While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Running on Empty

Last night I returned from a long weekend in Paris, exhausted.

[Aside: I like the fact the French have put up some resistance to the Englishisation of Europe. I like that you are still expected to have a go with the bon soir monsiers and the un bagette s'il vous plaits. Most of the time, the person serving you knows enough English to understand what you're after, but people who expect to be able to get by without giving the local language annoy me. I've been that annoying person enough, that I feel okay saying this. Of all the places I've been in the last 12 months (I think the country count is in the twenties), France was the first place I felt like the language was part of the adventure. Part of the foreignness.]

Needless to say, I didn't do any real writing over the four days I was away. But I took down a few random thoughts in my moleskine and probably acquired dozens of memories/experiences which will enter or enrich my fiction at some stage down the line. Paris took a lot out of me physically, but it added a more than commensurate amount mentally/spiritually.

Today as I walked to work I felt excited about getting back to writing!

I had not one but two projects I was itching to return to:
* a short story about extinct animals
* Novel B, which I continued to chip away at last week and finally seemed to be rounding into shape.

But then, of course, I arrived at work.

It was worse because someone else stepped in to do my repetitive and unrewarding tasks on Friday… I don’t blame them for doing a half-assed job, but today it felt like I was doing two days work instead of one.

Come the end of the day -- "now" -- I don't have that same effervescent feeling when I think of sitting down and writing the next chapter of Novel B (which will probably need to be revisited 17 times before it sits properly), or writing the final scenes of my extinct animal short story. I'm tired and cranky and have other things to do, like break in the running shoes I bought on Thursday (my motivation must be low if exercise ranks higher than writing).

I also feel obliged to write an entry on mine and Marisa’s travel blog for the benefit of the whanau back home. The words will count towards the million, but I don't feel like I ever get to the heart of an experience in a travel blog. I just don't feel right talking about the importance of speaking a foreign language in too much detail when I know my readers will be grandparents and de facto in-laws (if that makes sense).

If I lived in a vacuum -- a place without physical or monetary needs, but also without stimuli -- I would still write. It's in my blood. But I would not feel the same highs of anticipation and optimism as I felt today as I walked to work; nor would I feel the lows of guilt and exhaustion brought on by other obligations which take me away from the great white page.

I guess that's what being a writer is about: juggling the input (ideas/experience/money) with the output (words).

I might not feel like it any more, but I'm going to open the word document for Novel B or the extinction story, or both, now. I'm going to do this because I know I will get lost in the words after writing a couple hundred of them (and maybe a cup of tea), and because if I don't write, I will sink even further behind the word rate, leading to more excuses and rationalisations offered to the ether.

PS - I will roll this past weeks stats into this coming Sunday's status report. Expect a new type of graph... a "for a limited time only" deal.

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