Saturday, 15 May 2010
If you write fiction, you're by yourself. There are certain advantages to that in that you don't have to explain anything to anybody. But when you get in with others who share the loneliness of the whole enterprise, you're not lonely any more.
-Denis Johnson, novelist
In the month of March, I attempted to put myself under heinous pressure and write at every possible second of the day. The intention was to revive the kind of atmosphere I was working in at the end of the third year of my degree. At that time, I had worked until I puked. It had got to the stage where a moment of slacking off was another increase in the possibility of failing the course. Various lecturers were cracking the whip, my nerves were frayed and the end was looming. I was in a state. But somehow I managed to get it all in- just about- and once it was over, the pressure eased and my head cleared. It was like drinking too much and spending days knowing that you're going to spew. When you finally do, it's horrible. But afterwards, when your stomach's empty and your eyes are watering, you feel levelled out, like you've sailed back into a calm coastline estuary after a hellish boat ride through a disturbed sea.
That's how I should feel right now- It's April 2nd, I've written nearly every day in March, I've hammered out some serious wordage and I've battered the review websites- places online where writers can share feedback. I've visited two writers' groups who have given me ideas for more stories and have given me advice an various elements of writing. But now the month is over, and I've had a day off, I don't really feel that relieved. There's a few reasons.
1)I am not a hermit. I have a life, and I have loads going on in it. In order to write that much and that often, I'd have to give up my social life completely- and I neither have the willpower nor the desire to do that. I couldn't do it at uni and I can't do it now.
2)When I write, I am the master and the slave. Like all amateurs, I only work as hard as I make myself work. At uni, on the other hand, I had a set deadline- that had already been extended. Lecturers were pestering me daily for overdue work. I grafted or risked failing the course. It's hard instilling that pressure on your own.
3)I have a job as well. Let's not forget that. It's part time, meaning plenty of time to write, but obviously the hours I do work mean I'm not writing. The job comes first, too, meaning I can't stay up 'til stupid o'clock writing, and then drag may arse out of bed and roll into the office. If I'm tired, it's pretty obvious to anyone nearby- I yawn incessantly and forget twice as much as usual, which is already a lot. Having said that, I was on leave most of the month. So I have written a lot. However...
4)I don't have much to show for the work I've done. I've completed first drafts for maybe seven pieces this month. I only upload second drafts to Facebook and http://powerisastateofmind.blogspot.com, normally. I use feedback to make adjustments. I've spent hours and hours on review websites for writers, firing out advice for others and occasionally getting reviews in return. Urbis.com is my regular site, and I've garnered a stupidly high amount of credits for the reviews I've given. Normally, the more reviews you give, the more credits you get and the more reviews you receive to spend the credits on. Over the last few months- particularly in March- I've only received a few reviews in return for the work. I've also requested refunds on a lot of reviews that weren't helpful. I've tried a few other similar writing sites, but I didn't think they were as easy to use. Also, a lot of writers on other sites weren't as talented as those on Urbis- in terms of their own writing and their ability to dish out constructive criticism. So for the moment, I'll have to be patient. And so will the legions of my avid blog readers.
On the whole, it's hard to push yourself to a crazy level of stress. One part of your brain, I'm guessing, is reflexive. It knows there isn't the justification for the graft, and stops the other part that just wants to push and push.
I fancy a short break from writing, although not for long. A few days to clear my head would be nice. I'll get to the gym a bit more. I've got a pile of DVDs waiting to be watched. I'll get out and do things and meet people like normal human beings do... then I'll wait for the itch to write again.