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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Mailbox: How Am I About Writing Every Day?

Am I as good as I tell others to be when it comes to writing every day?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  Don't be afraid to wonder if I practice what I preach.]     

Shelly asks:

How are you about writing every day.  I've been on your Facebook Page for this blog [Author's note: I added the hyperlink there], and it seems like you often don't post things when you're sick or when something comes up in your life.  This seems sort of contrary to your own advice about writing no matter what.  It seems like you don't practice what you preach.

My reply:

Hmmmmm. You signed this so I can't be TOO mean, but it's not very kind so maybe I'll just imagine you're Shelly from South Park with headgear and slurp all my S's when I read your question aloud. We'll call that even.

If this is intended as a "GOTCHA!" moment to expose the rank hypocrisy of my process habits, I'm afraid I'm going to end up being pretty disappointing.  I don't really even take a seventh day off anymore.

Do I write every day?  Mostly. You can look....well, not to put to fine a point on it, but look around. Click a couple of links. Hit "pervious entry" down at the bottom of the page. I hope it's pretty clear that I write most days. Unless you think that I ferret away somewhere and write an entire week's worth of entries in a single amphetamine-addled twenty-hour session or that prior to starting a blog I had two thousand or so pages of articles tucked away, it's pretty clear that this is an ongoing and regular effort.

In fact, one of the reasons I like blogging as a medium for this message about writing is that you can actually see many of the things I talk about.  My lessons about how to be a writer exist in real time for those willing to dig through old entries. Look at the first entries: it's easy to notice how my voice has changed over time, and even how much I've improved over the writing I was doing back then.  It's easy to see how I've learned to write more for my audience and less self-indulgently.  You can watch me get a hard on for a particular word or turn of phrase for a few weeks and then get over it.  You can see these processes take time and not just be something I intuit because I'm some mad genius.  You can see me make mistakes.

Also, you can tell when I was sick or out of it, and how I went through the motions. Not every article is my best. Some kind of look like I phoned it in. And others just sort of suck. But you can also tell how when I suit up and show up every day to write here, no shortage of awesome ideas jump into my lap.  If I stopped getting inspiration TODAY, I would be able to run this single-subject blog (at five entries a week) for about two years before I ran out of topics.  I am a living embodiment of how working every day creates inspiration.  I'm literally blogging about ONE topic, and I have more ideas hitting me when I sit down to write than I could ever write out fully.

The days I don't write even a couple of pages, I am usually so sick that my brains are kind of boiling inside their cerebrospinal fluid.  That or the idea of sitting up even enough to write in bed holds a certain kind of horror to my aching muscles and insta-cough reaction to any movement.  I also discovered a little over a year ago that if I go through a triple root canal in a single day (including hydrocodone afterwards), I'm probably not going to end up writing much after that.

Go figure.

However, there is one distinction that seems to be important to the question you asked.  There are a lot of days where I write but I don't necessarily blog.  Blogging takes brain power.  It takes time.  It takes energy.  And frankly, it isn't my day job (mores the pity).  I have to stick to the topic in a blog.  I have to pick out some copyright appropriate pictures or no one will click the link. I have to revise my posts before I post them (or else they suck).  I have to format for web content. I have to try to copyedit them (and fail miserably).  I have to get them up in a timely manner.

It's work!  

And like any other job, sometimes I call in.

If I'm sick....  If my other jobs are overwhelming....  If I get up clean house for two hours, go to teach kids who flunked out of high school the difference between coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs for six hours, come home and have to clean the cat boxes before I put the trash on the curb.... Well, the chances I'm going to have my shit together enough to post (something more than "All work and no threesome makes Chris a dull boy..." five hundred times) are pretty slim.

I'll need to make a lot more from this gig before I start treating this like I can't take a day off of once in a while.  For some reason, three dollars a day just doesn't cut it.

But writing--the sort of writing that doesn't have to be taken as seriously....  I do that to blow off steam. I'll pop off a half hour of free writing just to take the edge off a stressful day, or write a couple of pages on some of the fiction I'm currently noodling with the same unwinding impetus with which many people play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.

Cures colds pretty much instantly.
Takes 3 viewings to cure influenza.
Cures chlamydia, but only when combined with antibiotics.
Does not cure mitro-valve prolapse.
Verdict currently out on blurry vision patches.
More research needed.  For science.
My ex spouse used to do a screening of The Princess Bride every time they got sick.  It was the mental equivalent of their chicken soup, and I even heard them (more than once) claim that the reason they weren't better yet was because they had yet to watch The Princess Bride.  That's how I feel about writing most days--even when I'm stressed or sick.  I do it to feel centered.  It is my Princess Bride and my chicken soup.  But the writing I do during those times is not the deadline-aware, quality-conscious, topic-focused writing I do for Writing About Writing.

That writing is for me.  And while an echo of it might end up in a book I publish one day, I mostly do it because not doing it makes me feel even worse.

But yes, with very, very few exceptions, I do it every single day.

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