Less Thinking, More Doing

I got through one week of exercises on The Artist’s Way, a week full of morning pages and affirmations and reflective exercises. The notebook, with more than twenty pages of my handwriting testament to my reflections on writing and creativity, has come with me to work. But, like many adventures in upping my creative game, this one did not go as planned. By last Wednesday, I hadn’t done three days of morning pages and I hadn’t attempted the artist ‘date’ or other suggested exercises for Week 2. Rather than beat myself up about it, I decided to buckle down and continue my work on my character profiles for Hollow and maintain my morning recording schedule so as to keep a steady pace with my current projects.

If I had tried to do this six months ago, or even three months ago, I would have considered this a huge failing on my part. Heck, I probably would have told myself that a lack of commitment like this demonstrated an unwillingness to become a ‘serious’ writer, and that it proved that I wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t working hard enough, and that I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to move ahead. There are plenty of blogs out there with that boot-to-the-face attitude, that would agree that, because I didn’t stick to another writing regimen, I couldn’t count myself among the artistic and that I should flog myself with a fist full of USB cables. And, a while back, I would have believed them and engaged in a fit of mental reprimand about not being good enough or strong enough or smart enough to write.

This time, though? Well, I sat down and considered what I was doing when I wasn’t writing those morning pages. I realized that the first day, I missed those morning pages because I spent my time before my dayjob recording audio for a job. I had to work through lunch at the dayjob, authoring instructor manuals and course materials. When the day wound down and my time to write came, I had to choose between an hour of reflective pages and continued work on the character profiles for Hollow. Given the previous commitment to the Magic Spreadsheet, I chose the latter. Wordcount toward a project, to me, had more value than three pages of ruminating on the ability to create and the measures I could take to foster that creativity. And so, with the time devoted to so many other creative commitments, the option to sit and thing about creating lost to the opportunity to actually create.

Now, let’s be honest… I could push aside sleep and time with family to complete those morning pages, but any challenges that I have to creating and finishing a project have very little to do with my perceived ability to create or my management of time and resources. My challenge to completing Hollow is the lack of a solid foundation for the characters and a strong outline. Sitting down and writing about how to be creative… given all of the things that I want to do, the projects to which I’ve committed my time, and the responsibilities that aren’t going away any time soon, spending time in creative cogitation isn’t the most efficient use of the few hours I have left in the day when everything else is said and done.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of the self-shame of “you’re not working hard enough, and that’s why you’re not realizing any success.” The truth is that I’m working at several different things, and that the maturation of the creative spirit and artistic endeavors can approach the lifespan of a favored alcoholic beverage. Expecting some overnight success is unrealistic, and to think that such things can happen while I’m juggling so many things…

… well, spending more time thinking about being artistic isn’t going to get me closer to finishing a story. Working on the story is going to get me closer to finishing the story. Taking the time to write the character profiles and the first iteration of the beat sheet outline made a huge difference in helping me know all of the characters, not just the two main characters. I confess, I haven’t done this much character work since the years I played in writing RPGs. It’s easily another twenty pages of handwriting, but these pages include notes about how the characters view each other, their fears and joys, their strengths and weaknesses. Those exercises have forced me to think through all aspects of the story at once, which was something that I hadn’t done before. In the past, I had worried that the act of outlining and character profiling would keep me from writing the story; the reality was that, for me, not outlining and not getting to know these characters kept me from writing the story that they deserved. Slowing down the story writing process is one thing, but avoiding the process entirely for the purpose of wondering why I can’t write… seems a little silly, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m not knocking the use of morning pages. They do work, and when I was able to complete them, I did feel like I was able to clear my mind and just write when I finished those pages. But, handwriting ten pages in a day, often in the space of three hours, wasn’t feasible for me at this point in time. Does it make me less of a creative? Hardly. I work hard, I commit to projects, and I don’t want to turn out anything less than my very best. If I’m working hard and maintaining strong habitts that allow me to finish projects, isn’t that enough?

I think so. Time to not be so hard on myself when I’m keeping up with my established creative habits.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at 8:50 pm and is filed under hollow, writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Less Thinking, More Doing”

  1. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    Bingo! You got it! {REALLY BIG GRIN}

    I actually have tried to read several writing books, and an awful lot of them seem to think the reader is going to drop everything else they’re doing, and just concentrate on doing everything the book says exactly as described. {odd smile}

    This completely ignores the fact that if I want to follow someone else’s schedule for learning how to write, I’ll sign up to take a course, whether short or longer. If I pick up a book, it’s because I want to do some a-synchronous learning in between all the other things I have going on in my life. {Amused Smile}

    I’d suggest continuing to read the book, and other books, but treat them more as lists of suggestions. When you reach an exercise, read it over, and decide how useful it sounds. If it just might be what you need to solve a particular problem you’ve been trying to fix, do it pretty soon. If it’s more generally useful, you can take more time to get around to it. At least that’s what I tend to do. Well, unless it seems like just plain fun, like a certain brainstorming exercise I came across where I was supposed to just keep writing until I had 10 story ideas written down. Unfortunately, bedtime intervened after the sixth idea, and I can’t delay bedtime with impunity. But I had Fun! (capitalization intentional) {wink, BIG SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. Doc Coleman Says:

    Morning pages are a tool. Seems pretty obvious that you stopped doing them because you didn’t need them at that time. It doesn’t make you any better or worse of a writer, it just means at that time, you didn’t need to use that tool to create your story.

    You should have many tools in your tool chest. Use the right tool at the right time. Leave the rest be until you need them.