I began writing on this site just over a year ago, inspired by a live talk by author, literary speaker, and all-round excellent person Walter Mason. Coming full circle, last week I heard Walter speak again, this time with a focus on maintaining a writing practice (especially when the going gets not just tough but painful). After what felt like a productive 2017, including 50K words for draft zero of Cabinet of Wonders, I’ve started to wonder if it’s worth letting the momentum tail off – as it seems tempting to do at this moment – or try and press on.
While a full recount of Walter’s tips are available on his blog, there were three significant connection points from the talk that struck a chord with me:
1. Acknowledge fear and uncertainty
Sending writing into the world, Walter says, takes courage. It is ironic then that writers – some of the most sensitive (a term which is sometimes levelled in less than a complimentary way) people in the world are the ones that seek to offer up pieces of themselves to the universe. We are chasing a calling that puts us in the direct path of criticism. Though the existence of “writer’s block” has been debated, Walter argues that it is better perceived as short form for fear. An extension to this block, is the process by which a writer becomes lost in a single project for longer than is healthy – both creatively and practically. Shopping the same piece, year-in, year-out, leads to a kind of stagnancy akin to clutching a safety line.
2. Connect with nature / aka go out into the world
Philosophising about nature but not experiencing it is one of the most poisonous actions to condemn a piece of writing – and a person? The disconnect between the writing desk (or lounge, in my case) and the world at large robs writing of its potency. This prospect has led me to think deeply about the level of sensory experience that is lost in a piece of prose when description is removed from the experience itself. Another emphasis is on valuing the “small” – those details that make up life, and broaden from the word into a paragraph, a scene, and a book.
3. “Set yourself a stupid goal”
This suggestion inspired a level of apprehension among all those present. One goal thrown into the mix was completing a manuscript in ninety days – potentially an unattainable task for the vast majority of writers, but a goal which can be relentlessly pursued. My stupid goal is to complete the draft zero manuscript of Cabinet by February 2018. This means, depending on the progression of the story, at least another fifty or sixty thousand words in the space of just under two months.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Writing friends, what is your stupid goal?