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On trying to force things

There's a lot of discussion around at the moment about authors not finishing books and series that they started (usually around Pat Rothfuss and GRRM). Now, I am generally a personal fan of trying to finish things that I start, but I think something that gets overlooked in the whole argument is creativity and how - and where - it happens.

Today I got up with a simple plan. Catch up on a couple of writing emails, record a list of embarrassing moments (sort of getting there) and write the next part of IC2. I'm coming up on 5000 words now, I have a beta team in place, but I didn't have a plot. What I had instead was a sort of mish-mash of possible motivations and character interactions. A couple of antagonists whose agendas I didn't know. And a world not quite shaped.

Normally I write through such small matters and hope things work out. But this time the various strands were all interlinked. I could not write the protagonists without knowing which antagonist was moving against them and why. I could not do character development scenes because I had no idea which character was going to end up where.

In short, whilst my diary was going - write! you have time! My mind was feeling fairly sluggish (I should also note I don't tend to write well in the morning, anyhow. But since I'm mostly on my kids' laptop these days I don't have a lot of time on the laptop in the afternoon when I used to kill my 15-2000 words a day, so that might not have been helping. Nor has work pressure.

Anyhow, my writing morning consisted of having a coffee and a hot cross bun. Then deciding to go into the market in town and buy some veg, and talk to a man about a Christmas tree. Then to go out to Lidl and have a mosey around the Thursday arrivals. And along the way pop into the library.

All great timewasters. And all the time I'm telling myself I SHOULD be home, writing. (And we all know should is a horrid word, right? That steals confidence and belief and is the word of Evil.)

Later, I'm driving back from Lidl. I have a loud song on, rock music with lots of guitars as usual, and I'm happily singing along (with the windows up, there are limits to what I'll inflict on people). And then it came to me. The theme of the song played into the theme of the books. And I realised which character is central and why (and, as with Abendau, that might not always be John and, in this case, probably won't be, but Henry. Which is grand, because I love writing Henry's character.) I realised their dysfunctionality and most of their character arc. Once I had that, the rest fell into place and I came home, an hour or so later (I met a few people and got chatting, as you do) with A PLAN. Which now consists of this.

Make lunch. Make tonight's tea (because once I start writing, the kids move into survival mode, knowing that small matters like feeding everyone becomes secondary). Sit down here and write for 2 or 3 hours. Push up to 8000 words and then stop and take stock.

Creativity is like that. Ideas don't always come, just because I might want them to. They might not come when I'm ready to write. They might come as I'm dropping off to sleep.

Normally I'm a believer in keeping going until they do. Maybe edit something else, or write something short. But nothing else is at the editorial stage (soon, my precious babies, soon...) and I don't have a short bubbling in me at the moment.

But sometimes keeping going is the wrong thing. Trying to force something into shape, just because it's convenient for it to do so. Sometimes, we need to let our mind wander and the thoughts come. For me, walking helps with this. Turn off the phone, or at least shove it in the bottom of your pocket. Concentrate on wherever you are, and let your thoughts wander. For me, the forest or a beach works best.

One way or another, though, I've managed to free the creative side of my brain, through different sensory inputs (I went for a walk through the park, I listened to music, I bought plants that I took the time to choose, I met people and talked and had a laugh, I looked at books in the warmth of a library), through doing things a little differently (our brains get stale if we don't mix things up a little), and just by taking that Should out of the equation.

And now, I'm ready to write. :)