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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Wednesday (3/10/10) 2:22pm - ... wherein Peter avoids giving advice about writing.

This was going to be an LJ comment, but it quickly turned into a post.  A friend posted about feeling frustrated what with *wanting* to write stuff.  So, I was about to comment my usual boilerplate advice:  "Pick a small, easily-finishable task with regular deadlines.  (e.g. Sketchwar)  If you can do that consistently, scale up to larger projects.  If you can't do that consistently, scale down to smaller projects."

But then I realized that (1) the poster wasn't asking for advice, and (2) the poster described a "wild-eyed intensity" approach to art that's pretty much the opposite of mine.  So my advice wasn't much use in this case anyway, just due to the personality mismatch.  But I got to thinking about this mismatch, and lo, the comment has turned into a post.

It's weird.  I feel inadequate half the time just because for me, writing is like pushing a boulder.  You show up every day; you push the boulder for a while; eventually the boulder goes somewhere.  Or maybe gardening would be a better metaphor.  Come home after work, pull a few weeds, water a few potatoes, tidy up a few tomato trellises.  A month or two goes by, and -- ta-da! -- vegetables.

I mean, sure, it's not always 100% like that.  I get moments of inspiration a few times a year, where I'll suddenly blat out a half-dozen pages like it's nothing.[1]  On occasion I've knocked off a Spanish entry in fifteen minutes.  But that's about the extent to which I get "possessed by the muse", and it's damned rare.  For me, writing is almost never easy.  It's mostly just the slow, slow accrual of interesting ideas.[2]

Mind you, that's okay by me.  For some incomprehensible reason, I *like* pushing boulders through the garden (wait, that metaphor got away from me), so onward I putter.  And as far as writing goes, I recognize full well that the people who finish stuff are more like me, and the people who don't finish stuff tend to be the "oh damn, I just have SO MANY AMAZING IDEAS" folks.

But I'm not *driven*, particularly, and I envy that about the more passionate types.  And lord knows, I don't come up with scads and scads of promising story ideas that, ooh, I just can't find the time to complete.[3]  (How lovely that would be.)  I'm not really that creative.  I just put in lots and lots of hours being only-marginally-creative, and eventually -- ta-da! -- vegetables.  Or something.

This is one big reason I so rarely self-identify as a writer, or as an artist of any sort.  Hell, half the time, it gives me a nagging feeling of doubt -- should I be frittering away time on this at all?  I'm obviously not one of These Artsy People.  But then I remember that there's no good reason *not* to putter along writing a script this week, and if I enjoy it, why the hell not?

Hooray for the luxury of frittering away my time how I please....

[1] "Learning Something New About History" was like that.

[2] A twenty-page script usually takes me some sixty hours, and I wind up needing all sixty of them.

[3] For a week's Sketchwar, the number of workable ideas for sketches I come up with tends to be either one or zero.  It's rare that I have *two* good ideas and oh, I just wish I could write *both* of them!

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[User Picture]
Date:Wednesday (3/10/10) 2:35pm
What makes you think I have a wide-eyed intensity approach?

I deeply respect the discipline involved in writing. It's both a craft and an art, and the craft part involves a lot of re-writing and sentence dissection.
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[User Picture]
Date:Wednesday (3/10/10) 2:37pm
Oop-la -- that was just the impression I got from your post.  In any case, my response quickly drifted free from even that original (erroneous) impression, so I just made it a separate post here.  *shrug*
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[User Picture]
Date:Wednesday (3/10/10) 2:55pm
I think you have the right approach. At least, it's on par with my experience and the experience of those with whom I regularly talk writing. It's a slow, tedious process (says the girl who's knee deep in revisions). I don't know any successful writers that DON'T sit down and push that boulder every day.

You could recommend NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy for those looking for a "possessed by the muse" experience. It's good to get the blood flowing every once in a while.
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