Notes on the spirit of writing
“Not in the mood? Mood’s a thing for cattle and loveplay, not fighting!”
Not in the mood? I’m not in the mood for writing. Yet mood is a thing for cattle and loveplay, not writing. You see, I do not wish to be a dilettante and write only when the mood or the stars dictate. I am a writer, not a dilettante. So I sit in front of this Lenovo Thinkpad screen and tap on its crowded keyboard, hoping that I am making some sort of sense.
Dilettantes rely on moods and favours and are rarely taken seriously. A writer has to show-up and work through the resistance (thanks, Steven Pressfield for the term). A teacher has to show-up and work through the resistance. A warrior has to show-up and work through the resistance. I am a spartan with a keyboard. I wrestle it to the ground with my bare hands and curse it to perdition and beyond because I am a writer.
I once typed an entire manuscript without the d-key on an old black and grey Olivetti manual typewriter that could not keep-up with the blaze of my ninja index fingers. It would mash-up the different keys and jam and demand to be pulled apart before you could continue. I was maybe eleven and the thousandth time that it happened I reached the limit of my patience and I made a warface at the contraption and screamed my warcry: “FUCK!” Parental intervention occurred at that point… the keyboard was rescued from my wrathful glare.
The next morning, I was sitting at it again, wrestling the keys to obey, working against the resistance. Even at eleven I was a writer. A ninja with nouns. A spartan with speech. A warrior with words. I fought the good fight and the lonely fight. A couple of years later I was still at it, writing long-hand stories influenced by Robert Aspirin and Thieves World, my main character wielding a “Bastard Sword,” so I could write that in the story three-hundred times (once for each Spartan at Thermopylae). In the rewrite, teacher intervention coupled with parental oversight forced the switch to “Hand-and-a-Half Sword”, but I had still managed to get the initial use of “Bastard” in three-hundred times to indicate just how much I loved my grade seven teacher.
Puberty was awesome. As a writer, I was expected to include reference to naughtier bits in my writing… and the tagline that won me multiple awards was born: “So I finished…”. In physics class, my thumb-in-cheek pick-up-artist-themed stories went round the class page-by-page while the lecture droned on. At every turn, a writer faces resistance and mine was simply finding time to ink pieces during daylight hours.
When I finished high-school, I was convinced that the only way to be a man was to live Hemingway. I enlisted in the armed forces convinced that I would find the depth for a good story.
I’ve never written about the Forces.
When I resurfaced, fifty-thousand words came out and I wrote my first novel. Complete and utter schlock. I carried it around on floppy disk and quit writing. Confused. Disappointed. Every warrior is overcome eventually. After all, the resistance is always there.
I was twenty-two and the student magazine, The Peak, held an uncivilized writing contest and the editor challenged me to enter. I wrote three pieces and submitted them each under a different name with a different student number for each. I awoke to first, second and third prizes and a pissed-off Peak co-editor. I had out-Peak-ed the Peak.
I started writing again and the ideas flowed like bacon-fat in a fry pan on a blazing fire. I worked the resistance. I had ideas and I crafted scenarios and situations and scenes and played them out. No one read these missives, these exercises against the resistance. The internet was not yet wide-open… but the truth is that I did not feel like the gladiator I was as a child. I feared everything.
And I still believed that a man needed an adventure in his own life to write adventurously. I traveled to Korea and Japan and wrote extensively for my parents to share the experience.
It has been a decade since I returned from Hiroshima, Japan, where I lived on a mountain with rice paddies at the end of the street. I succumbed to the resistance again. Marriage, children, work, adventure, school… all of these things the resistance will twist to distract your heart and will and imagination.
“The sleeper has awakened.”
I write regularly again. I sit-down and force words to appear on the screen. It is faster than when I was a child or a teen or even a twenty-something young adult. The ideas are slower but the words come faster. I recognize that where once I worked with moods, I now rely on discipline.
Moods are for cattle. I wield my weapons whenever I wish, now. I have secret techniques and kata to counter the resistance. I have more weapons to wield against it. Strategy aligns with tactics and words result on this screen. One word trailing the next until I punctuate and finish what I need to say. Resistance overcome one more time.
“The slow blade penetrates the shield.”