I spend a lot of time on writer twitter. Ok fine. Probably more than I ought to, since I’m trying to get something new written. But seeing all the tweets about word counts mid-pandemic make it seem like the perfect time to get this off my chest. It seems like everyone has advice on what to do. Some of it is helpful, some not-so-much. So this one is in the same vein as my last post–and frankly probably should have been included in that one but…it’s not.
So let’s pretend that I meant to do it this way and it just took me what, half a year to get this off my chest. Ok. Here goes:
NO TWO WRITERS ARE THE SAME; NO TWO MANUSCRIPTS ARE THE SAME.
Ok. whew. That’s out of the way. But it’s true and something I’ve thought a lot about lately. There is a lot of emphasis on what writers “should” be doing, especially in the age of COVID. Folks putting external pressure, as well as internal pressure on word counts. Or on outlining. Or on cranking out another manuscript because ART!!!! WE SHOULD PRODUCE ART!!!! But the more projects I finish (and those I don’t), the more I realize that things don’t always come about in the same way, even in good times. I’m a pretty fast writer. I plot and think and mull over the character’s backstory and motivations for hours on end while doing other stuff. Dishes. Laundry. Staring off in space. Then I pants my way through it. Most of the shaping of my characters, plot and deep historical contextual dives happen during revision. That’s pretty much the only thing consistent about how I write. How the stories come about, the amount of inspiration vs. grit it takes to get it out vary immensely, even when life is normal.
But EVERYTHING ELSE and I mean everything–from how long it takes–how chronological it is (I’m notoriously an achronological drafter. That’s what revision is for!)–to the way I feel about the project while I’m working on it. It all varies from project to project and even within the same project. Some of my writing has been fueled by inspiration mixed with caffeine, dark beer and carb loading. Others are the product of gritting my teeth and barreling on through hoping for the best (ahem, looking at you–*pokes her latest manuscript*).
In the end, the most important bit is the writer.
You. Me. The person hammering out their novel next door in 10 minute increments on their iPhone while the kids are momentarily not pulling each other’s hair out. Everything else comes second. And I mean EVERYTHING.
A writer with a drained well, who puts too much pressure on themselves, ends up blocked. And without words You can’t make something better. I think this is doubly important during quarantine. We have to be patient with ourselves, with each other and recognize that our journey on whatever we’re working on may not mirror the last one. This story may come way harder. It might hurt. It might have fits and starts (been there-done that). Maybe weeks slip by without looking at your WIP. Maybe you can’t stop powering through it and immersing yourself in your craft because the real world is just too damn bleak to face. It’s all normal. It’s all fine.
So hang in there. Trust yourself. And trust your craft. If you need to take a break take it. If you need to write, write. There’s no wrong answer here. There never is, but especially now.