I’m in bad shape today. The details are unimportant – insert a huge paragraph about sleep issues and head-colds here, if you must – the important part is that I am very tired and very listless. That feeling you get where you lie awkwardly and cut off circulation to your arm, leaving it feeling numb and faintly foreign as you try to get blood to return? That is my entire body.
Right now, I do a good line in staring absently into the middle distance. Not thinking, just…lost. Tired to the point where the very thought of doing something causes my brain to misfire. I bump into things when I walk around. I drop things: butter knives, coffee mugs, laundry baskets, pens.
And yet, somewhere amid the haze and chaos that is today’s thought process, there was this singular idea: make sure you blog today, even though you don’t feel like it.
Not because I have anything particularly useful to say on this particular Monday. If I waited to have something useful to say, I’d never actually post here. It’s easy to get suckered into giving too much weight to the content, engaging in doubts and second-thoughts. An awful lot of this blog is trusting in the process, blogging to fill the empty spaces in the schedule, using the same four prompts to get me started:
- What is the most useful thing you can say about writing today?
- What is bugging you right now and why?
- What is the most interesting thing going on right now?
- What’s on your mind?
The rest is simply trusting in the routine and the habit, letting it carry me through on the days where I’m sick, or tired, or utterly convinced that I’m a moron and no-one is ever going to be interested in anything I have to say ever again. Some days, the habit is more important than the content. The content of a particular day may not be flawed, but over a week? A month? A year?
Hell, over the course of a lifetime? Shit’s going to come to come together at least once or twice. Some people have morning affirmations; I have showing up here and giving definition to my approach to writing. Every day, I get a new chance to figure out the kind of writer I want to be, and inch myself a little bit closer to that goal.
And yeah, there are days when I will cut myself some slack. I’m realistic about these things, and nothing pisses me off more than the thou shall write every day if you want to be a writer crowd, ’cause that has the potential to be a stick you beat yourself with rather than a routine that carries you forward.
Real writers approach their craft in all sorts of ways, including those who embrace regular fallow periods rather than burn themselves out creating twenty-four seven. There are writers who only work five days of the week, because they like the idea of weekends. There are writers who will jam out a book in a few intense weeks of creativity, then go back to their day-jobs. No two people are doing this gig the same way.
But once you know your process? Once you’ve found the habits and routines that work for you? Once those are in place, honour them. There will be times when they need to be sacrificed, but always make it a conscious decision rather than a thing you do by default. Habits can get overridden so easily, replaced by a new normal.
I may be in bad shape today, but the blog gets posted because I asked myself one final question: do you really want to sacrifice your routine for this?
Today, the answer was fuck no. Today, the habit matters more to me than that unpleasant feeling that makes it hart to concentrate. Today, it even matters more than the small collection of “in case of emergency” blog posts that I’ve got sitting in reserve, for exactly this kind of eventuality. It matters more than my absolute last resort, which is the Gone Fishing sign.
Tomorrow I get another chance to answer that particular question. With luck and a good deal of dogged persistence, I hope the answer will be much the same.