Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If you fall off the wagon, get up and get walking--the trip's not getting any shorter while you lay there on the ground.

Hi. My name is Sean M. Murphy, and I have a problem.

I have a singular example of a common ailment among writers, namely, that we each have periods of time during the year that are always extremely busy, during which writing becomes very difficult if not nearly impossible. Whether it be holidays, kids out of school, the annual migration of the trumpeter swans and the ensuing twenty-four-hour-a-day bird-watching that must accompany it, or (name your illness here), life does happen somewhat cyclically, and I am no exception to that.

This past year, as we approached one of my down times--the Jewish High Holidays, during which I become nearly catatonic as I manage a synagogue, and everyone in the world suddenly needs something done right now ohmygod--I was aware that I had a secondary busy period following hard behind the first. The Coen Brothers had agreed to shoot scenes for their next movie at my synagogue, and while yes, that is very cool, it was also extremely busy, and happening during the three weeks immediately following the holidays.

Which meant twelve weeks in a row of more-or-less non-stop work, culminating in several 70-90 hour work weeks.

Not to blow right past that, but once it was over, my brain was fried. I needed almost a month of down time before I even started to feel like I could do anything other than sleep and lounge on the couch. But--and here's the rub--after a while, I began to suspect that I no longer needed to be resting, but that I simply was being lazy. The longer it went on, the more that realization became a certainty. Not that I was doing anything about it. I was going to writers' group, hanging out with friends, watching TV, sleeping in... doing dishes... er, dusting all the book shelves for the second time that week... ummmm... hmm.... ooo, straightening the pictures on the wall! Defragmenting the hard drive! WOOT!

And definitely not writing.

A couple of weeks ago, this got the the point of perturbing. I became actively aware that I was purposefully avoiding any potential writing time, and I realized that I had developed a bad case of inertia. So I decided to kick my own ass. I banished myself from the interwebs, from hanging out with friends, from attending writers' group--basically all the fun things that I associate with being a writer, other than the joy of story. Until I got going again and finished a short story that had been "in process" since July, I simply wasn't going to be allowed to do the reward things that come with being a writer.

That, and the fact that I'm a highly social person, was a definite impetus to action. Last week I started getting up at 5:00 am again, writing for a couple of hours in the morning before heading ot work. (I cannot express how much I like this arrangement. Not only do I get coffee and a sense of accomplishment early in the day, but it puts the dream-state energy straight into creative avenues, rather than wasting it at work. Plus, I'm fully awake by the time I get to the day job, which helps me perform more acutely.) In two days flat (that is, three hours and ten minutes of writing time) I had knocked out 2,500 new words and edited another 500, giving me a short story of just over 8,000 words.

And the right to get back into my social network.

I'm not sure if this technique would work for any of you out there. I think any of us would have to analyze what drives us, what our pleasures in life are, but I figured if I could identify my own carrots, I could dangle them in front of myself. And now my inertia has more of the momentum, a state I intend to maintain. A writer in motion, etc...


tate hallaway said...

Glad to have you back too, btw.

Bart said...

Warning, Writing-Nerd Alert!

That, and the fat that I'm a highly social person ....


Sorry, I'm a nerd.

A very nice post.

Anonymous said...

Good catch, Bart--it would be hard to call me fat, unless you're anorexic.

[Altering typos typedy-type-type... there!]