WordPress has my number. No sooner had I obeyed its command to “Create Your Web Site,” than it was tempting me to explore everybody else’s blog instead of writing my own. It waved a dozen links to blogs on writing under my nose, even more to book lovers’ blogs, and one called (truth in advertising) Longreads that can mess you up for days.
Then there’s Freshly Pressed, WordPress’s links to individual posts that “you might like.” How does it know? Yeah, Google tells it. The trouble is, Google is so often right. I told myself I was looking for good writing, for ideas on using WordPress well, for designing the page, blah, blah. And I did find ideas I could use.
But if I read all this stuff, when do I write?
All the wonderful How To Write books pose this same problem. Ideas about writing exist in a different universe from writing itself. Books show you nice clear roads to success: if you are writing X kind of book, and arrange your chapter in Y way, the result for your book will be Z. Those are the basic books. The tone of the more advanced comes closer to celebrity cooking shows: “You’ll be amazed how just a touch of coriander (humor/specifics/pornography) will transform your recipe!”
The actual experience of writing is more like forcing yourself to jump off a cliff, having been told by, say, an angel that you will not in fact be smashed to jam, because you can fly – as long as you think you can. Some days, just the icon for your writing program is enough to send you to Longreads.
When you do make the jump, you can fly or you can’t. You start where you left off or somewhere else in the text that needs something better or different than you’ve managed to give it yet. Your characters need to limber up over a few (dozen) pages. Finally they stop making the kind of remark you make at cocktail parties to people you don’t know why you’re talking to. And then, from somewhere behind your left ear, an earlier prop or an embedded quarrel or a potential love affair hooks around and snatches your plot. Suddenly, the conversation is making sense, but only if we assume that… and the story is writing itself. If you can keep the scene pulled up around you, and refrain from insisting that it “work out right,” you’re golden. For the time being.
And some days, you’re smashed to jam.
There is no way to avoid either the jump or the jam. I read a bit, here and there, in my pile of how-to books, and like the blogs, they add to my little store of technique. I may even recall their tips to my great profit, if I ever get to the third draft. As soon as your nose emerges from the book, you are going to have to walk back to that cliff face. So get over it, close the book, close the writing blog and jump.
That’s all for today. I gotta go write my post.