Sustainable writing.


A month back, I tried to create a Writing Packet. The Desk Jokes came quick and hard. It took me all of fortyfive minutes to fill up two pages with mostly-good jokes about current events. And then I got really nice ideas for two sketches. I started watching videos of Jehova’s Witnesses in action, as my sketch was about that. And then it got too late, and I went to sleep.

The following morning, my two sketch ideas seemed lame. I was loath to touch them again. Thinking about them makes me physically ill.

It’s not because those were terrible ideas. Even if they were, it shouldn’t hurt to just write them out. Usually we are bad judges of our own writing ideas, and the important thing is to be plodding along and cranking out as much as possible. But if I can’t seem to write something in one session, it’s done.

Which means I have tons of half-baked ideas that haven’t reached their full potential. I don’t incorporate feedback into my work because I don’t want to look at it again. I don’t do second drafts. And that way of working is terrible, terrible, terrible.

Rome was not built in a day. My subconscious doesn’t want to accept that.

I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please recently. The first chapter is all about how writing is really hard. We don’t hear that enough. There isn’t enough that we are taught about how to be satisfied with a terrible first draft and work on a better second and third and subsequent drafts. I suppose my blogging is one of the reasons I never grasped that – when I blog, it is just the first draft. I don’t edit, I don’t review, I don’t even read again. That’s why there are so many 3000+ word posts which should ideally all be 1000 word posts.

I deal badly with criticism of my work as well. I don’t mean badly in the ‘GTFO, there’s nothing wrong with my writing’ way. It’s more like ‘Ugh, but if I change that, I’ll have to change everything’. Partly it is because I don’t know how to receive and filter feedback. I don’t know which ideas to incorporate and which to discard. There isn’t a clear map on how to go from disconnected thoughts of people who might not be the best judge of writing, to a clear roadmap of what to change and how much.The other part is, my mind seems to consider writing as an arduous task and groans at learning I’ll have to do it all over again.

I finally got the idea for a nice long screenplay, an idea that’ll be good enough for Amazon Studios. I have it mapped right down to the scenes, and I’m too paralyzed to even write Act 1 Scene 1. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that I don’t yet have good ideas on how to make my characters stand out and not just be badly-researched archetypes. I am annoyed at knowing my first draft will be imperfect, nay, terrible.

I can’t get behind the fact that it’s not going to go like the time I discovered stick figure cartooning and spent a whole weekend feverishly drawing. It’s going to take time. Multiple sessions. And I’ll have to sustain my enthusiasm through all of it. I’ll have to spend time daily trying to write.

Which brings me to the big question. How do you keep yourself constantly inspired? So far, anything creative I’ve attempted has been on impulse. I go through an experience, I listen to a shred of music, I watch five minutes of a movie, and I get this feeling, this itch, and I need to channel that itch in a creative way. And I have to quickly put that feeling in words or some other tangible form to keep referring back to it. Usually if I write down how I feel about a sunset and where it’s leading me, if I come back to it two hours later, it’ll read lame to me, and won’t inspire me the same way as before to write down whatever it was the sunset inspired me to originally. It’s annoying.

I guess the trick lies there. To make these ideas bulletproof. To make them sustainable. Even if there’s just a shred of feeling, I should be able to preserve that to be able to come back to it. Right now, I operate on anxiety that I won’t be able to come back to this feeling, so if it’s something that’ll require more than a session to complete, I give up even before I start. That’s what I need to start fighting.

With me, it’s usually art begetting art. And when I say Art, I just mean whatever way I express myself. I listen to a different kind of song than I’m used to and it takes me to a different world and that word leads to something I need to nail down. Or I watch a movie which starts off with excellent characters and then the director ruins it, and I get annoyed and want to rework it the way I saw it in my head. The difficult part is to sustain those raw emotions. Like, the second time you watch a bad movie, it doesn’t irritate you as much.

Like anything, this process requires sustained practice to become better at. I need to set aside time regularly and TRY. Even if I do nothing, I should spend the time doing nothing else if not writing.

That sounds crazy. But that might just work.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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4 Responses to Sustainable writing.

  1. Wanderlust says:

    If you still remember the theory of relativity still from your physics-study days and if you believe all matter are representations of energy in various states, you will agree all individual humans are also unique unique expressions of energy. So even the chaotic-seeming creative energy has a certain predefined material order to it. Even in their crudest form, ideas emerge because they had to, often as a cumulative result of the unique experiences the ideator puts oneself through. So regard and care for that central theme of your expressive idea, and let your refining-process only provide the right environment to only help the original idea evolve. Not to bore you with the cliched child-parenting analogy, ideas are like kids. They are born out of experiences that we put ourselves through, not necessarily as clone-copies of the images we’ve while we engage in the child-making ( ideation) act/s. In fact, ideas need more responsible bringing-up than what’s used on kids as each idea can grow up into a universe.
    Even, if you feel the very initial idea when put through the refinement process culminates into something which is quite opposite in its expression to the initial one, you should persevere with the idea even more (I often observe this evolution as I think-talk everyday. And, I agree with you that time is a factor too). But trust me, I’ve never felt bad whenever I’ve documented an entire thought evolution, even if my initial intent would’ve begun as expression of a single idea. Consider this: Maybe, the initial unique idea only came to you because only you have the ability to direct it toward its unique logical destination. Ideas and creative expressions mutually reinforce each other. After all, stories aren’t stories without characters and no character is complete without a story of its own. So catalyze your idea’s growth, providing it with the complete nutrition of your unique experiences– not only the unique experiences which made you get the idea at the first place, but also the unique experiences, under which you work to develop that idea.

  2. Wanderlust says:

    I’m slightly tied up with a few other tasks. Plz await a couple of my other comments too..

  3. Ritesh Soni says:

    Have you read Pixar’s 22 rules of story writing? They provide a good workflow for story writing and are somewhat inspiring too.

  4. Shruthi says:

    Of late I’ve been reading Steven Pressfield’s blog (stevenpressfield.com). He is a writer (who struggled for decades before getting a novel published), and he along with others (editors/reviewers) gives tips for aspiring writers in his blog. One of his main principles is to “Put your ass where your work is” i.e. make a dedicated place and time, and show up daily to put in your work. Then it is only a matter of time before the “Muses” shine their favor on you, i.e. you get good ideas and insights, once you are committed and dedicated in your practice. He claims that is the best way to beat Resistance (an umbrella term he has for everything that prevents you from doing your Art). You may find his blog interesting.

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