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Procrastinating with Innocence

I should be writing–not on my blog, but on my current WIP, which is a novel I’m plowing through for NaNoWriMo. I’m in the home stretch as far as achieving my goal for NaNo goes. I’ve hit 40,020 words and need only 9,980 more words to reach the NaNo finish line. That won’t get me a completed first draft–my novels typically hit at least 60,000 words. My longest, A Ring of Truth, reached over 90,000 words.

This is my long-winded way of saying I’m procrastinating, but it’s for a good reason. Okay, maybe not a good reason, but for a good excuse.

I recently finished reading Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Innocence and find it lingering in my psyche. Dahl had an interesting life, though Innocence focused on his childhood years. I’m always fascinated by writers and their lives and how they became published authors. Dahl’s road to authordom was much easier than it is for most authors. The first thing he wrote was published and his career took off from there. Nice. I’m not jealous at all. Wink.

But that’s not where I want to focus. I’d like to share this quote about writing from the book. I find it if not inspirational then comforting, and any other writers out there might do the same, so I want to share before it slips off my to-do list (See? Good excuse, right?):

I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him. If he is a writer of fiction he lives in a world of fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whisky than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith, hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.

I can relate to needing a stiff drink after a writing session. I’ve often wanted a shot when I’ve finished writing for the day. Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to, as has been attributed to Hemingway, “Write drunk; edit sober.”

I don’t do it, of course. The pull might be there, and it feels like an enticing crutch, but the desire isn’t enough to make me grab that drink. I can’t imagine writing under the influence, and after I’m done for the day, I have so many other obligations to catch up on that I can’t sit down and drink. The point is, Dahl has put into words precisely the feelings I have some days when I’m faced with that blank page at the start of a writing session and the weariness that comes after completing it.

To again quote Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s these revelations from famous authors that help me realize I’m not the only writer who gets creatively constipated.

I’m in the home stretch on my NaNo project. I need to get back to it. But this digression has helped brace me for the sprint ahead better than a shot of whisky could.

For those of you working on a NaNo project (or just plugging away at your personal writing goals), how do you find encouragement when your spirits sag? Did you find any reassurance in that Roald Dahl quote?

One Response

  1. Ugh! I know that feeling all too well. Writing is hard. Very. And, I’ve often thought I could use a stiff drink afterward. But, I don’t. I spent years in the social work field and working with people with addiction problems. My grandfather was an alcoholic. So, I don’t tempt myself. I’m not a teetotaler. But, when those types of feelings emerge, I go do something else.

    I find that when my spirits sag, the hardest thing is just starting. Once I can force myself to the keyboard and begin, it’s usually okay. Some days the words flow like magic. Other times, I struggle with each sentence. But, most often, I can set a somewhat steady pace once I just begin.

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