Climbing out of the mire

Here’s how it goes: you ride high for a while, then you hit a slump. You lose a bit of pace, you don’t even notice you’re not moving forward any more. And then you’re up to your hips in mud, you’re not going anywhere and you start to wonder if you’ll ever remember how your feet are supposed to work.

Careless in our summer clothes splashing around in the muck and the mire

I’m very much a famine and feast kind of writer. When I write, it tends to be in bursts of atom-splitting energy, followed by long fallout lulls.

Most of my self-improvement efforts are directed at trying to build more steady, sustainable work habits that are sustainable in the long term, but I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t recognise it’s an uphill battle. I’m in a long-term battle with myself, and the side that champions lying on the couch and reading a stack of comics always has the upper hand.

In a sense, wrestling with my innate sense of laziness is part of my process. On the other hand, I’m sure there are healthier processes out there. I’m up for exploring new ways of getting to my mountain.

I’ve been in one of those slumps for a couple of weeks now. Ironically it started almost immediately after my week off. I got some disappointing news – some of it personal, some of it writing related, none of it all that significant – and had a few heavy days at work. I was tired, so I took a few nights off writing. I finished a good book [1], started another good book, watched some TV, played some video games.

Wrote a little here and there but it didn’t add up to much. You know how it goes. It was a slump. I wanted to write, but not enough to get up and actually write.

Lately I’ve seen a challenge kicking around – I want to credit it to Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press, but I’ve seen it elsewhere as well – of writing a hundred words a day for a hundred days. A hundred words is nothing, really – ten or so minutes of work at most. But the catch here is, if you miss a day, you have to restart the counter.

It’s a challenge that appeals to my sense of stubbornness, which might not always be a match for my laziness, but is nevertheless a force to be reckoned with. Artificial deadlines and meaningless milestones look like pretty stupid motivational forces when viewed from the outside, but they are remarkably effective at engaging my attention.

So in the spirit of kicking myself back into gear, I’m taking the challenge. One hundred words a day of new writing – a short story, an editorial rewrite, a blog post, or a couple of other creative tasks I’ve just decided will also qualify – for one hundred days.

Starting today.


[1] The Fisherman by John Langan – lovely slow-burn horror novel with surprisingly little gore or violence but a lovely mounting sense of wrongness and dread, and quite a lot of talk about fishing. I can’t recommend it highly enough, even for indifferent fishers like me.

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