Untitled or Unwritten?

I’m going to give some advice that I struggle to follow myself, and it’s about writing. Being a good author, or at least what I’ve gathered from professors and “real life” experience, that is practice. Not just writing every day, though that is a huge part of it, but reading too. Consuming all the media you can for ideas, while quick and generally effective for teaching tropes, doesn’t work for a well balanced authorial “diet.” It’s like cramming your face full of sweets and junk food for days and days and days while doing little to nothing to work off the I.P. calories. Not a great example I know, but it kind of works if you expand the metaphor to the people around you and the places you’ve been, the experiences you’ve lived. Those are the meat and potatoes of your life experiences. Doing crazy out-there things like skydiving to get a real feel for the rushing wind and pounding adrenaline isn’t advisable, especially for more home-body people like me.

Still, with the nourishment of your life experiences, the spice of others’ work getting your mind to flow with a myriad of different ideas, and a bit of physical activity to get your brain and body in sync, it’ll be much easier to produce a body of work you can be proud of.

Yes, you read right when I mentioned physical activity. Proper mental diet requires physical movement of some kind. Even well read authors like Stephen King go on frequent walks. You don’t have to like King’s writing to understand why he moves. This coming from my life experience as well, when I’ve been sitting at my computer hammering away at a keyboard and starting a staggering number of hours at a screen, my body gets cranky. It keeps me from fresh ideas, either because of distracting discomfort or a simple lack of inspiration from my Muse pouring recycled ideas into my head over and over until the taste has gone numb. Either way, I will be possessed by the itch to move, so I slip on some running shoes, grab my phone and earbuds, turn on some music that fits the mood of my work, and set out for about twenty to forty minutes. This means I’m converting about 3.7 kilometers (2.29 miles) into ideas upwards of three times a day. Sure it eats up a good amount of time and I can’t do it every day, but I can’t write more or less uninterrupted everyday for in excess of ten hours (not including those walks). The balance I’ve found in college hasn’t given me these really long splurges like I’d enjoy, and my ideas feel like they’re caged, coming slower to me, but I’m still writing every day. It helps that I have literature classes that demand I do the readings or fail; those at least keep me consuming a good balance of media and life experiences.

So, in the end I’d say it’s about finding a pattern that works for you in your schedule and with your inspirations. If you have a nine to five that requires you to wake up early and you do your best writing at night (my suffering last summer) consider bringing a notebook to work with you and jotting little ideas down as you can, though saving it for break time might be the most effective use of everything all things said.

It doesn’t matter if your idea is half-formed as you write, so long as you keep going. Your first draft will never be your best work, Lord knows mine aren’t, but that shouldn’t be a reason to give up either. I’m not choosing to be a writer as my career because it’s easy, but because it’s something I love to do and I’d never give it up for all the success in the world.