Admittedly, the one I thing I’ve missed the most during the past few months when I started at my new job is being able to read as much as I used to. Between commuting to work (which luckily enough in my case is under an hour), spending eight hours there, attending to issues at home, spending time with the family, taking a little bit of time for myself (it doesn’t include reading or writing), and of course editing/writing, there’s hardly any time left to read during weekdays. To be honest, there’s hardly enough time to write. I have an app on my phone, a simple counter, where I’ve added the number of books I’ve read per year. I’m not a fast reader, but the average was 20-22 books. Now? It’s October and I just reached double digits. Yeap, it’s shameful.
What makes it worse is that what I’m reading is actually very interesting (rejoice sci-fi fans – it’s The Expanse series).
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my betas gave me their feedback on my latest cyberpunk novel (still not in shape for your eyes, I’m afraid). In their notes, one point stood out more than others: some scenes were repetitive.
I wasn’t prepared for this. But they were right, as always.
Last week, I started revising based on my betas’ feedback. Start with the big issues, I said to myself, move on to the smaller ones (like my innumerable typos, which caused my spell checker to crush – don’t laugh, because that’s what happens when you write sci-fi and you invent words, names, and terms). Bigger issues meant tackling those pesky repetitive scenes. By creating new ones.
So there I was, back on my ancient PC (thank you autumn for remembering to visit Greece and for allowing me to turn my PC on once more), trying to come up with a couple new scenes. And…
Seriously, nothing. If you want to know the truth it scared the $h!t out of me. Why couldn’t I write? My intention was to change the chase and escape scenes, since most of the betas comments about repetitive scenes was about them. It shouldn’t have been too hard, since the betas didn’t have a problem with the plot per se, which meant the beginning and the ending of those scenes were set. All I had to do was change the setting and I’d have a basic draft to work with. On the other hand, escape and chase scenes don’t offer much in terms of variety. Something bad happens, the hero has to run for his/her life, and either makes it or not. The only thing that can limit a writer is the world the writer has created for the hero. In other words, you can’t have a dragon saving the hero if you’ve created a hard sci-fi cyberpunk story and you haven’t included dragons in the first place. It took me two days to come up with an inkling of an idea. Which, of course, in the end created a plot hole.
Did I exhaust my storytelling skill after two books? Did the pool of ideas writers supposedly have dry out after two novels, a dozen short stories and poems, and a few hundred thousand written words?
No. well, I don’t think so, anyway.
What was the reason? I believe it was because I hadn’t been reading enough. I hadn’t had enough mental stimulation these past few months, even though I managed to save a couple of hours during the weekends for reading. It just wasn’t enough. Add to all this that I haven’t read a good cyberpunk novel for a long time to get inspired, you can see why there was a problem in my inspiration and idea reservoir.
Not to mention the creativity leech.
So, dear readers, fellow writers and other creative people, the answer to such problems is immerse yourself in the work of others. Learn from them, make them part of you, take them apart, study the way others created their stories, their songs, their painting, and recreate something unique, something that could have only been done by you. Allow the creator to transport you to new and wonderful places. Let the ideas of others inspire you. If you want to write, then you have to read a lot. I imagine the same principle applies to all other forms of art.
For the record, after I managed to tap into my inspiration pool, I wrote 2000 in three days. It’s not a lot, if you consider that I used to write 2000 words a day when I had the whole day to myself and nothing else but writing and reading to do, but it feels good nonetheless.