Don’t Fake the Funk (Or Force It)

 

Writing is hard.

I know that may come off as woe-is-me but I hardly coined the concept. There are more articles written on overcoming procrastination as a writer than there are articles written about anything. This proves writers can only write about procrastination without procrastinating.

One very popular concept is to set daily goals. Write X thousand words a day. Or X pages. Or X paragraphs. Or X cards. Depends on your format. There are whole groups based around that and my own writing group regularly displays those totals. I’ve used the concept myself for many years on many occasions.

However, the only thing harder than writing is editing your writing. Taking a fat red pen and crossing sections out. Or, more likely, taking your cursor and deleting entire pages or chapters.

And I mention that because if you force yourself to write when you aren’t ready, when you aren’t in the mood, when you aren’t creative, when you just don’t feel like writing, you aren’t going to write at your best. Most writing is linear. So what comes after that bad writing is more writing that builds off what came previously. And if you don’t correct that bad writing, you’re just going to perpetuate it. It’s like building a house. If you rush your foundation, pour it sloppy and uneven, by the time you get up to your 20th story, you’re going to be in horrible shape. This comes from personal experience–not pouring foundations–forcing bad writing.

I’m going to use a controversial example. Controversial because I consider it a horrible, horrible movie but it’s extremely popular. I was in the theater watching The Usual Suspects. In the opening scene, the Big Bad Guy urinates on the fuze of a bomb to casually extinguish it, mere moments before it would have caused his death. That was very early and I almost got up and left right then. It was so ludicrous. The idea that it was somehow a sign of badassery: having bladder control, easy-zip pants, and a full bladder in a combat-type scene. “Wow, he’s certainly tough, he must have drunk a quart of orange juice 38 minutes ago!” I can’t remember if I read it or actually went to a conference and heard the screenwriter, Christopher McQuarrie, say he had a daily screenwriting quota. X pages. So he grabbed a bomb-pissing scene from another screenplay he hadn’t sold and slapped it in, made his quota, and called it a day. That was the first scene and he built off that. And The Usual Suspects is, in my opinion, a stupendously bad movie.

What makes editing so difficult is because of how hard it was to produce that writing to begin with. And you’re just going to chuck it in the trash. Inside that bad, quota writing, there will undoubtedly be some gems of awesome you hate to see go. But they are in the context of story. So it’s nearly impossible, in editing, to pull out all the good and throw the bad. It’s not a hedge. If you have lots of great jokes and dialogue and descriptions in your chapter about amnesia evil twins, it won’t matter. You have to throw it all out.

I bring this up because I had a literal example of it happening with my 3D work. I don’t understand a lot of the fundamentals and behind-the-scenes technical aspects of the animation. And sometimes I’ll slow down and try and figure everything out before proceeding. This is rough because I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done. There isn’t the sense of accomplishment learning some obscure details as opposed to producing X seconds of full-fledged animation. So what I did was I would hack around any errors I was encountering. Find ways of coping with it instead of understanding the cause and correcting it. But then the error got so bad I couldn’t fix it any longer. What had happened was one of my base models was off by a small amount. The Hank model itself. The very foundation. So as the animation went on, I kept building and building on that until my 20th-floor building was tilted and inside-out. I went back and fixed the model, but then I had to correct everything that came after because it was built on an improper foundation. It wasn’t quite as hard as it sounds, because it’s all 0s and 1s and not steel. Or even chapters, paragraphs, and sentences.

Still, the whole point is what I’ve been saying all along. It’s okay to try and coax or force motivation. But don’t make half-assed work if you aren’t ready to rebuild it the very next day. You just end up making more work for yourself in the long run.

Journal

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