Most artists are driven both to their craft and their projects. It’s what we do. It’s in our blood, our bones, our brains. Of course, some are more driven than others, bordering on obsession. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I admire people who are consumed by creativity.
One of the writers I’ve always admired, Ray Bradbury, was one of these obsessive types. He has a great book about the craft entitled, “Zen in the Art of Writing.” Like many books on writing, he mingles solid advice and encouragement with autobiographical information. He writes about his beginnings, how he built up his reputation, and his routines. The thing that stuck with me was that he claimed to write one story every week.
I always thought that was either a slight exaggeration or something just beyond obsession. I mean, I can sometimes complete a draft for a short story in a couple of days, depending on what else is going on in my life at the time. But to literally draft, edit, and finalize a story in seven days…that blows my mind.
I’ve tried to squeeze in some writing when I can. I man, yeah, I feel the need to write all the time, but life often gets in the way. I end up writing for thirty minutes here, maybe an hour later on, and if I’m lucky, I get a couple of free hours on the weekend. But also, if I do complete a draft in a couple of days, I need some time away from it – a couple of days to a couple of weeks – so I can revise with fresh eyes.
Bradbury, it seems, was part machine. I don’t know how else he could work like that, keep up that pace. And it’s not just the writing and revising, it’s the ideas. His mind must have been fluttering around like a hummingbird, pulling ideas together on an assembly line. I know that he was an avid reader, which will keep the mind fertile for spawning ideas, but still, to have that much material in your head, to be constantly trying to keep up with it all, to have the energy and passion to keep pushing yourself. Amazing.
Lately, I’ve been trying to push myself harder. In the past week I’ve completed to original short story drafts and I’m about a third of the way through another. I’m pushing myself to see if I can compete with Bradbury’s output. I doubt I’ll be able to maintain it, but I’m going to give it a shot.
I realize that having that level of output is a hit and miss situation. Not every story is going to be a gem. In fact, statistically, at least half of them are going to suck. That’s okay, though. Even the shitty stories have merit. It’s writing practice. These mistakes can also serve as a sort of idea dump…while the stories themselves didn’t turn out, there may be bits and pieces of them that might work in other stories. Creative recycling. It’s good for the planet.
Does anyone else push themselves like this? I’m curious how it works for you.