The 5 Best Things About Writing As an Extended Practice (and the One Worst)
The best thing about having been writing for so long is that I have a huge backlog of old material, so any time I have bad writer’s block I can go back and look at all my old half written stuff and think “how can I spin this into something new and cutting edge that is both publishable and not too personal and yet on brand and also not boring?” The answer is almost always “I can’t,” because there’s a reason that those paragraphs have been languishing in my Google Drive for the past 18 months, and the reason is that they really aren’t any good and no one actually cares about the amount of time I spend being nostalgic on Instagram.
But I digress.
The second best thing about having been writing for so long is that I’ve gotten a sense of my own writing style, and comfortable enough with the way that I write and the how of what I write that I don’t mind poking fun at what I used to care about and used to focus on. (That said, I do still love Instagram, follow me @talia_franks.) I’ve reached the point where I know now not just when I’ve hit an inspirational tipping point and when I need to write, but I also know when I need to stop before I burn myself out. It used to be that if I was writing something and I hadn’t quite finished a scene I would push myself to flesh it out, even with no deadline and no inspiration to do so, just to get it done. And that’s not really all that productive. I would be much better off leaving the scene for another day and working on something else that does inspire me, and then returning to the work at a later time when I could look at it with fresh eyes and see what the characters and the environment are telling me needs to happen in the story, rather than what I am forcing to happen out of an arbitrary need to hit a word count.
That said, the third best thing about having been writing for so long is that I do know how to write to a deadline when I need to, and how to write without pure inspiration, as long as I have that crucial lifeline: the prompt/ outline. When what I’m writing is decided for me, writing becomes a breeze, and a joy. Well, writing is almost always a joy, when inspired, but it can be a joy even without intrinsic inspiration as long as what I’m crafting has a structure to it that I can follow. When there is already a skeleton, that is inspiration enough because I get to do the fun part of filling in all the hollow parts around the bones, constructing the flesh and the sinews, directing the flow of blood and kickstarting the pumping of the heart, watching the eyes of my work blink open as air flows in and out of newly constructed lungs. That’s the beautiful part, and that’s my job. Who could ask for more?
The fourth best thing about writing as an extended practice is that once I made a habit of writing regularly, it got both easier and better. See, because now I can just bang out whatever is on my mind, and I gather so much material that I can pick out the good stuff to keep and share, and bin the rest of it. (That’s a lie, I never throw anything away. If only you could see how many binders of old notes I have in my office, let alone how many GBs of storage are used up on my computer.)
The fifth best thing about writing is extended practice is that now I’m a little bit known for it in some circles. People that know me and know that I write sometimes tell me they’ve read my stuff, and they’ll leave comments on my fanfics, or mention in person that they liked a blog post. Sometimes I might get a message via text or Facebook. Once, I got an email from someone saying that a play I wrote changed her life (for the better) and every time I get one of these messages, big and small (and trust me, I read all of them) I get such a big smile on my face, because positive reader response is honestly one of the best things about writing. I write for myself. I write because I have to, and without writing and getting my words out on a page I’m not sure who I would be. But the knowledge that my writing also brings other people joy, and makes other people’s lives better? I suppose I must have been wrong before because that joy is truly the best thing about writing.
… and now the worst thing. Because I needed to have a catchy title so that more people would click on this post. The worst thing about writing is getting people to read one’s writing. There is so much good content out there, and trying to make oneself heard in the sea of voices is like singing into a cacophony of songbirds. The worst thing about writing is that things have to be catchy, have a gimmick, be on brand. That things can’t be too emotional, or they have to be so deep that they hurt, and are visceral in the most voyeuristic of ways. That’s pretty much the worst thing about writing these days. But you know what?
I still think it’s worth it.