“Write this thing. Write this thing. Write this thing.” It’s a common mantra I chant to myself somewhere between the hours of 9:00 P.M. and 12:00 A.M., when I’m alternately scrawling notes in my writing journal and struggling to type coherent sentences and plot points into some word processor or another on my laptop screen. Then midnight hits, at which point I commonly accept whatever I’ve done and go to bed. Generally, I go to bed grumpy, and I wonder why I chose creative writing as a hobby, of all things. Why didn’t I pick something easier, like alligator wrestling?
It’s not a common sight, but at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a visitor to my apartment would have found me hunched over my laptop, writing furiously. As a friend would call it, I was in a flow state. My creativity was flowing freely, I was fully confident in the idea I on which I was working, and I was feeling a generally sense of satisfaction and enjoyment with my overall project. Those nights, thankfully for my sleep schedule, are rare. It’s more common to find me hunched over my laptop, still writing furiously but only because the ideas won’t come, and I want to go to bed. It’s not possibly to always be in a flow state. If it were, every write would be vying for the spot of most prolific, most well-known, and most well-paid author. J.K. Rowling might not even be a blip on the radar. Of course, that means writing when the ideas just won’t come, sometimes.
Writing through writer’s block is one of my least favorite things to do. It ranks with missing lunch, needing a nap and not having time for one, and forgetting to bring an umbrella on a day where it pours. Every little thing annoys me, when I’m writing under these conditions. I vehemently dislike every mistyped word that I have to fix, every extended blank space left where a name or a place I haven’t yet chosen needs to be, and every moment of writing without direction just for the sake of getting words on the screen. I’m a perfectionist; I want every word that I write in every draft to be the words that will make it to the final draft. The idea that I might write something imperfect or unnecessary isn’t a particularly welcome one. Still, it’s necessary work. There are so many ideas bound up that need exploring, and not all of them are good ones. Some of them are pretty bad, others only make sense to me, and a few, of course, are pretty decent.
It’s impossible to get to the pretty decent ideas and fully explore them without slogging through the mediocre ones. For every idea jotted down in my writing journal that I’ve actually pursued, there are another four or five that will never get past my casual scribbling and bullet points. I wouldn’t have a nearly full journal otherwise. Sometimes the good ideas are born from exploring and expanding worse ideas. Every so often there’s a gem hidden in the pile of false-starts and things we refuse to allow to leave the scrap pile. Just casting things onto the scrap pile, without ever fleshing them out, ensures that even the good ideas go to the trash. A lot of writing is just picking through trash trying to find the good bits in order to show them off to the world – which means a lot of writing is just knowingly generating trash.
Which means, of course, that sometimes it’s just necessary to write, even if it has to be done kicking and screaming the entire way through until the next session, which hopefully goes better. So you’ll write, even as you grumble at your characters, and your topic, and your notebook, and your computer for simply existing. You’ll write, and you’ll make yourself irritable and maybe even tired, but it will be worth it when the time spent begins to yield something in which you can truly feel pride. So, write your thing.