For a long time now, I’ve been thinking that I should explain why it takes me so effing long to write each one of my books and today I’ve been galvanised into it by reading this cracker of a post, here. As well as why it takes me so long to write a book this also brings me onto a subject dear to any writer’s heart; mojo management.
Basically, the premise is that a lot of people are a bit wishy-washy about art and not ‘forcing’ it and use the ‘don’t force it’ line as an excuse to give up and be lazy. He talks about how mood alters your perception and how you can write stuff you think is rubbish only to find, the next day, that it’s not so bad (unfortunately, in my world that process also works in reverse, but I digress).
Now, I get exactly what this fellow means, especially the bit about writing stuff that looks crap and then finding that it’s not so bad. I find reading the first draft of a scene incredibly depressing but I shut my eyes to it and edit. And then somehow, if I put in enough work, it becomes magically transformed and when I read it and think,
“Blimey, I can’t believe I wrote that.” I know it’s time to move onto the next scene.
However, for what it’s worth, I think most of the people talking about not forcing art are actually talking about burning out.
Burn out is way different. Burn out is dangerous. Let me explain.
OK, so, I’m a stay at home Mum with a very lively little 5 year old, elderly parents who aren’t too well and who live a long way away and as the result of a recent traffic accident I currently have to snarf painkillers like smarties. So my life right now features three things in sensurround; worry, constant interruption (welcomed but constant nonetheless) and chemicals.
Hmm… so as you can guess, none of these things are conducive to quality writing outside school hours and none of them make for a lively brain. The chemicals are temporary, so the background is usually just the two things; Mumzilladom and worry about my folks – I’m definitely not the dutiful daughter I always assumed I’d be, which is kind of grim face on.
What I mean is that in anyone’s life there’s a lot going on. Add the odd curve ball, traffic accident at the moment but things like family deaths, organising a surprise party or something like that and it’s easy to find that the heart, not to mention the diary, is too full to create. In my case that’s usually at the point where my mind is so fucking knackered it can’t be arsed to wander.
Trust me on this, I’ve been there and hit the wall and at that point if you don’t step back, you’re going to end up mental. This is not about laziness or procrastination or refusing to start in case we fail, this is about capacity. That’s the point when it’s almost physically painful to write – not at the end of the day, we all feel like that then – but at the beginning.
That’s when you’re in danger of losing the love, of becoming a slave to the addiction as opposed to in love with your characters and addicted to the process. When this happens to me, the only cure is to stop everything, rest my mind and spend a few days/weeks/months, however long it takes putting stuff back in until my mojo returns. It’s entirely natural so if this happens to anyone else, don’t worry, the mojo will return you just have to be patient and wait.
So the big trick, for supreme mojo-management, is never reaching that can’t be arsed to wander point; knowing when to stop spewing out words. There is no option, in times of impending burn out but to sit back and reset.
So for me, never getting burn out means writing a bit less but giving it more welly when I do. It’s worth it because when I can’t write, I miss it. There’s no harm redlining your mojo occasionally to, erm, de-carb your chambers (phnark) just don’t keep it there. Burn out is why it’s good plan to have more than one project on the go. Burn out is deeply unpleasant because it leaves you desperate to create, but unable to.
However, burn out should not be confused with laziness. Writing, painting, any art is the most fantastic fun, more than fun, it’s a drug, but it’s also bloody hard work. And frankly, if it isn’t, I suspect you’re doing it wrong.
There are days when writing my book feels like weeing a full sized house brick, except that there are days when I think pissing a housebrick would be easier. What I’m trying to say is that I have never done anything so hard in my entire life. But I can’t let it go. Right now, I’m not writing, but that’s because it’s the holidays and trying to write now is the fastest short cut to burn out there is. I know my limitations and that, I’m afraid, is why I take two, whole, sodding years to write a book. I know, it’s shocking isn’t it?!
Please be patient, K’Barthan three is nearly there but it may well be next April before I can release it.