After almost a week of sun, loveliness, and the Wizarding World in Orlando, I am struggling to regain writing composure. I'd gone down with a beautiful plan. Nonsense and goodness during the day, writing at night. Unfortunately our hotel, complete with a water park for our son, also came with delightful evening activities (and pina coladas!) for the adults. Alas I came back still only 2/3 finished with the book I'm working on. 1/3 doesn't sound like a lot. But it is when you're not in the mood to write.
This brings me to my writing question of the day. Is it ok to write when you just don't feel like it? Don't get me wrong. I love to write. My short stories are really my babies. They've been published, won awards, made me exceedingly happy with their compact packages of plot, conflict, and character. But they're easy. I'm in the mood to write, I sit down with pen or laptop in hand, and I build an entire universe in ten pages. Then I cross the finish line and I'm, well, finished. I can also sit back down and edit in a day, slave over the words the way I like to, but see the end in sight. The book-length stuff is so much more of a marathon. I find myself aggressively staring at the computer monitor wondering if the simple act of unloading words is a good exercise to keep me moving. Or am I better off doing other things to put me back in the writing mood?
When I write in the wrong mood, the words aren't great. They're ok. They're fine. They're all the synonyms for mediocre that I implore my students never to use because they are blah words. Imagery feels contrived. The voices of the characters run flat. Nothing turns out the way I'd like. But isn't writing like swimming, running, or any other sport? Shouldn't I build up my writing endurance no matter what? Who cares what they are as long as words are flowing. How many writing instructional manuals from heavy hitters such as Stephen King give just that advice!
But then I'm not happy when I'm doing it, and I value happiness greatly when it comes to my writing. Sure, I hope to publish books and do all the professional stuff down the road, but above all else I write because it makes me smile. And if I'm not smiling, am I doing the craft justice? Often I question if perhaps the project isn't engaging enough to keep me going, but I don't necessarily believe that either. I'm knee-deep with a character I love who is out in the woods undergoing survival training. Does it get more fun than that?
I wish I could devise a recipe to get me in the writing mood. Two cups of this. A dash of that. Possibly stir or stand on my head. Clap my hands three times? I doubt if it would work, but it sounds like fun. I guess there isn't one formula for everyone, and I need to strike when the iron is hot and let my brain wander when it chooses to do so. After all, I consider myself awfully lucky to be a writer. The fact that these characters grace me with their presences at all is a gift. I'll cut myself some slack today. I'll play with baby Sophia, take a trip up to Wegmans, and throw my laptop in my purse. Just in case.