Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ghosts

I've been stalling out on my writing rate lately. I still hit my chapter a week mark, but sometimes it's a little close.

There's a temptation to compare yourself to others. Chuck Wendig writes two or three thousand words per day. Stephen King brain-dumps two thousand fully-formed novels per day. My fictional friend Bob (who totally owns a unicorn) writes fifteen hundred every morning before running a marathon.

You get the idea. Whenever you do anything, especially something you pride yourself as being good at--or at least want to be good at--you tend to compare yourself to others. A lot.

Nothing wrong with that. It never hurts to see where you are in relation to other people. It's just that it's the ultimate cosmic apples to oranges comparison. You have a full-time job. Professional writers write for their full-time work. They have way more time to devote to output. And Bob? Sure, he doesn't write full-time, but maybe his output is mostly garbage and he has to edit out 80% post-production. Your writing conditions are not their writing conditions.

I see this sort of thing all the time in physical fitness. People trying to impress other people in the gym. They show up, they look around and they immediately begin to compete in some imaginary fucked-up arena which exists solely in their head. They cardio harder than everybody else, lift more than the guy next to them. They make more noise. Then they get hurt.

Thing is, nobody at the gym really gives a shit about you--they're wrapped up in their own routines and daily concerns. A lot of them are there just to blow off steam from their own work day. You're just someone else in the background to them. If you're fat, out of shape, really buff, really intense...they really don't care.

So you compete with some imaginary figure in your head which you've constructed out of jealousy, vanity and pixie dust. You take risks you wouldn't normally take, possibly leading to injury. And more importantly, you make yourself miserable for no real reason. You're making a thing out of nothing. You're responding to ghosts.

The really important thing is that you're in there regularly, doing SOMETHING. And that something you're doing is better than the something you did last time you tried. And that you go back and do that something again at some point in the near future. That's it. You mess up, have a good cry, dust yourself up and get back on the horse. You do good, pat yourself on the back and then get back on the horse. Just get on the damn horse.

I've got two chapters left and a fuck-pile* of editing to do. I have a bit of angst I have to deal with occasionally about how my chapter lengths are a bit short. Or maybe how I didn't write anything at all this week and now I have two days on the weekend to write a chapter, along with doing all the other bullshit I normally do on weekends (hookers and blow, man) in order to please some arbitrary goal I've set myself.

And it's not like anybody else in the world really knows or care. I have no deadlines to hit or readers to pester me with email. I picture a future version of me who's watching my progress and is either mildly disappointed, regretful, happy or pleased. The fact that I'm cranking out a chapter a week in my free time is awesome and I'm glad I'm doing it but there's no real impact to spacing out on a deadline except to my self-esteem.

It's too easy to make comparisons, though. I think back on the week and total up all the free time I had which I could've been "making progress" and it eats my brain a little. Or I think about all the more productive weeks during my short-story-a-year challenge and shake my head at how I cranked out 14,000 words in one week when now I'm impressed if I hit 4,000.

But it's definitely apples-to-oranges. I've got a lot going on right now en la vida Mike, most of which is non-writing-related.

On top of that, there's a world of difference between writing a long short story and wrapping up a novel--I might only write 3,000 words, but those are 3,000 words which tie into a previous 40,000 words and have to make sense within the context of the next 6,000.

Besides that, I never intended to publish any of those really long-ass short stories I cranked out. This book, I intend to eventually shop around once it's been through the meat grinder a few times. So they're a lot less sloppy because I know I'm going to have to revisit them at some point and make them suck less.

It's going to feel good to have that book done, though. One of my primary goals for this one was simply to get to a point where I can reasonably crank out multiple books per year in my spare time and it looks like it's happening.

* ...which should totally be a real scientific unit of measurement.

No comments:

Post a Comment