Okay, so I’m cribbing heavily from Kubrick here. But the cold war is a pretty good analogy, and Kubrick’s interpretation especially so, of many writers’ internal dialogues.
Here you are on the one side, awakening from an inspiring dream:
“Man, what if you could like, surf, in space. Surfing in space sounds pretty radical. I should write a story that has that.”
Yes, there you are living in the land of the free, the brave, the realm of dreamers. 1950s America, with all her whitewashed glory. Everything is perfect.
But then, an internal voice thinks, hey, hey, hold on a second. Surfing in space is stupid. Nobody wants to read about kids surfing in space. How do you even do that, anyways? It’s not hard core and gritty and realistic or whatever. That’s what everyone’s into these days, that and dystopian romances. Plus, the 50s were horrible.
That’s the Joseph McCarthy of your brain, telling you that the Soviets (e.g. other people) are going to murder us in our sleep, and that they’re living right next to you. Maybe it’s more a problem for me, this whole shame&fear combo, but to me it was an important realization that my imagination’s opinion of what others will think of my ideas is not what people are going to think.
In many aspects of my life, I am a pessimistic person, in my writing especially so. Who wants to read this garbage? I think, or this is crazy nonsense. Makes you not want to share, not even to write the words down. Your world becomes insular, your dream trapped inside your brain, you’re afraid to let it out, that the fatty bone sausages we call fingers will mar the essence of your glorious dream as they attempt to transcribe the divine onto plastic keys attached to electric screens. Or shredded wood and tortured stone onto pulped and dried wood, but it’s your choice of medium.
Hold on, brief thought here–does anyone write in squid ink? Please contact me immediately if you do so.
Russians, when you get to know most of them, are not very bad people. Yes, their country at the moment, and for much of history, is dominated by patriarchal alcoholics who hate everyone but themselves, but whose country isn’t? Mine sure seems to be. Russian people are fine, very passionate–they love music and taking walks and chatting and they hate talking on the phone. And they probably would love your novel about surfing in space if it came with a good plot and relatable characters.
My point is that you can’t know until you show it to someone else. And you can’t show it to someone else if you don’t write it. You have to let all that stuff go, to just think about the dream, that dream that’s just chemicals and sparks passing through neurons arranged in big wrinkly lumps, and make that dream travel from your brain to your fingers, from the fingers to the page, from the page to everyone else’s eyes and minds.
For which, I have to say, the best thing in my book is a #wordsprint. Can’t even write it without the hashtag. Social writing, consistent sharing, through hashtags like #LSW for Last Sentence Written or #amwriting, basically blows down the Berlin Wall we all erect in our minds between us and the outside world. Sometimes your sentences are just: “He opened the door.” Sometimes they’re huge flowery things like okay I can’t think of one right now alright?
Getting online, saying, “Let’s do a #wordsprint!” on twitter and getting a handful of responses is a huge motivator. Joining in on wordsprints run by others, like the Sprint Shack, so graciously inviting me to speak here, is a similarly inspiring experience. Everyone’s writing, everyone’s sharing what they’re working on, discussing the trade and their own problems and processes, and everyone shuts up and writes for good chunks of time. It’s like a social dinner party where you get work done.
And all that wondering about what those scary Russians thought of us, or what we thought of them, because we were too scared to talk, it all breaks down. You write your novel, you show it to the world. You become a #betabuddy and read someone else’s dream, still shifting about the edges with that eldritch musk of a recent transliteration, before it’s refined and polished and given to the masses to win awards and accolades.
The best part? You can do wordsprints by yourself. You write for thirty minutes, you get up, walk around, stretch, do a downward facing dog or shoulderstand and think while your body opens up. Return to work, sprint like the dickens. I promise you will write more. But I enjoy the social part, especially through Twitter. It all comes together in an atmosphere of mutual support and motivation that comes with no strings attached and for everyone from pros to shmos.
Remember, you make it perfect in the editing, not the writing. Nothing ever comes out great the first time through. I threw away a 276k word draft because it wasn’t good enough, and in doing so, the new version (already at that same wordcount+) is going to be something really magical. But I never would have written this much, this quickly, if it weren’t for wordsprints, and working online with everyone.
No matter where you are, no matter what you’re writing, probably someone, somewhere, is ready to do a wordsprint with you. @TheSprintShack itself covers three different timezones across two continents, which means they’re on pretty much all the time. If you’re doing #NaNoWriMo or just trying to write more on a day to day basis, I challenge you to try a #wordsprint with me. Remember, even if your dream is silly and crazy, even if it’s tropey and absurd, we all love those old 50s sci-fi movies. Even if they’re comedies now, instead of dramas.
Write what you love, write what you care about, but more importantly, friggen show your worlds to me so I can escape the flesh husk I call a body for even a single moment. Let the #wordsprint carry you away, and carry that draft to completion.
See you all on the racetrack soon.
ABOUT AUGUST EVRARD
August Evrard works blue-collar jobs until he escapes somewhere else. Until then, he escapes with words and song. He writes novels and short fiction which has been featured in 365tommorows.com and elsewhere, but if you Google his name you will end up with his father nine times out of ten. He runs the @NaNoPals twitter account and a blog of the same name, and loves #wordsprints more than chocolate. But not more than robots.