Having just returned from making rather merry in Florida these past few days, my writing regiment dissipated and I remained topic-less for my weekly post. The article below I wrote earlier this year as a guest post on a great literary website, Two Drops of Ink . I urge you to visit the site for some inspirational material.
On with the show.
Why Do I Write?
I ask myself this question, often during periods of stagnant productivity, when my imagination vanishes into that creative void. Writing is my outlet, a form of personal therapy, a conduit to understanding life. From my earliest days, I garnered inspiration from books and films – the horror/paranormal genre predominantly, spurring my imagination and compelling me to write. Ripe with unique ideas, obscure concepts, and non-traditional approaches to traditional storytelling, the right side of my brain flourished. The challenge was getting my ideas down in a coherent, logical and timely manner – left sided brain stuff.
Successful authors exude discipline, commitment and determination. They thrive on it. Something I lack. While I’ll argue the masters are born with genius embedded in their DNA, those without creative genetic coding can achieve greatness, through passion and hard work, namely a ‘seat of the pants to the seat of the chair’ work ethic.
My struggle as a writer has been twofold – a dash of self-criticism and a dollop of procrastination. I’ve never considered myself a particularly good writer. Despite having written across several genres over many years – hundreds of thousands of words later, I still struggle with self-doubt. Most writers do. The sudden, often random onset of a self-critical episode is predictable to a degree, and while I’m not able to suspend the cycle, I’ve learned to mitigate my creative losses. We all possess an internal editor, that voice that questions each word we write, compares our trite to the likes of Tolkien, Hemingway or Rowling, and reminds us that we’re really just kidding ourselves.
How does one overcome self-induced adversity?
By writing. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Forcing yourself to write while treading water in a cesspool of self-criticism and persistent doubt, is challenging. But commitment, desire, and the ability to forge ahead despite all else, often results in a surprising revival of creative flow. Some of my most unique work, concepts I’ve never contemplated before, emerged during the throes of forced writing. Comparable to hitting the runner’s wall, once you make it through the initial period of intense pain, the innovative spirit breaks free and soars. The tactic, when successful, reignites lost passion, inspires, and more importantly jump starts the positive writing cycle.
Over the years, positive and negative creative cycles came and went. Dabbling in different genres, I switched gears back and forth, often on a whim, or based on a single story idea. For a time I was consumed with screenwriting. As a lover of film (who isn’t) the idea of creating a script, a medium where I controlled not just the story, but the direction, camera angles, even the soundtrack – was exhilarating. For visual thinkers like myself, screenwriting opened up a marvelous forum for creation, allowing me to conceptualize every facet of my story. Not that screenwriters wield this type of power in Hollywood. Far from it, but writing a first draft in this manner, without constraint, opens up worlds of innovative potential.
I completed four scripts during my screenwriting tenure, three horror, one action, and while I never actively marketed my work, I learned a great deal about the craft, and more importantly, my writing improved. Quantity has a way of doing that.
Years later, after the birth of our daughter, I switched gears again, this time, focusing on children’s stories. Plunging myself into the world of Dahl, Seuss and Munsch, I learned quickly that the genre, like most, was highly competitive, and the market over-saturated. I nevertheless remained focused and stayed the course for two years. To my benefit, I was less critical of my work during this phase, enjoyed some success along the way, and wrote a great deal. However, part of me craved traditional storytelling – horror storytelling in particular.
The switch back to screenwriting and short fiction was inevitable. While I kept myself active for a period, regression soon set in. Shuffling from piece to piece, I evolved into a writing ‘dabbler’, non-committal to any one project. Frustration, procrastination and self-doubt returned. The negative cycle was back.
I avoided writing. Household chores were top priority, the lawn immaculate, Netflix binge-watching in high gear. Weeks turned into months.
Until the ultimatum. I forced myself to write.
I began my Blog.
My commitment to blogging forced me into a writing regiment. While my schedule is not aggressive, I post weekly, the process assured I was writing, revising and publishing, on a regular basis. After the initial few months I found site stats and analytics were negatively affecting my motivation, but I kept at it, reminding myself it was the journey, not the destination I was after. I regrouped, maintained focus, and continued to produce. Seven months in, as I continue to work towards defining long-term goals, blogging remains an exceptional tool, a fresh creative outlet, and a coping mechanism against self-deprecation and procrastination.
I’ve grown accustomed to my turbulent relationship with writing. I’ve come to expect the peaks and valleys, the conquests and failures, and the overall cycle of (a writer’s) life.
If it’s not a challenge, it’s not worth pursuing.
Until next time,