So here I am back at school, in Estonia, staring at my computer screen. Writing. I’m WRITING. And perhaps that’s redundant (obviously I’m writing if I’m writing this), but really, you’d have to understand what this means. After having the entire summer ‘off’ to fulfill a numerous number of tasks, tasks pertaining to writing on both an educational and personal level, I’m just now getting to them. All summer I was thinking, ‘Ah, this is great. I’ll be able to accomplish a lot. My word count’s gonna be out the roof!’
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I opened my novel once or twice or three times this summer, glanced through it, and proceeded to do something else. I would think every day that today would be the day I’d start working on some fragments of my Master’s thesis, and then another day would pass. I hardly even wrote a post for this site.
Why? Why? After wishing desperately for a chance at some free time to work on personal projects, why did I let this time slip by me? Why? Why? Even with all of the encouragement I receive from my writer friends, why do I still follow this pattern? Having given it some thought, I’ve started to realize that I am a binge/purge writer. I binge time and then purge words. I am a consistently inconsistent writer. And sometimes I really hate it.
I’ve always assumed that most other writers have a weird relationship with words. In that sense, perhaps I shouldn’t feel so weird about not wanting to write — or at least not wanting to write the things I had originally planned to write. Something else came up in my lifethat changed a lot of my mental processes throughout the summer. When my mental processes change, so does my ability to work on certain things. The right frame of mind, so to say, is a very important part of my writing. I had something else preoccupying my thoughts, my time, and those thoughts eventually led me to write something that hadn’t been part of the original plan.
Some might say that that’s an accomplishment — that at least I was writing something. And in that sense, I agree. But I can’t help but feel like I failed to finish some of my own personal commitments. Sometimes, I feel like my writing style isn’t conducive to finishing anything at all.
I hear time and time again that a successful writer commits, that I can’t get published if I don’t finish something, but I’ve always been a bit of a wildcard with words. Though I need to write, I don’t always want to write. I can go days or weeks without writing anything substantial, almost as if I’m asleep. And then suddenly I’ll wake up, come alive, and I’ll spend hours, days, working on one specific project. I’ll write through the night, through meals, through time I don’t even know is passing. And then I’ll get to a point, I’ll quit, and I won’t think about what I’ve written for days. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Sometimes, in that sense, I feel like the wrong kind of word alcoholic. Why can’t I be one of those word drunks who has/wants to write throughout the day, every day? While my friends cough out whole stories within two to three months, it takes me six months to write twenty-five thousand words, and that’s if I really push myself. They aren’t any less busy than I am, either. They just make the time, take the time, and get it done.
I don’t mean to sound so negative. If you’re familiar with this type of writing process, then I’m sure you can understand the frustration. So, in order to make myself feel a bit better, I’ve tried to look at my writing style in a more positive light and put together a list of things that make it — somewhat — worthwhile:
- I don’t ‘word vomit.’ Ever. It’s a huge no-no for me. I know some writers find that it helps just to get words on the page. But I spend a lot of time in my head with the story before I ever put words onto paper. I will not write anything until I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.
- My process is entirely mental. Even if I’m not physically writing, I’m thinking, plotting, and planning all of the time. I don’t pre-write or do drafts. I occasionally write something about the characters, but that usually comes out sounding too wooden for my tastes. Everything that I know about my story is filed away in my head somewhere.
- I’m a perfectionist. Every word has to be in place. Every sentence in order. The entire thing has to feel right to me from start to finish before I’ll continue it. In that sense, I edit as I write. It’s actually something I don’t have to think about too much. Because of this, I have been told that my first/rough drafts — though there is always room for improvement — come out fairly clean.
- I write quickly, while I’m writing, but my process is slow. This allows me to fill in gaps and keep things believable. Also, I find myself more aware of the ‘literary’ aspects — parallelism, repetition, metaphor. Those are never accidental.
- Because I spend so much time away from the physical story, I return to it with a fresh perspective every time. That also keeps me from getting tired of it. When I do sit down to write, it’s because that’s what I want to be doing.
Are there other people with this same style — binging time, then purging words? The consistency of inconsistent writing? Is it really a problem at all, or am I just feeling a bit envious of my more committed writing friends? If I forced myself to write five-hundred words a day, would I feel better for it? Or would I just resent myself for writing something I didn’t feel was ready to be written? Why does my desire to write, or to work on my bigger projects, always come at such an inconvenient time? And is it really inconvenient? Or is it simply necessary for me at that point?
Every person is different, I know. Every style is different — I’ve been learning that too.
And though sometimes I feel like I’m a long way from achieving anything, I know I’m just going about it in a different way. It’s not easy all of the time, but I’ll get there . . . that’s what I tell myself, anyway.
I’ll get there, slowly but surely.