Often I write with an idea in mind and a route vaguely mapped out. Other times I write with an idea and no direction in mind, just to see where things will go. I can’t say I favor one method or the other. It’s easier to have an idea and a route mapped out, in my opinion. It’s just getting from point A to point B, but it’s more interesting to see where my brain takes me without much prompting.
It’s through the meandering that I come to understand what’s under my skin, what’s tucked away inside my brain and what and how I feel. One would think these are easy things to recognize in ourselves. We easily judge others in similar situations. But we are notoriously blind to ourselves. At least, I know I am.
I write to understand
Therefore, I write to help myself understand. This works especially well if I’ve done a bunch of research on a project and then just let it all go and sit down to write. It’s like practicing a piece of music and then performing it. There’s something that gets triggered in your brain that brings the hidden to the surface, and it’s exciting. This piece of writing, for instance. I had a simple idea of “I write to understand.” Now, I want to see where it’s going to go. I want to know why this interests me, why do I care why I write?
My motivations are suspect
There seems to be a lot of information out there trying to convince me of why I do this or how I do that. I don’t really care to read others opinions of why I do something. Unless I’m paying a therapist on the subject, I don’t care. And I’ve never spoken to a therapist, so there you go. But I am curious as to what my motivations are and why I think a certain way, or why I do a certain action. Why do I feel the need to write? Why do I feel the need to create something where there was nothing? Why can’t I just sit on the couch and watch TV like a normal person? Why can’t I find satisfaction with scrolling through Facebook?
I am lazy
Why don’t I just delve headlong into fiction and call it a day? I seem to and always have, love the editorial/essay as a form. I think it’s because I’m lazy at heart and essays are relatively easy to write. They take nicely to the form of grabbing an idea and running with it. Whereas a short story or a novel would require the planning step. I don’t enjoy planning. Again, I’m lazy at heart. See there? That’s come out twice in this piece, so either I really am lazy, or at least some part of my psyche thinks I am – “Think you can think you can’t, you’re right.” Therefore, I am lazy. I think I am, therefore I am.
The key is what I’m willing to do about it. As long as I keep showing up each morning and doing the work, being lazy doesn’t mean much. I’m too lazy at being lazy for it to harm me. And as lazy as I may be, I love seeing progress, and I love to see where my ideas go without a plan. For me, it’s more creative to not have a plan. Planning for some reason doesn’t seem like creativity. I have good support for this idea. Stephen King says the same in his book On Writing.
I do need to plan, but I don’t do it
All that being said, I don’t think it matters one way or the other how I write something, I just want to get it done. I wish I had more time to plan, actually. I did take a Sunday a month ago and plan out my writing for the week. I wrote down the scenes I wanted to create and stuck with it for 10 days. It actually caused some strange issues in my writing motivation and made me realize that I do need more planning of what I write, especially the longer works. I think I’ve mentioned by now I’m lazy, right? Lest anyone forget, I need to make sure I point that out to you and to my subconscious that I think I’m really lazy. I don’t think I’m stupid or slow, or even unmotivated. But that other thing, good lord, yes.
I’m going to make a note to myself to be nicer to me. I really shouldn’t be calling myself names in front of mixed company like this.
Understanding the unconscious
Back to the point of this exercise, I write to understand. I just don’t always know what I’m going to understand, or what’s going to pop up. Obviously, as fun as that can be, it can be equally disturbing on some days. When I wrote about being emotional, that one just popped up from nowhere. As with most people, I’m pretty uncomfortable talking about my flaws and insecurities, but I think that’s how people connect with you. They read something about you and think to themselves, “me too.” It’s that simple.
With each word, I tend to find something that wasn’t there and some key to figuring out what I think, what I believe, doubt or fear. That’s the hardest part for me, exposing the fear and doubt. The thought comes, it’s always there, just below the surface. I’ve been told more times than I can count that I’m “always thinking.” That used to always surprise me because I don’t think of myself that way. But when someone you really respect says this to you about your scheming, you have to take notice. And that’s when I realized that OK, maybe I do think a lot. The combination of not having a lot of friends and working remotely most days lends itself to a more solitary existence that allows you a lot of time to just sit and think. That becomes a habit.
Progress is success
The key here is turning the habit, the thinking and examining into some sort of tangible result. Unlike this piece that wanders to and fro, I need to have something to show that I am progressing as a writer, an artist, a thinker or a student. Or heaven forbid, all of those. But that doesn’t happen if I allow myself to be lazy. If I listened to that part of myself this morning, I’d still be in bed, laying there upset about not getting out of bed and showing up today to do the work. Those days are, hopefully, over. While each day I feel any single day matters a little less, I am making each day matter just as much as the first day. My point here is that after a year of writing each and every day, what I did on one day will pale in comparison to the results of a year’s worth of work. But each day contributed equally at that point. So each day matters just the same. They all carry equal weight. That’s what I need to tell myself, that’s the key to my motivation if I can call it that. That’s what keeps me going. Each day matters just as much as all the rest.
It feels very much like an AA slogan, “one day at a time.” I think the struggle is similar, there’s this feeling that never goes away, so you have to face the demon each morning. You have to do whatever it takes to get you to move forward each and every day so you can move one more day away from who you were previously. One more day away from whatever you’re running from, whether its something like alcoholism or basic laziness and lack of progress. We were built to move forward. We were not designed to sit on our asses and accomplish nothing. It’s why my worst days are ones where I look back and see no progress for the day. At least today I can say that I accomplished this. This cannot be taken away from me. I wrote, and I exceeded my daily count, and now I have the rest of the day to keep going or do nothing more. But these words and the ideas within are exposed and saved. I have succeeded.
What drives you to write? Please let me know in the comments.
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