‘Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.’
– Walter Benjamin
Only actually 10%
Writing, I am continuously realising, is only about 10% putting words to paper. The other 90% is spread fairly evenly between imagining the story in your mind while figuring out how to translate that imagination into words, planning/structuring the story, and generating the willpower to sit down at a laptop and write.
Some days are taken over by the imagining. You sit there, looking to the outside world as if you’re doing nothing in particular. You create in your mind the characters: their nuisances and quirks, their political leanings and religious beliefs, their hopes and dreams (and sometimes their appearances though this is of far less importance than many people think). You create settings: geographical, temporal, societal. Basically you build a world and people to live within it.
Some days are taken over by planning/structuring. These are painful but productive, jotting in notepads and pulling up multiple word documents with bullet notes and bold text highlighting key plot points. The story is broken down, in some cases scene by scene, with all its detail laid out messily and with no sense of order to anyone other than the writer.
The hardest step of all
Then, once these steps are down (and also during and before these steps take place), there comes the generating of will. This is the stage most writers conveniently forget to mention when talking about their writing (looking at you, Walter Benjamin). It is the debilitating, anxiety-inducing step required to actually get anything done. Whether imagining the project, planning the project, or actually writing the project, it all begins with this step. Certain writers are better at fast-tracking this step. At times, I have been able to almost ignore it completely. But it is always there and can even, annoyingly enough, jump up right in the middle of a phase of the project. You could be planning and BAM! you find yourself having to regenerate the will to continue. You could be mid-sentence of a fight scene and BAM! your fingers refuse to continue until you’ve regenerated the will to continue. Like a ninja (or a zit) it could strike at any time.
In my current project I am battling between the planning/structuring phase and the generating willpower phase. This is a project to which I am quite emotionally attached and as such I’m finding it quite overwhelming to proceed. The goal is to be writing – properly writing – in about two weeks. However, this will only happen if I can continuously win the battle with procrastination.
Tick Tick Boom
In times like these (apologies for the forthcoming reflection) I remember the line in Tick Tick Boom, where Andrew Garfield asks what to do now that his script is finished and not taken up. His agent tells him to write another, and then another. While this particular scene is referring to generating a new project one after the other, the basic premise stands for what I am saying. The job of the writer is to write. Past the anxiety and the doubt. You just have to keep going.
Until you’ve completed what you want to complete.
And then you do it again.
Until you give up and become an estate agent, or a bartender in the Bahamas (my personal plan)
Ok that last bit was a joke, and I’ve kind of tangented a little. The point is, writing is actually mostly not writing, and I’m currently stuck in the planning phase, slogging along making painfully slow progress. While battling with the will to continue.
Ok, that’s it. Before I ramble on anymore I’m going to end this post.