The Writing Muscle

I’m the type of writer where when I’m working on a project, I’ve got the blinders on – doesn’t matter if I’m breaking a story or outlining or writing or whatever. I’m immersed in the process. I’m sure my day job, life and health suffer, but I’m pretty happy about the work that’s getting done. Sleep? Eh. Non-related deadlines? Pffft. Friends and loved ones? Oh yeah... — I’m exaggerating. But I’m pretty good at focusing. I so desperately want the story to work, to pop. I want to see the pages come together and kick some serious ass. And there’s nothing better than a writer’s high.

But when I’m between projects, or trying to get something from a series of ideas to spark so I can jump to breaking the story, it can be rough going. Getting myself to write, to spend the time at my desk, to keep up the practice of writing even when I feel like the well is dry and I’d rather sit through a High School Musical marathon than to try and string more pathetically anemic words along the blank page...

It’s awful. Those lulls are just horrific. And I’m just getting out of one now.

I just keep forgetting – it’s probably more in the territory of denial – that writing is a muscle. It needs to be continually worked and pushed and practiced. Otherwise it atrophies and then getting back in gear when the next project is in place is just more work than it should be. You’re wasting energy getting back in the groove. It’s amazing how just a few weeks can just sideline you.

I heard somewhere that it only takes 72 hours to start losing the effects of regular exercise upon the muscles. Three days! That’s it. I can only assume it’s the same with writing.

It’s funny, I’m training for a half marathon right now. I’m running on a structured, alternating schedule put together by my future brother-in-law. This week alone I’m running 26 miles.

So, basically, I can drag myself out to run 7 miles after a full work day, but I’m having trouble sitting my ass on a chair for a couple of hours on a weeknight to keep my writing in shape, to keep the gears greased and ready for the next project to spark. I’ve tried rigorous writing schedules before, but my brain seems adept at defeating those efforts. Like it can scent out the absence of a burgeoning script and it won’t get in line otherwise.

There’s that quote that I’ve heard ascribed to several different writers, but originally I heard it came from Somerset Maugham. Someone asked him if he wrote every day or if he only wrote when inspiration struck. And he said, “I only write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

So, essentially, I’m saying a need a writing regimen. I need to get back into shape. I’m not exactly sure what shape this might take, but I need to make sure I’m consistently writing through the lulls. Maybe it’ll make the lulls shorter. Or just keep my spirits up. Long bouts of no writing and a lack of forward progress can make me cranky. I feel better when I’m getting work done, when I’m writing.

So a regimen. A schedule. Or something.

I’d be curious to hear if anyone has any systems that work for them when they’re not in the throws of an idea or a script.

ps. I’ve already gotten to answers to this: 1: “I just do it.” and 2: “Stop being a wuss and write.” Fantastic. Thanks guys. (And yes, there is a small part of me that wonders if that’s all there is to it...)

pps. Looks like Amanda preemptively answered my post with this Hollywood Reporter link. Touché


Emily Blake said...

Yeah me too. I used to have a reliable writing regimen, and then I got a boyfriend. And then the boyfriend got me a Wii.

adam _______________________ said...

Ooo. A Wii. I think the only reason I haven't gotten one is the fear it strikes in me that I'd never get anything done. Dangerous.