Random Gibberish–When Your Imaginary Friends Talk, LISTEN

Paul E CooleyWriters have good days and bad days. Today was a stellar day. I joked yesterday that only hitting 1.7k words wasn’t acceptable–I’d have to do better. Boy did I.

I haven’t slept much. Last night, my brain was busy imagining all sorts of doomsday scenarios about my various plots and characters and etcetera. My imaginary friends weren’t talking to me–they were laughing at me.

So this morning, I asked Oscar a question. The Grouch was very forthcoming. In fact, I couldn’t shut him up. I was at nearly 2k when I left to go have lunch with my folks. I was distracted while they told stories and we caught up because Oscar WOULD NOT SHUT UP! So much for worrying about leaving the keyboard.

My wife is on her stay-cation. While she was inside watching the olympics, I was out here on the deck pounding the keys and writing like a madman. We went to dinner. We came back. I put down another 800. Bang bang boom. Total (not including this blog post)? 4349.

Joe R Lansdale says there’s no such thing as writer’s block. I think he’s right. In a way. Since I’ve changed my routine of working on multiple tales at once, I no longer worry about the dreaded block. In the past, I’ve managed to tangle myself up so badly that I didn’t write a word for two weeks while my brain tried to untie the knots in the plot. Foolish. While I was worrying about why the story wouldn’t work, I could have been working on something else. Should have been working on something else. While I work on a different story, my previous problems melt away. When I go back, the story is alive and ready to rock and roll. Live and learn.

I used to be one of those people that expected inspiration to strike when I sat down at the keyboard. And if it didn’t strike, I’d just stare off into space, hit google, wikipedia, or just tweet random crap. A waste of time. Big waste of time.

What I’ve realized over the past couple of years is that being lazy is the problem. Now I have a routine. I try and write in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. If I fail to get words down in the morning or afternoon, then I simply force myself to reach my ridiculously modest goal of 250 words (300 now) in the evening. This isn’t always easy, especially when you have a dayjob that leaves you completely stressed out, brain-blown, and often short on sleep.

But you know what? No one cares. Nor should they. Stories are nothing if they’re not written down. They are dead as dogshit if they remain in your brain and not on the digital or paper page. You can be a professional even if you’re main income isn’t derived from your writing–you just have to decide what’s more important. Right now? Writing books is the most important thing I can do with my time.

I’m rambling (see title), but I think the lesson here is that “inspiration” does strike. Sometimes your imaginary friends want to play. And when they do, you better be ready to play too.

Day-jobs are not the death of creativity. They can, in fact, be the patron of it. When I come off a stressful day of keeping a 24/7 software service running, I look forward to talking with the demons in my brain. Somehow they’re less terrifying than the real world and the act of creation is a huge high. But what I’ve noticed, as Terry Mixon has said time and time again, is that planting your ass in the chair is the trick. The more you do, the more your friends will be there when you want them to be.

Someday, I’d like to write full-time and work on software in my spare hours. I feel as though I’m at the point in my literary career where I can finally storm through my worlds and stories and kick out a shitload of content. But that’s someday. Someday means never if you don’t approach every day like a professional.

I’m a long way from where I want to be. My writing has a long way to go before I’ll decide it’s “satisfactory.” Characters, plot, dialogue, all these can only be improved by writing. So if I manage those pesky 300 words every day, I’ll get better every day. And despite many false starts in the past few years, I’m reaching for the impossible goal–perfection. And as I said, I’m a long way from it.

So get your ass in the chair. Present WiP not talking to you? Find another. Write gibberish. Turn off the damned screen and type blind or scratch the pen against the paper with eyes closed. Do whatever it takes. Oh, and for the record? Whenever I finish a chapter, I start the next with these words: “blah blah”. When I wake up the next morning and I see those words, I know what I have to do–erase them and let my friends talk.

Posted in Essays
One comment on “Random Gibberish–When Your Imaginary Friends Talk, LISTEN
  1. aleleeinn says:

    A page a day. Yeah, a modest goal, but I do agre with you. You’ve go to write to be a writer. Now if you want a philosophical explanation; I will offer Jean-Paul Sartre. He said “Being is Doing” That applies to everything. from actually living your life and doing the things that living beings do to professions and hobbies. To be a writer you must write. That discipline is what hones the writers engrams and reflexes.
    Now as to your methods. They are sound. I’ve been in IT a very long time and I’ve realized that my brain is working even when it’s not attached to my conscious mind. I send IT problems that have me stumped off to run in “BATCH”. I come back and check on them later.
    So that’s what you do. Work on something. If you get stuck put it down and work on something else. As for multitasking–it suits me. I do pretty well jumping from task to task and remembering where I was and what I was doing.
    SOmetimes however, I tell everyone to fuck off and put on the phones and zero in on things. When I’m in that zone I’m very productive.
    Writing is not the same as IT. But they both require a discipline; an effort and aptitude, and I think a love of the job. I can be quite happy when the shit hits the fan and I have to fix things. I’ve done it for decades and it neither frightens or overwhelms me. I’ve kept my enthusiasm.
    I do think you have found a methodology that both suits you and is sustainable. The Street is one of those lark projects. In many ways it writes itself.
    I think once The Street is complete you will be ready to start new projects or restart old ones.
    I’m expecting more, bigger and better things from you. I don’t know what they will be, but I’ll find out when they are finished.
    Rambling must be contagious. The short version is that I believe you find writing to be a job you love.
    Keep on Truckin’
    Aleleeinn

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