Well, I finally finished "Redemption" today. I have enough ideas left over that I could create another book as part of that series, but I don't think I'll do that anytime soon. I'm going to change genres for a little while. As I mentioned, I'm torn between picking up my horror novel, my steampunk novel, or starting my changeling novel. I guess I'll have to sleep on it.
I've been talking to my other writer friends and it's made me introspective about writing and why I do it, and why other writers do it. It's also made me think on the dangers of being a writer. So, I think I'll say a few words on my thoughts today.
I've noticed over the past few years that writing can be as great a pleasure or a burden as we tend to make it. It can either detract from life or add to it greatly. It can be an activity that causes stress or causes no stress at all, depending on how harshly we police ourselves. When I started out as a writer, I was very hard on myself, refusing to be satisfied until I had written a certain number of pages per day, etc. I quickly found out, however, that writing like that usually wasn't nearly as good as the writing I did when I felt inspired to do it. Also, it left me no time to edit as I went along, thus making me practically rewrite the entire piece by the time I was finished. Now, when I write, I write only when I feel like doing it. If that means taking a day off or even a month, I do it. Not only am I less stressed out, but it also makes me feel like my life is balanced and when I write I can focus on it entirely. I also write one or a few chapters at a time, and re-read the section two or three times and edit it after I finish for the day. This cuts down on long editing and helps me remember what I was working on the next day.
I've also noticed, for me at least, writing is a great form of escapism. My life in general is pretty boring. I work hard to keep my house clean, but I tend to get stuck doing the same thing day after day. My writing often gets pushed to the side in favor of keeping a clean house, visiting friends or family, or even just to play a video game. So, I find myself writing at odd times. While it might seem like a bad thing, I've found that even small thins like having a clean house help me write when I get to it. The danger, for me, is when I put writing above real life. I've done that before, and you always regret it later. I've had friends over before and found myself inspired and instead of talking, I end up writing. I do not recommend this because not only does it make you seem uncaring, but later you start wondering what you've missed out on, and then before you turn around, you're closing in on age thirty...
To cut down on this I don't allow myself to take my laptop with me on special occasions like visiting friends or family so that I won't obsess over it. I still am sometimes obsessive, over a story, but generally speaking if you aren't actually writing on it, you can eventually get it off of your mind. I do still write on vacations, just not one day getaways. It keeps things in perspective.
Obsessing over writing is also a danger. When I get into the middle of a story, I often find myself daydreaming from the point of view of the various characters. The idea that one can get so invested in an imaginary life is a little scary, and yet, it is very interesting and fun. I realized long ago that writing is just another way of playing pretend, only you do it in the form of a story you control entirely. (I say that, though the story tends to write itself and sometimes you find the characters do something you didn't expect...but I digress.) The point is, I've often wondered if I was in the middle of a project I'm obsessing over if I get hit in the head and have amnesia, will I wake up as me or remember the "memories" of the character? Doing anything to the point it consumes you is unhealthy.
I guess a good summary of what I'm trying to say is moderation is good in all things. Writing is addictive and fun, but we sometimes should step back and remember that we only live once. It's always best to put our writing aside for God, family, and friends. Otherwise, what are we doing but intellectually masturbating? (I know that phrase is slightly vulgar, but I think it describes writers very well at times.)
So, the challenge I give to you writers today is to go outside and do something fun that isn't writing. Call a friend you've been missing or play a video game. I know everyone enjoys writing differently, but I'm just telling you what works for me, and am noticing that as you grow as a writer and a person, how you handle it tends to change. Ask me about this again in another ten years, and I'm sure my perspective will have also grown with me as well.