Guest blogger Kameron Hurley does most of her ranting at her blog, Brutal Women. You can findÂ some of her recent fiction in Yearâ€™s Best SF 12, Strange Horizons, and EscapePod. She currently makes a living as a marketing and sales copywriter in Ohio, and has sold or nearly sold or sort of sold or is still in the process of selling a book called Godâ€™s War, which may or may not actually be published at some unspecified period from an as yet unspecified publisher. Stay tuned.
When I interviewed for my current job as a copywriter, one of the questions they asked was, â€œWhat happens when youâ€™re not inspired? I mean, when youâ€™re not in the mood to write? When youâ€™re not feeling creative?â€
I laughed. â€œWriting is a job,â€ I said. â€œYou work at it the same way you would any other job. Even when you donâ€™t feel good. Even when it feels like all youâ€™re writing is crap. You endure.â€
This has been a great mantra for my day job work. I write copy all day long. I write copy when Iâ€™m hungry, miserable, tired, depressed, exhausted, uninspired, stressed out, and under pressure. Because itâ€™s my job. You write copy or you starve.
But when it comes to my second jobâ€¦ when I get home every night and kiss my partner and work out and eat some food and trudge upstairs to start writing fictionâ€¦ well, that same â€œwrite or starveâ€ mentality just doesnâ€™t motivate me.
I worked far better when I was either actually starvingâ€¦ or under contract. Having a book contract makes it feel more like write-or-starve work. When youâ€™re just plugging away for yourselfâ€¦ most days itâ€™s like pulling teeth.
The worst is when Iâ€™ve gone weeks or months without writing anything of note. Getting out of the habit of writing is like getting out of the habit of eating well or exercising. You fall back into bad habits and suddently itâ€™s all World of Warcraft and MST3K and coming up with new and interesting ways to eliminate sugar and carbs from common recipes.
And those first few days of getting back into your routine are torture.
These days, my fiction writing has too-often fallen into that category: something tough and time-consuming that I know I need to do because, dammit, itâ€™s good for me. After sitting in front of a computer writing all day, the last fucking thing I want to do when I come home is sit in front of the computer for another 3-4 hours working on writing projects.
Hence, all that dithering.
But what gets me back on track? How do you roll back into a routine after falling from grace?
I tackle writing wipe-outs the same way I tackle work-out wipeouts. So, I havenâ€™t worked out in a week and itâ€™s tough to get back into it. So I say, OK, Iâ€™ll just do 10 minutes tonight. Or, Iâ€™ll just do half that pilates video, or just one of those weight training circuits (instead of all 5). Then the next day I say, OK, just 10 minutes. You can do 10 minutes. And by day three Iâ€™m like, hey 15 minutes, huh. You can do that.
And 15 goes by like a breeze and suddenly youâ€™re at 20, and itâ€™s only a matter of time before youâ€™re back up to 30-40 min a day 5 days a week, and you donâ€™t feel quite so doughy anymore.
Writing is like that.
Cause see, if you sit down after a long break and say, â€œIâ€™m going to finish this fucking chapter tonight,â€ or â€œIâ€™m going to write 2,000 words today,â€ after six weeks offâ€¦ itâ€™s like saying youâ€™re going to hop on the treadmill and run 5 miles after playing Assassinâ€™s Creed and World of Warcraft every night for the last four weeks. Chances are, youâ€™ll fail. Then youâ€™ll feel bad about yourself. Then you associate that bad feeling with the actual working out you *did* do, and youâ€™ve totally scarred your writing experience.
When I put together my new writing schedule, it looked a lot like my workout schedule after a couple weeks off. For the next two weeks, I need to write just 100 words a day on Babylon, the third book in my Godâ€™s War series.
Yes, you read that right:
I got this idea from Tobias Buckell. See, anybody can write 100 words. And chances are, after the first 50, youâ€™ll warm up a bit and write *more* than 100. I cleared 500 tonight without really thinking about it.
Small steps. Little increments. Writing novels, in particular, is an endurance sport, not a sprint. One of my big mistakes after every writing hiatus is to try and attack the issue head on with crazy 5,000 words a day goals that left me burned out and miserable after a few days.
But 100 words?
This blog post is over 700.
100 words about an exiled bounty hunter picking up a contract on a diplomat? I can SO do 100 words about that.
Itâ€™s easy to forget that writing isnâ€™t always about big word counts and huge sacrifices. Sometimes itâ€™s just the small, steady, accretion of words. Â Even just 100 at a time.