When you’re a writer, sometimes the only thing to do is write.
A screamingly obvious statement, certainly, but it’s all too easy to put off writing – more so than ever now that we all have instantaneous access to the Internet, and those twin paradigms for perpetual procrastination. I’m not here to bash the Internet, or extol the virtues of going off-grid, but you know how it is: you sit there and scroll through your Twitter feed, checking Facebook on your mobile, subconsciously searching for something (anything!) that will silence that nagging voice inside your head. For something that will nullify your need to write. Something that will satisfy your soul in the way writing does, without, like, actually having to write. Of course, you know that ain’t never gonna happen – no way, bruv – not through something as ephemerally engaging as a social media site. Not even via the plethora of enticing-looking links contained therein…
And so, reluctantly, you open your notebook and pick up the pen and you begin to write. Because, like I said, sometimes it’s the only thing to do. And no; it doesn’t matter if you really don’t want to, that you’re convinced that today is not a good day for writing, because you’re not “inspired”. You’re going to do it anyway. Yes, you are. One word after the other. A line, and then another line. Before you know it you’re halfway to filling the page. And yes, maybe you were right. Maybe it’s absolute bollocks. Perhaps (to paraphrase the Steve Martin-voiced character from that episode of the Simpsons) the fruits of your labours will amount to little more than the nonsensical ravings of a loud-mouthed malcontent. So what? At least you’re writing.
Because sometimes (almost always, in fact) it’s the writing itself that gets you inspired. The act of putting those strange-looking squiggles down on the page, or seeing those sharp black lines appear on the screen – that’s half the battle. Maybe then you’ll start to see a more than just a series of slashes and squiggles. You never know. You might see something (gasp!) interesting. Or, even better, honest. Something worth keeping – be it a single line of prose that stays with you for the rest of the day, or an observation that you can use later as an utterance for one of your characters.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe today nothing profound will come. Does it matter? To quote Craig Clevenger, a writer with far greater authority on the topic, the world won’t end if your next sentence isn’t the verbal equivalent of Zoolander’s Blue Steel. Again, the point is to write. It’s all practice. So, practice – and play. That’s it: have some fun. Mess around. Make up words. Toy with syntax. Experiment. “Article, noun, verb”? (The man writes) Pah! What’s wrong with a bit of “Verb, article, noun”-action now and then? (Queries the caffeine-charged grammar-geek).
You get the idea.
And who knows? Once you’ve started, you might find it hard to stop. Tearing yourself away from the keyboard or the piece of paper now proves virtually impossible, as the possibilities of this whole writing lark appear once again limitless and supreme. An hour and a half ago, the prospect of writing seemed distant and daunting. Almost inconceivable. Ha! Impossible is now getting up and leaving your desk – or in my case, the wobbly table outside the coffee-shop on the quiet, shaded street in the heart of the old town where I’ve been sitting, for the last hour and half, surrounded by wicker chairs and French girls in Egyptian sandals, among the towering sycamore trees, whose slender, bent branches cast elongated shadows on the stone wall of the ancient council building on the opposite side of the street…
Again, you get the idea.
Writing. Sometimes it’s the only thing.