Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Little More on Inertia

Last week I wrote briefly about inertia.

This was largely because I didn't feel like I was having a particularly good week. I got a lot of little stuff done, but somehow the big stuff (like writing, for example, or working on the couple of academic papers that I've been plugging away at for what feels like forever) wasn't getting done, and not for lack of time, but motivation.

In my rather bleak post last week, I put this down to inertia, and suggested that;'s irritating when the brain and the willpower don't come into alignment. For a writer, it's dangerous.

But today, I'm going to disagree with that.*

Because after due thought and consideration, I've come to the conclusion that inertia isn't dangerous, or even bad. It's a necessary part of the whole creative process.

At the moment, I've got my next book sitting on my computer, almost finished. It's somewhere in the region of about 35,000 words, and I expect it'll top out at around 50ish. (It's going to be a lot shorter than my last few books, which is not a bad thing, in my opinion.) It's been at that point for roughly two months now, on a sort of jumpy pause, halfway through chapter twenty-three.

But where last week I was letting this really bother me, the weekend gave me a chance to recharge my batteries and get a little perspective. (There's nothing like working in the garden to help clear the mind...)

And the conclusion I've reached is this: The book will finish itself when it's ready to be finished.

Now, I suspect that this isn't the way a lot of writers work, or think. But it's the way I need to work and think, for a few reasons.

One is because this book is going to be an important one for me. It's different to all my other stuff; very different. It's much more commercial than most of my previous works, but that's not a bad thing. Up to date, it still has an awful lot of me in it; I'm enjoying writing it, I'm loving the story, and most importantly I'm having a lot of fun with it, and I want all this to continue right through the draft. This book is going to involve a little bit of re-imagining of myself and my writing, and if I try to force it out onto the page, all I'll end up with is a disingenuous piece of writing, that has nothing of myself in it. So for that reason, I'm loathe to try and force it out.

Another reason is that the reality of my life now is very different from what it was a couple of years ago. Back then - when I was writing 'Into White Silence' for example, I had the luxury of being able to put a couple of months aside and just bury myself in writing. Not so much any more - now I have fatherly duties which take up (and are the best part of) most of my weekends. I have my job at uni, which is work I love doing - both the teaching and researching - but which leaves me mentally wiped at the end of most days. Time has become a commodity, and if there's one thing that good, genuine writing needs, it's time. So I'll just have to accept the fact that I might need to space my writing more widely across the year, and get used to writing in those periods where I have my mojo on.

Finally there's the requirements of the book itself. During these last couple of months of inertia, I realised the other day, I've been mentally tweaking, exploring and shifting a lot of tiny aspects of the story around in my head, and improving it as a result. This makes me wonder if, just perhaps, this story isn't ready to be confined to the page quite yet.

So there you have it. I'm reversing my position on inertia. For the moment, at least. It's not dangerous, it's natural and probably necessary.

Now, I'm going to have a nap...

* I read somewhere that all good blogs engage in public debate. Well, that's just what I'm doing here. Only with myself.

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