When things are going well, I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my mind. Writing walks, speech runs and talk flies. Other times, though, it’s like fishing. – Dylan Moran
I always knew learning to fish was an important skill. Most people typically see it as relaxation, a hobby, or something to do while on holiday. You don’t mind the hours till you catch something, because that is the whole point of a hobby – you are allowed to be terrible at it. On the other hand, for those who have to make a living off it, i.e. fishermen, selling their catch daily to fishmongers who, to further quote Dylan Moran, must go about “fishmonging” to complete the linear chain with what ends up on (some of) your dinner plates, it isn’t relaxation. Being good means getting the best, the fastest, in the most possible quantity. There’s a movie to be made here, and I’m sure I’ve heard more than enough stories when I’ve had to go at, beside or near the mongers’. It’s tough.
You might think that was an overblown metaphor for writing, that was merely expanding on what a genius has already stated, and you are right. But, you see, I used to see writing as fishing too, though more unimaginatively. I always thought that when low on inspiration, it was simply pulling chits of paper out of a hat until something makes sense enough to add to what’s going on. Usually, since I don’t often find myself scant of ideas, I let them simmer in my head until they are somewhat ready to be tried out on a word processor. Many wither away or even vanish, which is why in the past year I’ve adopted a pocket journal to write things down when I hit upon something. It is reassuring, because I have loads of ideas sitting there still waiting to be worked on, which might make the fishing process easier, now that I know what to look for.
I know this is not something wannabe writers often admit to, but I’ll just say it while I still have the courage: people don’t think you’re a real writer, even a bad one, unless you’ve written a book, especially a novel. They want you to have solid proof that you sat by the riverbank day after day, from dawn to dusk, looking for the same species, until you have gained especial expertise. I think that’s what most of us who desperately want to be writers suffer from – a scattered attention span that is caught up with the many other species of fish. Oh look, a Pomfret! There, a Trout! Oh look, a Poem! There, a Paragraph!
I don’t remember who it was, but a writer said, and I paraphrase, he gave up blogging when he realised one blog post per week = 52 posts in a year = might as well be a book people pay to read. I am too much of a blog snob to use that logic, at least for now, but I see his point. A blog is a scattered writer’s soulmate – having a platform to test drive all the ideas you get, following through them until they are more or less shipshape, and sending them out into the ether, hopefully to be greeted by likes and comments. There are two plus sides to this: one, you get more ideas, because you have a place to try them out, and two, you’re not alone in your creative process, because you often get feedback on if it works.
When things are going well, I too can’t write fast enough to keep up with what I’m thinking. What is classic in the case of making things – they always look better in your head. The balance is never right, either your mind is too slow and there is only one fishing rod for the surprising amount of fish around, or you’re back to normal, writing/fishing like it’s a hobby, though you aren’t having as much of a chill time as the hobbyist.
Writing is great, an absolute privilege, but it is dull and frustrating too. There are tons of articles and books on finding inspiration and following through that don’t solve the problem for you (like this half-deceptively titled essay). But, I suppose, you just have to get more used to the idea of being fishermen, always in the right time and place, no matter how many they can catch. Survival has always been the easiest drive to do something.
How do you follow through?