Waiting for Guffman

Once upon a time, when I was still in high school and trying (failing) to figure out how to finish stories I started, I wrote something in my diary to the effect of, “If it doesn’t come on an inspiration, it comes hard.” 

Those words are still true.  I have days where my brain is spitting out words faster than I can type–usually pieces of conversation between characters, but every now and then I will get an internal monologue or the precise right narrative voice for an action sequence.  Those are the good days. 

And then I have days where I have to think through every word:

“Okay, what happens in the next sentence? How do I want to say it? Check how you started the last three to five sentences to make sure you varied up the structure types.  All clear?  Then write the sentence.  [I write the sentence.]  Okay, what happens in the next sentence?….”

And on and on like that, for damn near every sentence.  Those are the not-so-good days, days when I might get 500 words out of two hours of work.  I can get 800 words in fifteen minutes if all I have to do is transcribe what’s burning through my imagination!  So the comparison should really probably calibrate to “good days” and “hellish days” except that no day where I get words down is a totally bad day.

My problem when I was younger was that I would wait for inspiration before I wrote.

In a way this was nice, because it made the exercise of writing always fun, always a pleasure, because I only did it when I was in the mood for it and when the words were coming easy. 

But waiting for insiration is like waiting for Guffman–in the end, it never shows up.

That was the lesson I took away from the decade I spent writing that way and never finishing anything except a handful of short stories. Now that I am an adult, I’m training myself to find exquisite pleasure in ripping words out of my head by the root. 

I have yet to convince myself those are better days than the ones in which the words flow forth like wine. But at least I’m not wasting my time waiting for Guffman anymore.

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