Thursday, 14 February 2008

Like Neil Gaiman's shark

The other day I posted a link in the RH margin to a ‘pep talk’ from Neil Gaiman. In it, he talks about how writers have to keep going (especially when they’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo) and push through the exhaustion barrier. That nothing matters except putting words down on the page. The following in particular resonated with me:

You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

This is not really anything new – you’ll get the same advice from any writer you happen to talk to. But as I was sitting at my computer last night, eyes falling out of my head (again), thinking that perhaps tonight I wouldn’t write, that I was too tired, that I really couldn’t be expected to write a novel and work in a crazy job at the same time, that it would be much easier to get into bed with my book, or switch on the TV . . . I thought about Neil Gaiman’s shark. And I thought about the massive rewriting task I’m currently undertaking, my goals and dreams and desires.

And so I opened my word document, my WIP, and forced myself to write something – anything – a sentence, a paragraph. For an hour and a half I sat there and forced myself to put down one word at a time. Numerous times, I checked how many words I’d written and forced myself not to accept anything less than I would accept on any other day when I was feeling fresh and alive. I kept thinking about Neil Gaiman’s shark.

As a result, I came out of last night’s session with enough words to make me smile. Far better than zero. So I proved to myself that you can push through the ‘can’t be bothered’ barrier. That you can write even when your eyes are falling out of your head! So now whenever I can feel myself fading, tempted by distractions, I will glance at the link to that pep talk and that will probably be enough to get me back on track again.

Words on the page, one word at a time.

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