Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inertia, thrust, dock fuel station, rotate into solar alignment

I just got back from a vacation, which gave me some time to mull over some theoretical problems I'd been having with writing fiction lately - namely, how to try new things, do more creative stuff, and write things of which I can be more proud and derive more satisfaction as a creator. What I realized today is that, last year, just after getting back from vacation, I had a similar struggle, which resulted in writing a novel (one I recently halfway edited); and, ever since then, writing has essentially been an enormous struggle.

Struggle in a good way, though... I think.

I've accomplished a lot in the last year by constantly pushing against not just what I think it is good to write, but also how I think it is good to write. Although I've developed various skills and coping mechanisms, though, I've basically realized that this "strugglingness" is just my natural creative flow, and having to constantly fight with rationalizations, pipe dreams, glorifications, failed experiments, and all the rest is essentially par for the course.

One thing I have finally to admit to myself without any further reservations - for the sake of my continued sanity and ability to write in a way that satisfies me pragmatically and creatively - is that I am not an "inspired" writer but a "driven" writer, and that drive is founded on a self-directed despotism of creativity. Although I get a lot of ideas and can write something cool about every one of them, I can never finish a story without grabbing myself by the lapels and demanding of myself a story's completion. Sometimes this results in good stories, sometimes bad; but it's the only way to the end, it seems, for me.

Something that struck sparks with me recently was a paper I read by Dyske called "Difference Between 'Real' Writers and 'Wannabe' Writers." Essentially, Dyske argues that a real writer doesn't suffer resistance - what we could also call procrastination, inertia, etc. - but will rather explode with inspiration and complete their works as though in a breeze of divine capability. This resonated very positively with me at first, despite the obvious fact that I do not write in any such fashion. And then, having experimented with myself - allowing myself the opportunity to explode with brilliant words - I realized how wrong this conception is.

Mostly inertia

Granted, there are many different kinds of creatives, and certainly some people will produce their writing or whatever other art in this way. But I personally experience resistance in every activity: work, social gatherings, creative endeavours, you name it. I have to overcome resistance just to roll out of bed in the morning. What does it mean in a philosophic way if I have to will myself to will things, rather than freely willing them? I hardly think it makes me less of an artist - or at least, I hope it doesn't.

(I mean, if I'm being honest, in a philosphic way, it probably means I'm perpetually in bad faith. BUT SARTRE WAS KIND OF AN ASS ANYWAY.)

Anyway, it's sinking in now that I simply have no choice, if I wish to continue doing anything productive at all - whether it's at work, in my writing, or just in fulfilling the basic obligations that make me a human being within my particular society - that I'll always have to overcome inertia and create specifically attainable goals in order to please myself. As far as my writing goes, along with the recent thinking I've been doing regarding stretching creativity and trying new things, I'm going to need to strike a balance where I can take time off to think critically about writing, in between taking the time to actually do the writing that demonstrates those critical theories.

For now, I'm writing a story about octopi, so... I guess I'll get back to the theoretical stuff later.



  1. I think about writing in exactly the opposite way. Wannabe writers are the ones who explode with inspiration and have no trouble setting down their works. That's why there's so much awful writing. That's why so many people complete NaNoWriMo, etc. That's basically the source of all slush.

    As you get better, writing either becomes harder, until, often, you clamp down entirely and are unable to do it anymore or you settle down into a rut and while you're still able to produce work at roughly the style and skill level at which things stopped being hard, you are no longer really doing anything new or interesting.

    Err...that having been said, writing has become a little easier for me, recently, which has led to my having all these doubts about whether things are coming too easy.

  2. Hahaha... interesting point, Rahul. I've definitely found it harder to write having written so much already: if I haven't done it already, someone else probably has, so why write it? Etc...

    Anyway, glad to hear the writing is going smoothly for you. I find my ability to write comes in cycles, so hopefully fluidity will return to me soon.

  3. I like "despotism of creativity". That's a classy phrase.

  4. A creative despot always hands down clever sentences.

    ... GET IT?!?!