Note: This one took lots longer than a tea-steep to finish, but they’re my rules so I can break ’em if I wanna. It’s more like bending, anyway. It’s a post, it’s a day in November. Spirit of the law and all that.
When word counts and achievement percentages flood my social media feed, I’m moved to write because of what I’m not seeing. The people who flail in that tide of productivity don’t post about it. People whose dedication and determination aren’t enough to keep them afloat with their peers often drown in quiet despair.
But they’re out there. I know they are, because I have been one of them Learning I wasn’t alone helped me find the strength to swim to shore (so to speak). So, then. In case someone else needs to hear this the way I did, here’s the speech I give myself.
Commodity counts are book-keeping tools, not book writing ones. Use the right tool for the job. Just as I wouldn’t use a desk ruler to measure out the frame for a house (I could, but why?) I also won’t measure my writing by its statistics or calendar dates. Does it work for others? Great! I don’t use a trowel for gardening either. Others do. I prefer my sharp shovel. To each their own.
Yes, it can be inspiring to admire the sheer volume of what’s been made. I encourage everyone to indulge in admiration of each project’s hefty bulk. Giving voice to that gleeful, internal squeak of “I made this!” isn’t sinful pride, it’s a blessing of happiness shared. Sure, it’s good to shout my achievements to the world from a metaphorical rooftop when they happen.
Ah, but when. There’s the rub. What’s the rush? Am I writing to a deadline? Do I have an advance, or otherwise rely on my word craft for a living paycheck? No? Okay then. Breathe, me. It’s okay to slow down.
It isn’t often good to stop. Craftwork is work and needs to be practiced. But I will not feel guilty when I sit idle and listen to all the other little voices too. You know the ones. They distract by asking if Spartans had a word for ham, or how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Google knows, btw) They want to know everything, not just the useful-now things. Those voices take me on strange and magical trips to lands of wonder and inspiration.
It’s also okay to listen when my gut says, “Whoa, that isn’t the word I want, that isn’t the right character to say that line, that isn’t the plot I want to follow” and my “forward progress” pauses for hours or days while I work on that one little detail in my head or on the page. I must never, ever sacrifice the joys of the journey for the sake of raw words. Not in my first draft, not in my last draft.
Inspiration will come and go like a tide. Since I’m not writing words as a commodity on deadline, the count is irrelevant. Any movement is good exercise. Art goes like a child grows, not in a smooth curve upward, but in fits and starts–equilibrium punctuated by flurries of change. Keep the baby fed, keep her warm, encourage her at every turn, and she will grow.
I don’t have to push her to fit into a particular shirt. I don’t need to worry if she doesn’t look the way I expected. I should not obsess about her size or her maturation date.
As long as I keep loving her and caring for her, she will grow.
Time: 5:30 PM
Tea: Old Orchard hard apple cider.
Steep: Yah, hey, I drank it cold and took my time.