Friday, June 13, 2014

The value of a blink

I'm definitely one of those people who believe that writers should write every day, and painters should paint every day, musicians should play music every day, etc. Even if it's just a few minutes. I think that the reason that many don't is because they decide, either consciously or unconsciously, that because those few minutes feel shallow and they can't really get under the surface of things before they have to stop, there's no value to a fifteen minute art sit-down or the addition of a single paragraph to a manuscript.

I think there's a lot of value. I haven't tried to put this into words before, so I hope you'll be patient with me while I thrash it out.

Probably the least important part, and the part that is a focus of programs like Nanowrimo, is that those individual paragraphs add up. And they do. But this is super-easy to shrug off, because if you feel like you don't get to go deep, they're probably lousy paragraphs anyway. I think they always have the potential to be just as good as anything else you might write, but we're discussing writer mentality here, and even I wonder if I might not be writing stupid crud when I sit down for fifteen minutes before work and tap out a quarter of a scene.

I think it's more important to look at it as mental exercise. At first it might be true that those paragraphs written in stolen moments are probably not worth much, but with daily practice, you can't help but get better at dropping in and making quick additions.

Ooo, here's a good one: I don't stop thinking about my books when I go to work, and I get some great ideas there. Or maybe while grocery shopping I'll pick up a can of olives that are on sale and I'll think oh, oh! the contrast of salmony pink/red with purple-y black! and I'll dash home and splash some colors onto a new blank Photoshop screen. I might not have time to do anything more than that, but it's there for me to riff off of when I get some more time. And for those who rely on inspiration, having that inspired moment captured is a good and precious thing, even if they didn't have time to see it through to completion. And an incomplete gesture of inspiration is the norm, unless you're one of those rare people who completes an entire project in a single day. Even then, wouldn't it be nice to have something small and perfect and good every day?

Speaking of incomplete gestures and notes of inspiration, there's no rule that says that when you sit down and write, it has to be on the prose within the manuscript. Especially for books but also for short stories and art, I take notes which end up scattered on all different sizes, shapes and colors of paper all around my desk. Note-taking and planning is also creative time, my friends, and very valuable creative time. That is definitely part of the writing every day rule, and shouldn't be undervalued.

These are all good and true things. So, no more excuses. Write every day, even if it's just for a blink. After all, if we didn't blink, our eyes would dry out. So it is with the arts.


Anonymous said...

Very, very true.

Attempted a 'short story' on the subject just a few days ago, about the difference practice makes with music.
Skip a day, make another excuse, before you know it a week's gone... then you basically start over again at a lower level.
When I've been playing the instrument a few days in a row I can kind of 'trick' myself into moving from exercises and easy tunes onto the sort of stuff that normally makes my eyes cross in bewilderment... and play it. Skip a day or two and it's too advanced again.
I should be practising now but am on the internet instead.


Anonymous said...

More thoughts: sorry it's under f-lock simply because there's stuff in there I don't want to share with RL friends but I guess you can still log in to see it.
Julie/Julia Cameron? expounds on writing every day in her book "The Artist's Way" and you soon see the benefits from doing it.


Kami said...

If you friend emprazeman on livejournal I'll be able to see it.

Looks like Julia Cameron:

Looks like a fantastic read! I don't think I've read that one.

Anonymous said...

You're friended.

It's ten years or so since I read The Artists Way and Walking in This World... very, very good, I think I read WITW first and liked it better.

Her key recommendation for writers is to roll out of bed and write three pages longhand, she calls it 'morning pages'. It has the effect of 'distilling' out the background thoughts in preparation for 'real' writing, but a lot of ideas and little gems of writing can turn up in those pages also.