As an author, I seek advice from successful authors. I read and watch other authors’ interviews and parse out advice they offer. I take it all at face value. With my limited experience, who am I to say that something is ridiculous?
Also, I like defined goals. Something quantitative I can measure as a step toward progress. So, when I heard about writing word count goals, I found something that worked for me. I gravitated toward the mantra of 1,000 words a day. Something about 750, the common throw-around, just wasn’t enough for my method. Granted, 1,000 words a day, every day, just isn’t feasible when you build worlds the way I do (more on that in a future blog, PROMISE!) However, on my writing days, I found 1,000 words a day just smooth as silk.
For about three months now, I’ve cranked out short stories in the Erden universe. Some of them were discoveries and new ideas. Others were rewrites and edits from unpublished stories I had stowed for later use. In the end, this has been one of the most productive periods of my life as a writer, and partly because of my writing goal I set myself.
However, modern indie authors don’t just write anymore. We juggle: developing social media content, interacting with fans (even having them even when they don’t actually have an actively published work), overseeing personal branding, developing covers and formats, and generally doing things that aren’t writing or developing their universe. I love it all, and wouldn’t change it for the world, but the structure I need to make sure these daily tasks are met tends to sap me of energy, and the tasks themselves peel away layers of creativity that are no longer available for use in prose. So, as I spent less creative energy on my forthcoming work and more on my forthcoming Instagram post, I felt the weight of obligation lure me into creative oblivion.
Distance runners say there is always a place in a run where their body just wants to stop; they feel like you can’t go on. They hit a wall; it seems insurmountable. As a veteran, I’m familiar with this imaginary structure where the mind tries to assert itself over the will. In the end, if you can’t climb over it, you simply go around it, and the detours are wonderful for life, especially creative life.
Looking back, there were clear signs that I needed to make a change. Over the last three weeks, I saw my creative energy wane, and I poured myself into projects I’ve never attempted before, projects I had no rationale for doing. It was a warning; my creative jet had flamed out in mid-air. By the end of the period, I struggled to find the time to write because I filled it with cat videos and fan theories. (Side notes: Rey is a Palpatine. Also, fan theories are this era’s conspiracy theories. How sad is that?)
The final straw was a sudden, overwhelming urge to break out of my routine and do something I hadn’t done since my early days in college: a last minute, unprepared road trip.
It felt so cavalier, so irresponsible, so dangerous. Somehow, something I had considered normal a decade ago became risque. “Where did my life go?” I asked myself as I packed just enough for a day, my trusty companion, and my girlfriend into my favorite car and set off for an overnight trip.
Along the way, I read, we talked, laughed, and listened to music. The sounds of my youth brought back memories long forgotten by the monotony of routine. The destination was a terrible hotel I’ll never stay at again. In spite of the hourly train freight train merely three car lengths away from our room door, the terrible smell, and the bed that made you think wearing sweaty clothes from three days ago was a good idea, I felt upbeat. I was beside myself when I uttered to my bewildered love, “This is an adventure,” with enthusiasm and a less sardonic smile than I carried under normal circumstances.
Morning came far too early, thanks to the 7:15 train, the room’s musky smell, and the terrible bed. My hair was a nightmare to put up that day- it took over an hour and a half and almost catalyzed very heated arguments. Still though, with a protein shake in my belly, we set off to go and explore a town I had never seen in the light of day. The weather was perfect.
We saw history, narrow alleyways that reminded my girlfriend of her European home, beautiful buildings, and battlements that were erected with the founding of America’s oldest continuously inhabited town. Somehow, in our overnight excursion and our daytime frolicking along old, narrow cobblestone streets, I found my creative battery replenished.
In the end, I learned my first real important lesson as an author.
Claude Debussy is quoted, “Music is the space between the notes.” I think it’s something people can use, especially creatives.
We all need a break from the routine; breaks provide a chance to breathe and reset mentally, physically, and spiritually. Falling victim to routine makes us as hard, impersonal, and drab as the rules that confine us. This is true for everyone, not just creatives. However, creatives suffer this more acutely, since our souls thrive to experience the new and share with others our perspective. Writing is the way authors share the story of their souls, and authors must put the pen down and live some new experience so that the story may continue.
So, set goals, achieve them, but, on occasion, give yourself freedom to suddenly toss it all up in the air and see what happens. You can come back and handle whatever slipped through your grasp when you return. You’re human and you deserve more than to live in the cage society gives you.