Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Forcing Inspiration

Between Jan 1st and March 28th, I wrote one single story.  I did a little more writing than that, but didn't finish anything.

Between March 28th and April 30th, I wrote about 28 stories.

This is why I decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo at the last minute -- because forcing yourself to write really does work for me.  But sometimes a little outside pressure helps me to force myself to write.

Camp NaNoWriMo works a bit differently than the regular NaNoWriMo.  Their November event goal is to write 50,000 words on a brand new novel.  Of course, I've pretty much always changed the rules a bit for myself, but I've always tried to write 50,000 words.  For the April event, you set your own goals and can do what you like, but they place you in a "cabin" with a bunch of other participants, and that way you can communicate with other writers and encourage each other.

A week or so ago one of the participants in my cabin was asking for advice on what to do when you just don't feel motivated, when the story doesn't inspire you.  The only real advice I could offer was to keep writing anyway -- I find that not writing leads to more not writing.  I don't think about writing, I'm not inspired to write, and a month or two goes by with very little production.  If I write, even when I don't like what I'm coming up with, it usually leads to more writing and better inspiration, and a lot more productivity.

Directly after giving this advice, I had to put it into action myself.  After Norwescon I was a day or two behind schedule, and it took me a couple more days to produce Grandpa Anarchy and the Fiendishly Foul Fetid Frog and Grandpa Empathy at the Gates of Hell.  These two stories are not well constructed or well written, and I was decidedly not inspired to work on the sequels.  But I was feeling a lot of pressure, now several days behind schedule.  I managed to force myself to work on the next few stories.  The two I had been loathe to finish -- Iron Maiden Surprise and Crack Squad of Misftis -- actually turned out pretty good, and the stories I wrote after that -- The Pompatus of Love, Stronger, Diary of an Anarchist and The Archimedes Death Ray are especially good stories.  Stronger is a story I've wanted to write for a long time, but the other three I pretty much came up with on the spot based on the titles alone.  I would never have written these stories if I hadn't forced myself to write when I didn't feel inspired.

The last story is an example of how an entire story arises from nowhere.  I've been listening to an audio version of Harold Lamb's book Hannibal, and had just listened to the fall of Syracuse and the slaying of Archimedes a day or two before.  I decided to look up Archimedes on the web to read more about him.  When I typed in his name, Google anticipated the next two words:  "Archimedes Death Ray".  Intrigued, I tried that search and read about the disputed legend that Archimedes was able to use mirrors and sunlight to set Roman galleys on fire.

I really liked the phrase "Archimedes Death Ray" and I made a story file with that title.  I googled the phrase "Archimedes was the first mad scientist" and I got several hits.  A lot of people have thought this already!  I did more research on the subject of Death Rays and remote-controlled death satellites -- Wikipedia and TV Tropes are wonderful for this stuff -- and the setting and dialog started forming in my head.  Then inspiration struck, and I knew how the story had to end.

I have a book called The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  The central premise is that you work at being creative.  People that sit around waiting for inspiration don't get a lot done.  Forcing yourself to work at a creative task every day makes it much easier for inspiration to strike.

I'm still not very good at setting aside a specific time to write, or making a habit of writing every day at a given time -- but I have ample evidence that when I force myself to write, good things happen and I get a lot accomplished.  Which is good, because I have so many writing projects in the wings to work on that I could write every day for the rest of my life and not accomplish everything I want to.

I also saw this Pablo Picasso quote today:

 "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."

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