How to be productive? Its the question that I keep asking myself, and why? Because as an author if I am NOT productive, my entire life comes to a standstill. Seriously, when you love to do something so much that there is little else on your agenda, that one thing has got to keep you moving forward. There is nothing else to keep the inspiration and motivation alive.
I recently experienced this phenonmenon in the writing of my newest short story: Bloodletter. For about a week and a half or so before I actually began writing it I had some vague idea in my head of what I wanted to see (and that is usually how it is for me: I see just a single picture that must be expounded upon, and the end result is quite often nothing like what I expect to see.) HOWEVER, it took me some time to get into it. Those ideas were just floating around in the air, coming and going as they saw fit. That is usually okay, but the biggest problem was that when I finally sat down to write them out, all that inspiration came like a hurricane. It all splattered onto the paper in one sitting, and the next day when I looked back on it I didn’t like what I saw. I found myself crunching out the old ideas because they had become bland and tasteless. So I reverted, trying to think of something new that would change my outlook on the story–and that’s when it happened: I felt myself sliding away down a slope that no longer cared about the story at all, or about the character I had drawn into it. I began to realize that I either had to be the bearer of new ideas that would renew the character and the story in my mind, or else I would have to face the ugly truth: some buried things are not meant to be found.
Well, I left it for some time just sitting as a titleless document on my computer, perhaps in some hope that my computer would reboot itself and I would lose the mess I had created and be forced to begin again from the beginning. In its absense, I turned to other matters, trying to get some blogging in or work on my site–hell, anything so long as it kept me motivated. But with the weekend approaching, this failed endeavour proved to be my greatest concern. Everything else just drew to a standstill, and I found myself with neither the will nor motivation to write anything–not while that dead demon sat in my closet, its morose eyes watching. There were times that I tried in vain to take up the thread of the old story, to drum out its miserable tune. But all these attempts failed, and finally I had to face the truth: it would have to go. So on saturday I threw it out–scrapped the entire document and began over from nothing. To be honest, the feeling of starting over from nothing after fighting with a stalled story for a few days is a wonderful thing to behold! If you have ever been so frustrated that your life stood still, but THEN you found a new direction, you will know what I mean. The new draft took right off. I found myself imagining new character traits, new ways to make what I was saying real and grasping. There were times that followed where I thought the inspiration had run short again. I would find myself staring at the screen trying to reimagine where I was going. But I took it slow, I took my time; I told myself it doesn’t have to be perfect in one sitting, and I was always able to pick it up again. I managed to drag through until I finished on Sunday. I sent the draft off to my editor, and proceeded to relax and preen, safe in the knowledge that I had unearthed what could possiblity be one of my finest works to date.
Now I ask myself: how is it that something so small can bring me down? Am I really so subdued by the tides of inspiration?–yea, I say tides, because inspiration is among the most fickle things there is. It comes, it goes, and when it leaves it takes everything you have, laughing at you. But, what I realized was, yes, I am. I live on inspiration; I breath it. When I’m not physically high on it, I’m dreaming of the times when I have been. It’s what keeps me going, keeps me motivated. Without it, I have no idea how to be productive. So then, the question is how to keep the inspiration alive, no matter how far and distant it seems. And the answer: Keep your eyes open! Be always searching for new ideas, new thoughts. Always keep a weather eye to the horizon, and when an idea comes, write it down! There is nothing as frustrating as finding the gems of some artifact that wants to be dug up, and then losing it before you have got out your shovel. And every time you do, that is a story lost that might never be found again! And most importantly: don’t rush it! Artifacts unearthed too quickly can be damaged and destroyed; a little time and patience can turn out a gem so bright and rare that it could change the world!
So, how to be productive?
Keep your eyes open lest you miss an opportunity.
Make notes–better to take a few moments to write something down than wonder later what it was.
Don’t be afraid to take it slow. Inspiration is like a river; if you let it, it will run away and never come back; if you slow it, it can turn the wheels of industry forever.
But regardless of where you are or what you are doing, when inspiration does come, just let it take you where it may!