getting the muck out of the gears

I think there are few things more difficult than picking up the pen when you’ve been on the sidelines for awhile. Right now my girlfriend is trying to work back into writing fiction and seems to be having a particularly rough time. She got hung up on making a chapbook over the summer, crafting a connected whole of 20-30 pages of poems, and hasn’t been able to get into the fictive swing of things since.

Like any idiot who doesn’t realize he isn’t helping matters I offered to help and tried to throw ideas at her like a dartboard and was confounded when every dart seemed to catch an edge and clatter to the floor.

I think the majority of the difficulty between my attempt at helping and my actually helping is the result of how each of us views writing. She seems to be very much of the vein of “when the muse strikes” and having to know this, that or the other before starting to write.  To me this seems overly particular and romantic.

I view writing as a job. You want to be a writer? well, then start writing. Good or bad, as long as it gets onto the page you can work it around later and should be able to sculpt something pretty solid. The main problem lies in getting the stuff on the page in the first place.

This also helps explain my way of working out of funks or “getting the muck out of the gears.” When talking with her I compared her way of writing to trying to start a car every three months and expecting it to run fine every time. You let anything sit for too long and it tends to get grime and gunk where it shouldn’t have grime and gunk and it generally grinds to a halt.  But if you keep starting the engine up every other day or so, take it for a drive once in awhile, the car will be more likely to have the right parts moving and the right parts staying.

So in writing it’s best to keep the writing going. The more you do it, the cleaner the gears are. but if you do get out of practice or into a funk, the closest thing to an oil change or a radiator flush/fill is to just keep writing and to keep filling the page with the hope that the machine will work itself into running shape again and you can rejoin the writing race.

On the plus side, she finally seemed to have hit on an idea tonight she thinks she can work on. But she doesn’t feel knowledgeable enough to start so she’s doing something that probably comes naturally for most former and current grad students – she started researching. It’s not the first step I’d take, but she seems to be on her way.

And what does all of this mean? I’m not sure but I still think you should write every day if you want to write better tomorrow.

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