What to do when inspiration has walked on by
I used to believe that writing was a somewhat rarefied activity. The writer waited for the Muse to call and then fired with inspiration and vision they wrote pages of perfect prose for a rapt and waiting audience.
Unsurprisingly, this meant I never wrote anything at all, despite vague mutterings about writing a novel sometime, while I waited for this mythic moment of creation to arrive.
More recently, I decided that writing; the actual task of producing words on paper or a screen is far more akin to training for an endurance race or a particularly vicious contact sport than the delicate posturing on a chaise longue that I had always visualised.
And actually, that, the linking of writing and sport was a light bulb moment for me.
Sport requires training, repetition, building of stamina, acquiring of technical skills. It means running on cold wet February evenings to get in the miles, it means early mornings to fit in a gym visit before work, but most of all, it means doing it [whatever the it is] day after day after day to see improvement.
Armed with this changed mind-set, I made a commitment in May 2012 to write something every day and set up a blog to give some structure to this project and because I have re-framed writing as training, I have also taken away the creative strait jacket of having to produce good work. The only criterion is that I produce some work every day.
My internal editor, the little voice that is quick to criticise and the great displacement activity organiser have been firmly kicked into touch, after all the focus is on doing, on having a go.
My writing is the literary equivalent of a fun runner preparing for the London Marathon, it’s not pretty, and it’s never going to be stylish or set the world on fire but the act of daily writing , like daily running, makes completion a far more likely outcome.
I’m using the blog like a sketch book, everything from the written equivalent of a scribbled sketch to a fully worked up short story or a chapter of a novel in progress is posted up for anyone to see.
So, seven months into the project, I have pretty much kept to the original commitment and like a slowly fittening runner, there are days, more and more of them, when I can see a tiny improvement, a touch more technical ability, a slightly better sentence.
I wish, that, ten, twenty years ago, when I thought about writing, that I had done less thinking and more writing.
With that many writing miles under my belt, I might have been almost competent by now.