You know that saying “Genius is about one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”? It’s like that with writing. Except writers generally don’t perspire. Unless they are scribbling away in mid-summer with broken air conditioning. But the same principle applies. It’s about one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent behind-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard (or pen in hand, if that’s your thing). But that’s not nearly as catchy.
There’s always that initial spark of excitement that comes with a new idea. Something that compels you to write the story–something that makes it build inside of you until it just has to burst out in the form of words. Unfortunately, that fades really, really quickly. And you can only do so much poking at the embers of that dead fire before it’s really pretty much just a pile of ashes.
Thankfully, there’s a way to bring a phoenix out of those ashes. But it takes riding out the fire of passion and continuing along the cold, hard process of forcing yourself to sit there and form words. Then sentences. Then paragraphs. Over and over and over. It’s a mind-numbing, often excruciating process. This truth is why writing is both my favorite and my least favorite thing to do.
I’m in the pile-of-ashes stage with my novel Firmament: Gestern right now. The first draft is so close to being done, but almost the entire thing since the first few pages has been like pulling teeth (and not loose teeth, either). I know I need to get through it, and I know from experience that when I look back on it from a distance of time, it won’t seem quite the boring atrocity that it does now. But that doesn’t make the current process any more fun.
Can I tell you a secret? I hate writing.
I love the inspiration part, but that’s only one percent! I love words, but words often are stubborn about coming. I love sharing my work, but that involves actually doing the work.
I hate writing today, because the stage I’m currently in is not fun at all.
Tomorrow the spark may return again, and then I may go back to loving it.
(And because I am an extreme and dramatic person, there’s unlikely to be any third option or happy medium.)
But I have to write today just as much as I have to write tomorrow. As Robert Rodriguez so astutely observed, “At the end of the day, the only difference between the doers and the don’ters is that the doers do and the don’ters don’t.” So whether I’m feeling it or not, I must resolve to be a doer. Sit myself down, log out of Facebook, glue my fingers to the keyboard if necessary, and just keep typing.
And keep chasing that elusive one percent of inspiration.