna do itself.
Which means that the six months I’ve sunk into this project so far are wasted. Which means that all the mental effort I’ve dropped on this project turns into smoke. Which means that the story I’ve been building pulls a Jimmy Hoffa and vanishes from the earth.
And that’s just unacceptable.
Now, one day off doesn’t wreck the project. One writing session missed doesn’t put the story in the ditch. But one day all too easily turns into two. Two becomes three. Then it’s a week. Then a month. Momentum matters, and even after a year and a half of steady writing, the lure of falling back into a non-writing sloth dangles there, just at the edge of vision.
Can’t have it.
So, here in the closing days of the project, when fatigue is at an overwhelming high and I’m really ready to throw off the heavy mantle that is spewing out the first draft and be done with it, even on those days when I really feel like I simply just can’t anymore, I return to the page and I bang out a few more words.
And that’s why I think writing is just a little bit like magic. Because those first few words each day are work, make no mistake. And though sometimes it feels like it takes all of me to do it, there’s a satisfaction in it. The universe balances itself. As I exhaust my battery, using up its reserves on this creative endeavor, so too do I fill the reservoir. Even if the work never comes to publication, I get back something that I can’t even really articulate. And that’s the magic. It fills you up as it wears you down. As you give to the writing, the writing gives back to you.
It’s sort of like a religion, that way.
Come to think of it, writing needs a church where you could make proper offerings for blessings from the gods of prose. Burnt offerings of unpublished manuscripts. A donations plate for brilliant scraps of dialogue. Sunday school lessons in pacing and tone-setting.
A human sacrifice to atone for all the writing sins ever committed, including this particular blarg post.
Too much? Maybe too much.
Point is, writing sometimes sucks, but it’s always awesome.
Some days you have to push through the suck to get to the awesome.