Did you all miss me last week? I’m sure you did. But shhhh, it’s okay now. I’ve returned.
I try to blog once a week, and typically I work on my blog posts the day before they go live. I like to give myself some time to pick a topic and write a rambling first draft. Then I edit it down, and edit it down again. Then I’ll let it sit for a little bit, maybe just 20 minutes. Then I’ll come back and tweak and polish. Voila! A blog post is born.
But last week something different happened, and I think anyone with a creative hobby will understand. I had spent every day last week working on a story, and come Thursday wanted to stay focused on the story. I didn’t want to write a blog post. For one of the few times since I started this blog, working on a post didn’t seem like a good use of my free time; it felt like it would detract from my fiction writing time.
I don’t often feel that way. I’ve started budgeting Thursday as my blog post writing day. Sometimes I’ll have enough time left over to also squeeze in fiction writing, but other Thursdays it will take me all my evening free time to eek out a post. Still, I consider it writing. I’m not a strong nonfiction writer, but I enjoy blogging and hope to refine my nonfiction skills over time. My Thursday blog writing is a chance to exercise different creative muscles.
But every once in a while I’ll be so into a story or project I’m working on that the free time I spend on anything else seems like lost time. Unless the other thing I have to work on is more important somehow, I prefer to stay focused on the story that excites me, which was the case last week.
Because the thing is, as much as any creative type may try, we have little control over inspiration. There are certain activities we can engage in or places we can go that may often help overcome writer’s block or keep us focused. But there are times when even those methods fail, or times when everything around you inspires new ideas and you can’t possibly jot them all down before they escape.
This is something I know other writers understand. Because of the unpredictability of inspiration, I always have at least one notebook (or some other type of paper) and pen(cil) within arm’s reach. Sometimes I won’t need those items for days or weeks, but other times I’ll need them multiple times an hour. It’s not very organized; I have one-sentence ideas or short story summaries scribbled in notebooks all over my home, but I prefer having the ideas scattered in tangible form rather than just floating in my mind, where they’re more easily lost.
If you don’t have a way to record those ideas, they can only become lost or ignored. And an idea that is ignored can become a curse. Sometimes it’ll vanish from your mind, leaving only a vague outline to taunt you forever. Sometimes another idea will appear in its place like a consolation prize. But sometimes the ignored idea seeks retribution. It will stay in your brain but go on protest along with your other ideas, and all of them become completely uncooperative (this is how I would describe what happened to me earlier this year). If you don’t make the time for them, they certainly aren’t going to make the time for you. Because creativity and inspiration can be fickle and vengeful, I try not to piss them off.
But I can’t exactly take hours out of the middle of my work day to write down an entire story. So the compromise that seems to work for me is to scribble down the core idea and set it aside for later. However, when an idea demands my attention during my free time, I’m more than willing to shuffle around my priorities to accommodate it. Sometimes I have to sacrifice a blog post or a movie night, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less, friends. It just means I know you’re more forgiving than inspiration.