Use It or Lose It

Use it or Lose itLast week, I talked about my obsession with writing. I mentioned how I’d awakened that morning with the next scene of The Ageless already in mind but didn’t have time to write. Turns out this is the perfect example the phenomenon known as “use it or lose it.”

Now, if you’ve ever waited around for inspiration to strike, you know that the Muse is stingy. Usually, it’s better to go ahead and write, with or without being in the mood. But the reverse is not true. I had inspiration that morning, but I waited to write. And it bit me in the rear.That evening, I got home, and sure, I wrote over 2,300 words. But were they good words?

The scene starts with a different viewpoint character watching, then participating in, a small battle or skirmish. My two storylines—which up to this point were separate—converged. Writing the beginning of the scene turned out to be easy even though I really, really wanted to just tell it and go back and dramatize it later. But then I got to the part I’d been so inspired over earlier in the day and hit a brick wall.

Inspiration was gone. Everything I wrote felt stiff, off. I flailed, looked at my original outline, and tried to write from my notes. But that just made it worse. Robotic.

Part of the problem was that I kept trying to remember everything that had seemed so awesome earlier that morning when I’d felt inspired. What was that little piece of dialog? Who did what before he said that? And it just devolved into characters acting unlike themselves, not speaking the way they normally would, and so on.

Now, in the past I would’ve let that throw off my stride. And it would’ve been a horrible roadblock, stopping up both of my storylines, now that they’ve finally converged. (Previously, if I hit a wall on one, I’d just write on the other til I figured out what to do.)

Tonight, however, I went back and read that first part of the scene, the part where the writing was still mostly flowing (for a first draft). I completely ignored the rest and started writing as if the stiff, robotic writing never existed. I moved that 970-word chunk out of sight, and wrote over 1,200 words in its place.

Over 1,200 good words, I think. At least they felt much more right. There are still some details I’d like to harvest from the 970-word chunk, and I won’t delete it in any case. It’ll sit in a separate file in case I need a pep talk sometime.

So, that’s my writing tip of the day—use it or lose it! Don’t wait for inspiration to strike, but when it does, use it!

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