Technically you can spend your every waking hour working on something. I’ve tried, I’ve watched others. Mostly what happens is that inspiration, energy and efficiency decline in a steady and dependable sort of way until you’re left exhausted, miserable, thinking you should be working all the time, not knowing what to do if not working, and essentially unable to work. In terms of getting anything done in the long term, working yourself into a hole is no kind of answer.
Working on a computer, where most of my ‘product’ is virtual, I find I need regular doses of real stuff too. It’s nice when the physical versions of books turn up, that feels real, but it’s not the same as working hands-on. Balance is increasingly important to me, and I find I need to strike those balances over longer time frames, not just on a daily basis. There has to be time for play, time to do nothing, time to seek inspiration, and time for doing.
One of the things I’ve learned it’s useful to do, is to draw breath between projects. Often projects are overlapping so that when one ends, it can be tempting to just carry on, transferring attention to others, but it’s not been a good strategy for me. I’ve often got a piece of fiction or two on the go, as well as the graphic novels (admittedly, Tom has most of the work there) and the Druid writing. But, the end points need celebrating. And it’s important to stop. So, I’ve finished a thing this week. It’s verse, light hearted and aimed at children, a huge departure from anything I’ve done before. I love striking out into new things, I hate being in a rut, the diversity I like in my work is definitely part of my sense of balance. Still running… words for a joint novel writing project and a poetry collection that could be assembled soon, and a story I’m still typing up. I’m in research mode for the next Druid book, and I’ve got the title of another project on my list, waiting for me to start. But not this week.
Having finished the verse collection for now, I’m having some days off – just doing email, editing and blogging, which are the things that give me structure. I find I need a little structure to offset the chaotic ways in which I work, and that these three things are enough to give me that. Another exercise in balance there. So, tomorrow I shall spend some time with some ducks, I think. Today, I have started a crotchet project. This is wholly different from having a writing project on the go, as its mostly restful for the brain rather than taxing, gives me time to daydream or listen to the radio, or chat, and results in a thing I can hold. I’ve always found a kind of soul satisfaction in making things I can hold in my hands. Tomorrow, I may get the paintbrushes out and make colourful splodges with the child.
I know, that through doing this, I will be able to write more effectively when I dive head first into the next project. Working with my hands gives my brain time to ferment ideas and brew things into new combinations. The daydreaming is essential. A life that is just work leaves little room to daydream, and soon there’s no aspiration, no longed for destination, and no content for stories. I also find a lot of inspiration in play, mucking about with friends and family, letting ideas and jokes build and roll. Some of my best writing ideas have come from just that.
I like the zen saying: before enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water. After enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water. It doesn’t matter what spiritual or intellectual, or emotional thing we’re doing, it’s vital to stay balanced, to be earthed by something real on a regular basis.
Before fiction writing, crotchet. After fiction writing, crotchet. At least for this week.