May 122013

You wouldn’t think so at first glance, but the whole creative process will drain you.

I have no idea why. From a scientific/medical standpoint you’re using tons of glucose in the brain for writing, playing music, painting, flat-out creating. Glucose equals energy, so maybe that whole thing makes sense after all.

Sometimes I think doing something physical like lumping steel or tossing around tree limbs is more restful. I really think so, especially now.

Think about this. The body, even a frequently-abused 55-year-old body like mine, can still hack some pretty intensive physical things. I can still stand on my feet all day, do construction and landscaping work, run around a bunch of trucks — yes, even toss tree limbs like I did last summer. Eight hours worth? Bah. ‘Tain’t nothing. I can do that in my sleep.

Even a relatively old guy like me can still handle all the physical stuff I used to, even though it takes a bit longer to recycle and I have a new appreciation for aspirin.

But writing? After about four or five hours I’m spent. Gone. Wiped out. From there my agenda is simple: Locate recliner. Fall in it butt first. Put feet up. Decompress.

By comparison, it takes about eight or 10 hours on the Appalachian Trail (not that Appalachian Trail, Mark Sanford!) to wipe me out like that.

Completion and the ‘twit’ shout

Web content, like the kind I write for clients, isn’t that intensive. But longer projects, where I put in much careful thought and dump pieces of my soul onto the page or on the thumb drive, gets mentally exhausting.

I usually write standing up. But Friday night, as I cranked out the last 2103 words on the draft of my latest ebook, I had to sit down. With feet up, and the laptop on, well, my lap.

And finished that first draft.

As soon as it was done, I had to holler it out in celebration. Went to Twitter, my favorite hollering grounds (which explains the use of #hashtags here). Here’s what I posted:

Nailed it. Finished 1st draft “Will Work For Exposure.” #wordcount today 2,103. Total 25,028. #amwriting
(12:08am Saturday)

Understand, #wordcount and #amwriting are actual Twitter groups, and the hashtags put my posts squarely into those audiences.

A few minutes later I posted:

Vision blurry. Brain blurry. Face blurry. Fingertips blurry. Butt blurry, too. This #amwriting thing is sure hard work.
(12:37am Saturday)

There’s a joke that goes along with that. Almost 30 years ago my editor Charlie Hand swore that he could tell when I was getting tired. My face would melt. It’d be dripping onto my shirt.

Must’ve been some good drugs back then, Charlie.

Anyway, that was Friday night, a terrifying two-hour writing session. I had my coffee next to me, some granola bars, a few other snacks. What’s amazing was that my bladder (always an issue when you’re in your mid-50s) was cooperating with me, even with the coffee. Finished up shortly after midnight.

Time for bed? Forget it. My brain was still whirling. Finished my coffee (an espresso blend that resembles road tar), had another granola bar, read for a few hours, wrote in my journal. I think I settled into my rack a little after 4 a.m.

So I wasn’t worth a darn Saturday. A friend and I planned to do a landscaping estimate that day, but he was sick and I was essentially out of commission. Oh well.

A few weeks ago I ran a lengthy writing session. Didn’t bother to check the time but I know it was at least four hours. I know I logged 8,000 words, which doubled my old per-day record. I did that standing up, and I sure felt it the next day. Neck was all stiff. Shoulders felt like they were installed backwards. Elbow felt like an alligator was biting it. Oh, yes, and I had to scrape my face off the keyboard again.

So I was borderline useless Saturday. More or less recovered today, though taking it kind of easy. A couple of short articles for a client. Writing this blog post. Low-impact stuff.

Editing is easier, if you don’t mind murdering your darlings

Bright and early tomorrow I’ll take the wraps off that long project and read through it to see exactly how bad it is. And it’ll be plenty bad; all first drafts are guaranteed to stink out the joint. Guy Kawasaki, a prolific writer, likens the first draft to puking all over the page.

But, just like throwing up is exhausting (try it sometime if you don’t believe me), getting that first draft down is a real bear. Editing and rewriting are much easier. The hard work — getting everything on the page — is done. Editing is tough enough (Stephen King calls editing out that phrase you loved when you wrote it “murdering your darlings”) but the heavy stuff is completed.

Onward with the project, once I get over the blurriness.

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Apr 162013

I like how multi-published author and Internet thought leader Guy Kawasaki described the process of writing a book. I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but here’s the gist of what he said:

Writing a book can be compared to the process of vomiting: you spew out your book as fast as possible and then you spend the next 6 to 9 months refining your vomit trying to get to something that is beautiful.

OK, that’s kind of gross but it serves a purpose. It’s not just about writing a book, though. Any creative process involves purging and picking. Ain’t nothing pretty about it but the result.

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Note: To get the full interview (Kawasaki and Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing), check out this link here. It’s a goodish-sized sound file, about 23 minutes, so you’ll want to carve out some time for it.