Recently, I made the decision to recommit myself to building towards the kind of life I would like to lead. Obviously, no doubt your mind has instantly leaped to images of me, shaven-headed, sitting in flimsy robes atop some frost-bitten monastery somewhere in the Himalayas – well, you’re wrong.
Instead, I’ve been reading; reading a lot of things that I would never have normally read. Things about increasing your productivity, about making yourself write more, until you could be writing as many as three thousand words a day (wow!).
How Can I Write Thousands Of Words Every Day?
Yeah, amazing, I know. The only issue with the advice that I’ve found, is that it is simply ‘write more’. Great, fantastic advice – everyone roll up your sleeves and pat yourselves on the back, we can all go home. A lot of it is about finding ways to avoid writing burn-out, which leaves you exhausted and unsatisfied and filled with the notion that you are, in fact, unable to write.
The only issue with that idea is, as a copywriter by day and crazed existentialist by night, I write in excess of four thousand words every day; during the day, it is never on anything I’m interested in, of course, but it is still a continuous stream of information that I need to absorb, reword, regurgitate and optimise.
Before I got this gig, I was sat in front of my desk pretty much every minute of every day – except when my girlfriend got off work and I could spend a few, blissful hours staring at a TV screen instead. In this time, I wrote a lot, and I mean a hell of a lot. I wrote my first novel in a few months, and I thought that’d be it, for a while; almost like I’d exercised all my rage at the world in general. Of course, if you’ve read it, you’ll know it as the novel that made a very, very small portion of the world go ‘meh’.
Anyway, after I finished that, I found myself consumed by this weird spewing madness, and I wrote at least the length of that novel again in a matter of weeks, spread out amongst other works, a couple of novella-length pieces and the starts of a few fragments, which I have openly referred to as fragments and will continue to do so.
Working Through Writer’s Block And Burnout
Unfortunately, I’m afraid I can’t offer much more advice than other people like me – oh god, I’m one of them now, aren’t I? Write, write, write, write, write, write – write until you’re hungry and concentrate and keep writing; even as your quality goes down, write and write and write some more.
It’s always better to have something to work back through, take ideas from, and, essentially, gut it as you need to – hell, half the fragments that I’m going to be releasing started off as one or two little lines on a page filled with others.
Writing At Night
Still, what I find useful (or used to), when I reach a particularly rough patch, is to write later on at night. I’m talking midnight to 4 o’clock in the morning, pretty much non-stop. If you’re a long-time reader (thanks mum!) you’ll probably know that I used to do that quite a lot, and I wrote one of my first short stories, The Desperate Light, after a long day and on no sleep (I’d say that was a shameless plug, but the damn thing is free – you should check it out).
I get that such an experiment isn’t feasible for most writers – you’re too busy trying to keep your head above water in the modern world, right? In fact, it isn’t really that feasible for me anymore either, now that I’m old and I’ve started falling asleep at rock bars whilst listening to Iron Maiden tribute bands.
How To Get Around Writer’s Burnout And Block?
My method, when I’m at work or out and about, is to make notes in my notepad or on my phone’s memo-section; I used to make notes on receipts and worksheets and source guides and all kinds of things when I was at university, to save money and not look like someone who was addicted to their phone – I remember writing a few prompts on a bathroom wall once, which was interesting to come back to after a few days to see what other people had written. Y’know, it’s amazing how much a bathroom cubicle is like an internet forum.
Still, make notes, write one sentence prompts, adopt a beat style, like Bob Dylan’s Tarantula, Ginsberg, Kerouac when he got going, or even just singular dramatic sentences of the kind Henry Miller so excelled at. In fact, really thinking about one thing and creating a long, convoluted sentence made from individual notes, perceptions of the thing at different times throughout the day, for example, can really lead to some powerful sentences.
An Example Of My Method
Not to rub the genie’s lamp of my narcissism too much, I recently wrote a couple of paragraphs:
“It was that maddening hour, when the night bled out into the promise of the morning and every step that did not lead you to your bed was a rejection of your body – it was the pulsating hour of light and sound, and it was the kind of night when everything suffered beneath this revolting love. It was affection, affection to make the stomach churn and bleed and boil to itself; I loved it, loved it like the plague – how could I not?
For a broken lover, such as I, it was the ideal, the moment, the freedom cage – the instance of paralysing liberty, the frozen seconds of the human soul made manifest; the purity of it all, of that solitary emotion, the great, roaring YES that had sacked it all, had seen conscience salted that no substance might grow there; the mewling wounds of affection brought in chains to be laughed and prodded and fucked by Caligulan architects of the breast.”
The entire thing started with the idea of a specific hour which stretched out – it was an ‘unbearable hour’, not a maddening one. Admittedly, pretty sure I noted that down as I waited for the first bus service on a Sunday morning, but the thought is still there as I built up on it, in my notepad, over the next few days.
So, there you go – if you find that you can’t write; write. It doesn’t always work out well, but its experience, it is something that you can turn into something else. Its fuel for the fire, oxygen for the lungs – now, you think of another metaphor and start from there!