It was awfully hot today. Give me the cold anytime, but the heat has become unbearable.
Surprisingly, I did manage to get in my words today after a walk after a fun morning session of drawing funny pictures with D. We were inspired by a book called The Pencil written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Bruce Ingman.
It's about a pencil who draws things and names them and the things it draws take on lives of their own and ask the pencil to draw more things into existence for them. Until, along comes an eraser and mayhem ensues. So we had our own drawing session, lending hands to a toaster, wings to a coffee cup and so on.
Running errands, moaning about the heat, cleaning up, D and KrA enjoying water play outdoors, and such other stuff made up the rest of the day.
I suppose it has been a little more than ten days since I started these free-writing sessions, and boy! Has it busted my long-held belief that I can't sit down to write in the evenings after D has gone to bed? Look at me now, spouting word after word after word in a timed exercise.
Which brings me to the question – how do we know when we are simply making excuses, when fear is holding us back, versus when we've actually reached our limit?
I don't know the answer but maybe it could help to look for cues in different places.
Excuses usually spring from the mind, sometimes from my belly and throat because that's where I typically feel a tightness when I'm anxious, afraid, unwilling to do something like getting up and writing because I'm petrified of how awful it might turn out to be.
The cues for exhaustion, I'd reckon, would typically spring from the body. When we're unable to keep our eyes open, when our body feels sore and in need of a stretch or a walk or a run, that's probably when it is time to pause our work and call it a day.
For the longest time, I've read about authors who hold day jobs, come back home for a family dinner and to tuck their little ones into bed, and start writing at eight in the evening or so until well past midnight, and do the same day after day after day after day.
I've looked at those authors and wondered why I wasn't able to replicate their habits, their daily routines, myself.
Actually, I told myself I couldn't replicate their habits because of the various 'constraints' I have in my life – looking after a child with zilch help from family tops this list.
For years, I've been saying that to myself. For years, I've seen other creatives plough on despite having similar or even more constraints .(No wonder every time I see someone with two or more kids, I start to feel inferior. Because all the excuses i had made revolved around parenting even though I only have the one precious D!)
Time and again, I've only come back to one answer – because whatever I was doing, I wasn't completely present.
When I'd play with D, I'd keep thinking about all the writing that I wanted to do. When I sat down to write, I felt guilty about all the time I was missing out on playing with D.
When I had fifteen minutes to write, I kept thinking of how I needed an uninterrupted two or three hours at least to write. When I had an uninterrupted two or three hours to write, courtesy of KrA taking D out for playtime, I'd think of why the words were not coming fast enough.
Truth is, I am the only one who keeps getting in my way over and over again.
I think I said this yesterday too but honestly, when I'm present no matter what I do, life truly expands to accommodate everything I want to do.
Fifteen minutes are now more than enough to churn out several hundred words when I'm completely in the flow and not thinking of anything else in that time frame. Timed writing sprints are a great technique to boost writing speed and focus.
I read somewhere yesterday that writer's block is typically an issue of having too much time on our hands, an issue of work expanding to fill the time available. Because after sitting on an essay until the last day, don't we somehow magically turn in a paper right before deadline?
There is a contemporary author I look up to. Steve Higgs. He writes in a variety of genres – urban fantasy, paranormal fiction, mystery – and I love his books.
In an interview, he once said he doesn't watch TV, doesn't read books, he hasn't taken any course in writing. He just sat down, started to write a novel. His first novel took him five years. The second one took him five months. And now he churns out practically a novel a month or even more frequently. All he does is write, and look after his family.
Initially I made a lot of excuses as to why I couldn't be like that. I had D to look after, food to cook, it's too noisy in the home with D, it's too hot outside, I need outdoor time, D needs outdoor time, I barely get to talk to KrA ... Wow! The list is practically endless!
And every single thing in that list is an excuse that sits in my mind. It's only a half-truth.
True, I have D to look after but I only play with him for an hour or two during the day. The rest of the time he's with KrA or we're generally doing stuff around the house together.
Food to cook – I only cook lunch. KrA handles breakfast and dinner.
I can take each excuse written up there and tear it apart.
Even as I write this, I'm realising that I could very well head over to my manuscript right after finishing this post. Even a short 15-minute writing sprint could help me add more words to my daily total. It's only 7:20 P.M. So off I go!