Can't Stop, Won't Stop
By Evan Braun
I’ve done it. I’ve solved my writing productivity issues once and for all. After months and months of trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong, why my creative process is stymied, after breaking down the problem from all angles, I finally, through a careful process of meticulous analysis, identified the problem—the thing I keep doing, over and over, that causes me to be unproductive.
I keep… stopping.
Wait, what’s that? Right. I start writing. Then I stop writing. The problem is that after I stop writing, I’m unproductive. While I am writing, I am productive. So instead of stopping, I should just keep going.
Could it possibly be that simple?
Honestly, I think it could.
A while back, I found a wonderful blog post by science fiction author Chuck Wendig which gave this inspiring piece of writing advice: “Momentum is everything. Cut the brake lines. Careen wildly and unsteadily toward your goal.”
Wendig went on to hammer home something really obvious: the only way to finish something is by not stopping.
“Life rewards action, not inertia,” he goes on to say. “To reap the rewards of the future, you must take action in the present. Do so now.”
It’s sometimes amazing to think about how easily we give up. Much is said about persistence in writing—indeed, I’ve said much of it many, many times—but when I face a difficult writing problem, my reaction is frequently to stand up and walk away. To the kitchen, probably. For another Diet Coke. Or a bowl of popcorn.
You know how it goes.
I sometimes say that the solution is to put some distance between myself and the problem, that by walking away the answer will present itself. Which, sure, can be true. There are ways to stimulate productivity away from the keyboard, away from the pen, pencil, what have you…
But other times I remember the words of Chuck Wendig and it hits me hard, right between the eyes, that writing is often difficult—and from time to time, when faced with an unpleasant amount of work, the solution is to just plough through. To cut the brake lines. To careen wildly and unsteadily.
Yes, the result might be bad. Again, this is a topic about which I often encourage authors in my sphere of influence: don’t be afraid to be bad. If you’re going to be afraid of something, you should be afraid of not finishing. Of leaving something incomplete. Something that’s bad but finished can be made good.
But the only thing you can do with something that’s unfinished… is finish it.
Today’s post comes at a moment when I have to give myself the tough, unflinching reminder that when writing is hard, there comes a time when you just have to bear down.
Today, I’m bearing down. Today, I’m cutting the brake lines. The carefully laid plan has failed. The outline has fallen apart. Now all that’s left is to careen wildly and unsteadily towards my goal.
Careening wildly? It’s unsettling. It’s downright scary.
Right now, it’s all I have… and yes, it might be all that you have. So let’s embrace the fear. Let’s lean into it. Let’s get some of this hard work done. Let’s not stop.
From the other side, we’ll have a whole new point of view on which to look backward and try to fix things. I’m not there yet. I can’t see it.
I will. After this very difficult day is over.
For now, my hands are white-knuckled on the steering wheel and I’m screaming for the proverbial masses to get out of my way… because I’m ploughing forward until I get to the finish line, no matter what it takes.
See you on the other side!
Did you enjoy this post? You may also be interested in Ideas to Get You Unstuck.
About this Contributor:
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. Braun is an experienced professional editor, and has worked with Word Alive Press authors since 2006. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.