For the last three weeks I was forced to write everyday in order to complete a presentation for an English symposium and to complete my creative writing portfolio for a public reading (each are requirements of my major and emphasis). The problem initially was my lack of enthusiasm. I have, in the past, written not based on routine or discipline, but because I like writing and I enjoy it immensely. Writing essays seemed to be the only type of writing that I deplored and had to remain attentive and disciplined in order to finish, but this week, writing an essay that required discipline and also writing a collection of stories that I usually enjoyed writing, led me to the conclusion that both require the same work ethic to be successful. Discipline and consistency. I was uninspired to write many of the stories that ended up making their way into my portfolio, but I didn’t have time to wonder and deliberate, because it was also necessary to finish my essay. So I opted to put myself on a schedule for my creative writing as well, even if I didn’t feel inspired or motivated. At first I was frustrated, staring at an empty page trying to find something from nothing. Eventually a thought enters my mind and I write it down and then research and come back to it, but nothing was very inspiring or beautiful, or the typical tropes of inspiration and delight that I usually think of when I think of a writer writing. Instead I was extremely uncomfortable looking at the sort of dribble I was creating and forcing myself to continue on. This is the sort of exasperation I feel when I write an essay, but as I revise, as I ponder over the difficulties of my arguments, the essay itself begins to persists throughout the day as I struggle to figure it out. The same all-consuming process became my habit as I wrote my portfolio. Initially I hated everything I was writing, but because of that frustration and lack of inspiration I was persistently thinking about a way around it, until I devised an idea and sometimes had to write it down on a scrap of paper or in my phone until I was back home.
At the end of this period I finished my essay, as well as my creative writing portfolio, and I ended up writing more than expected, with what seems to be the first chapter of a book. This has made me consider how I’ve treated writing. Perhaps because creative writing and creation were not elevated in most of my schooling (encouraged, but essays, analysis and other subjects took precedent), writing always came as a respite, the time I took to sit down away from “work”. But now writing is my work, and I have to become comfortable being frustrated and forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do. It seems alien to me, but it works, and its effective.
I’ve now started writing a lot of stuff by hand, and I forced myself to keep a pad on my lap, even when I’m watching television or out and about, because inspiration comes when it wishes, but sometimes it has to be coaxed into being. I’ve also learned that there can be no room for fear of failure or appalling writing. If it is at first appalling, the earlier such unlike-able and unreadable qualities are written down on the paper, the quicker I can revise and erase them from my memory.
The lesson I supposed is this: don’t be afraid to be bad, force yourself to write everyday, carry a notepad around with you, and think of writing not only as a pleasure, but work, which requires the time and effort to be effective. In order to hopefully continue on with this lesson I’ve decided to challenge myself, beginning today, May 1st, to writing everyday, until I’m sick of looking at my own handwriting.