Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Just A Restless Feeling

Lately I have been having trouble with momentum, as I have mentioned earlier. The last few days working on my current book-length project, it’s really felt like pulling teeth. I keep finding all sorts of distractions, things I would rather be doing than work on my project. I do have a self-imposed deadline coming up, and knowing that I am behind already, I have been pushing myself to make good progress.

I finally gave in and decided to catch up on my RSS feeds, and I came across this article, which quoted author Josh Shenk, reminding me that writing a book-length project is hard:
Writing a book is a crushingly lonely experience in ways that no one who hasn’t been through it can really imagine.
Reading this helped me recognise my restlessness and nervousness of the last few days – I'm at the point in the project that the initial excitement has worn off and I'm far enough off from the end that I'm feeling the burn, it’s getting progressively harder to maintain a good pace. I just have to recognise to myself – yes, this is hard, yes I’m lonely because I have declined all social invitations in order to write, and that’s just how it is. But the good thing I that I'm not the first author to face this, I'm not strange or weird. Knowing others have gone through this, survived and gone on to other projects makes me feel much better.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Obstacles to Creativity

Artists, and indeed anyone trying something new, taking some risks, going out on a limb, face obstacles as a matter of course. The only problem is that every time we face them, we are surprised, unprepared and more than a little annoyed at the disruption to our routine and plan.

Obstacles can be in the form of an unexpected event taking precious time away from a deadline, like the family emergency that happened to me at the beginning of the month, taking away 2 whole weeks of precious time from my deadline, and even more time trying to regain my previous momentum. They can be in the form of a sudden illness, or a last minute request from a client or boss, that may threaten to derail your present assignment.
Obstacles may also come up in your creative arsenal – your laptop starts to give trouble, freezes or becomes agonizingly slow just as the last hours of the deadline creep up on you; you discover that you’re out of the exact shade of fabric you needed for a crucial detail; or, as I have been facing for the last few days, you get pain in your fingers and find it difficult to type or hold a pen.
Our tools are everything to us, and when they don’t work or we forget a crucial implement in our toolkit, it can be beyond frustrating. It can be debilitating. The first thought at such a time is to curse, get angry, blame sundry forces that are conspiring against you.

However, I have come to believe that obstacles are actually your friends, in disguise. They are there to test your resolve, to see if you really have what it takes to complete your project, to wow your client and deliver on your promises. It’s not supposed to be a test so you can fail; if you recognise that it’s simply a gut-check time, do you have the conviction in yourself to go all the way, to follow through, then the obstacles transforms into a challenge, something you are anxious to overcome, to triumph over and send packing.  

When the project is over, when you have crossed the finish line, the obstacles that you have overcome are what you will look back on with pride, they will fuel your sense of accomplishment. So look at them with appreciation, and tell yourself that the obstacles you’re facing are actually a sign that you’re getting close to the end, and to your achievement.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Regaining Momentum on a Creative Project

I'm getting quite close to the wire on a long-term creative project that has already had several delays, and for which I set a deadline of November for it to be completed in its entirety. Last month I was finally starting to make good progress, and the last few days of August my fingers were flying on the keyboard as I started to pile up the word counts.

And then I had a family emergency and had to travel to India. It was a stressful time, and there was a lot to be done, and work on my project halted completely. Understandably, many people would say. And yet it’s been more than 10 days since I have been back, and attempting to pick up the thread on my project. And my momentum has been shot to h*ll.
I can't for the life of me get back to the pace I was working at before I left, and I can't even summon up the same level of motivation I had on the project as before. I know intellectually that I still need to meet the deadline, and need to work even harder than before to make up the time shortfall. And yet, I'm dragging my feet as it were, and languidly typing a few sentences at a time.
Usually I read books on writing when this happens, but advice on starting a project and doing a little everyday isn’t helping, since I am doing a little everyday; it just happens to be not enough. Writing teacher Julia Cameron has said that “writing rights things”, and in this instance, not writing is making me grumpy, I'm finding faults with every aspect of my life. Or these faults were there, but when I was writing, they weren’t so visible to me. Hmm…so the solution is to write more, but that is also the problem.
I tried taking a break – I took a day off to read a book, and generally chill. The next day I got more done, but not nearly enough, and the day after that, the lack of energy is back. I don’t really have any other tricks up my sleeve – other than the old favourite – powering through. I will keep sitting down at my computer, until the pace picks up and I start to fall in love with the material again. I’ve read enough interviews of writers to know that this happens to many people, and they get through it, and I will too. Its just that now I know this intellectually, but in my heart I still have this gnawing feeling: “What if I can't finish this book on time? Should I just give up now? Maybe I don’t really need to write this book.” These feelings are scary – and my instinct is to tamp down on them and ignore them. But I know from experience, not acknowledging feelings just encourages them to grow, so here I am doing the opposite – and strangely I feel a bit better already. Its like when the sun comes up, the monsters that freaked you out the night before feel like silly shadows that disappear in the sun’s rays.
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