Scalzi tweeted back at someone for criticizing him. He’d complained before about how writing during trying times sucked and someone essentially told him to get his act together and quit whining or whatever. Scalzi basically outlined how creating under bad circumstances robs an artist of their productivity and all creators regret having “lost brain cycles”
Damn that wonderful man. That’s exactly how I feel about it too.
I’ve got to study. I’ve got to occasionally do work. I’ve got to pay bills, go shopping, make food, clean up, do laundry, spend time fixing the kids’ problems and occasionally fix a problem or two of my own. All of that is time I could use to create. to write.
Obviously there’s times one must work and times one must play and sometimes there’s time to create- it’s not all about just creating. But when times are hard, it’s not just about time on your watch, it’s about energy, creative juices, inspiration and feeling well enough to even try. Because (and this becomes more true as you get older) you absolutely must give your body and brain down time. Even if all I did during the day was fret over bills, that was still stressful and upsetting and now I need “off time” – except now I’ve got to go to the grocery store and get food. Which is more stress; figuring out what I can afford and what is appropriate and what will stretch my dollar etc
After a few days of this kind of thing, there’s not much left in me for creating.
People say “just sit down and do it!” and I wish it were that simple. The last time I sat down with every intention of working on my writing, I got maybe a paragraph done before I realized I was falling asleep. The time before that I sat for 40 minutes and wrote perhaps one sentence, because my mind kept wandering away. Another time I re-read the same two sentences twenty times before I gave up being able to even understand what I’d previously wrote.
Duress is normal, sure. Creators can create under duress, sure. But we need basic survival things out of the way in order for creativity to continue. (This is why Patreon exists)
I wish I could create a fund for myself that made it so I didn’t have to fret over money, not clean houses and maybe even hire someone to do some of my basic errands once in a while. Or maybe just rent a cabin for a week. So I could focus on nothing but writing for a whole week. I wonder how much I could get done? I wouldn’t even have to worry about what time I slept or woke up. I’d get up when *I* felt rested and then after a few cups of coffee and sitting on the porch swing looking at trees, I’d get up and start writing. And knowing me, I’d write all day without even realizing what time it was. And I’d start yawning and find out I’d written into the night, I’d made quick food for myself and eaten while still writing. I’d fall asleep on the couch while thinking of my next chapter. I’d not want to stop until I felt finished.
It would be glorious.
But that’s not the kind of thing you can do when you’re still worried about how you’re going to keep the electricity from being shut off or whether you’re going to pass that next exam. In fact you’re probably going to fail in school which means you’ll never get a decent career which means you’ll never have enough money to even think about escaping this cycle of poverty; you’ll always and forever be fretting about bills, time and energy until you DIE and those wonderful stories trapped inside will never be shared.
JK Rowling, you say? May I remind you that she went through everything I’m talking about in the seven years it took her to write the very first Harry Potter book. Think about how much she could have gotten done without all that? Once she was on a decent track to financial non-duress, she didn’t have to take seven years to write the next book.
That’s what I’m talking about.
So support your favorite writer. Even if they aren’t writing anything right now.