by Timothy Boyd
“Everything changes when you change.” –Jim Rohn
How true, Mr. Rohn.
I am a writer. For those that have never heard of me (which will likely be all of you), I have an experimental writing blog called “The Prose Project” (theproseproject.wordpress.com). Every week, I post the next few pages of the current story – mostly science fiction / supernatural in style – at the end of which I put a poll where the readers get to vote on what the main character does next.
It has been a lot of fun so far, but I have been doing a lot of ruminating recently about what it is that makes a writer, and what is involved in the process of writing, and how — frankly put — a writer’s mind is a finicky bitch.
For those that call themselves writers, it is a job. Not a hobby. It is not something we do for ourselves because it makes us feel good. (It does make us feel good, but that isn’t why we do it.) We do it so other people can experience our stories, emotionally affecting their hearts and minds, and we can hopefully make a living from it. Stamp collecting is a hobby. You don’t collect stamps hoping to affect others’ lives and make a living.
Make no mistake: writing is a job.
You know what? Sometimes I don’t feel like going to work in the morning. Either I am sick, or I am tired, or I just do not want to deal with my co-workers that day because I’m irritated by a fight I just had with my boyfriend. Well, writing is the same thing. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it.
You have to be in the “right” frame of mind to write effectively. (And when I say “write”, I mean to truly write: using your words and calculated sentence structure to convey an emotion in the reader and make them feel for someone or something that doesn’t exist — or maybe does exist.)
I sit down to write one evening. It has been a pleasant night. Good food, nice glass of white wine (because red wine sucks — a drink should be served cold unless its hot chocolate, coffee, or tea, I say!), and my goal for the evening is to write a section of my book where Steve meets up with Sally and they have a wonderful date where afterward, he tells her all about the happy times of his childhood.
Despite the fact that one of my stories is not likely to contain any kind of sappy date scene to begin with, let’s just say (for the sake of argument) that this same evening, I did not have a pleasant night. My food sucked, and I had been forced to drink red wine – heated on the stove for good measure! – after having a fight with my boyfriend. I don’t want to write, but I have got a deadline to post a new chapter on my blog!
So I sit down in a completely different mindset. And Steve and Sally meet up, but their dinner is awkward, and afterward, Steve opens up about being abused as a child, suddenly changing who Steve is and how Sally views him.
This one bad night has the potential to completely change the course of my story. Neither path is better than the other of course, but it is terribly fascinating to me how finicky writing can be. When I think about my next chapters, I always sit down with a plan in mind, and then my mood changes, which ultimately modifies how I had originally planned the chapter.
I find it interesting that the course of a story can be altered based literally upon the time of day the writer sits down to write. Even sitting down an hour earlier to write could change the story. Thoughts and ideas come to your mind when they come, and not a moment earlier. (You can thank me for that profound statement later.)
My challenge to you is to sit down and write something when you’re not in the mood to write. See what happens. It is possible you will surprise yourself with what comes out. (It has happened for me on more than one occasion when Sunday night is quickly coming to a close, and I still have to get the next week’s “Prose Project” pages up!)
Imagine all the great novels out there that may have ended up completely differently if the writer had written the chapters just a day before…