It Adds Up

Another month! Phew! Wow that went by fast. It’s been a full month, to be sure, but I still wish I’d made a little more effort updating this site. It doesn’t take long! Honestly. Fifteen minutes or less and I’m done. But in any case, I did manage to squeeze out nearly 2,000 words on my novel today, which put me over the 61,000 word mark. Yeah, it’s been a long road since that initial 50k hurdle. But productive, as well. I feel like the intervening period of work and not work and contemplation has really given me some much needed perspective and insight into my own writing process and what works and what doesn’t.

As I have mentioned before, I’m simultaneously inspired and intimidated by authors such as Bernard Cornwell and George R.R. Martin and Frank Herbert. I read their works, and I can clearly see the efforts of brilliant minds at play. It’s very instructive to read how they do what they do, and it teaches me to be a better writer. At the same time, I’m discouraged because nothing I write seems to come close to the clear, simple, sturdy prose that they produce and that makes their books the compelling benchmarks they are. One of the biggest challenges I’m facing is coordinating all the different characters and the many plot threads. There’s so much political and religious intrigue happening, on such a large scale, that I sometimes wonder if I lack the maturity as a writer to deal pull it off. All I can do is keep going though, and learn, and revise. If I don’t make it, I’ll have gained quite a bit of experience in the effort.

In his book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, Frank Partnoy says that procrastinating isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that its origins stem from early Christian ideas about work ethics. He adds that in ancient times it was quite common to procrastinate decisions until the solution presented itself naturally. I can vouch for the fact that waiting until the last second has often provided the necessary creative impetus to complete a project. He goes on to say that what he calls “creative delay” is when you’re not sure where to go next with your work, and that time for reflection and introspection are essential for any artist hoping to see their project reach its full potential. Even when we think we aren’t working, we actually are.

Our minds are churning through the little layers of our work that we don’t even realise are there, the pieces that slowly congeal somewhere in the back of our subconscious between those moments of indecision and sudden inspiration. These moments can take quite a bit of time, but are crucial to accept as part of the process. He concludes by saying that we often find the solutions to our mental blocks far simpler than we might have imagined. It just took a while to straighten out the knots and reach that point. I’ve certainly found this to be true.

Working against deadlines is often a helpful motivator. It’s the open ended time table that is the real nightmare. Take my book for instance: including all re-writes, drafts and research, it’s on its fifth year now. I’m hoping that once I squeeze this first novel out, I’ll have gained enough insight into the experience that I can fire out the next one a little more quickly.

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