Sustenance for the Road

Sometimes even the best of us get a little weary and start wondering why we bothered to set out on the great writing adventure in the first place.  Especially when we could be curled up on the couch reading someone else’s book.

The truth is – it’s hard to scrape out writing time when you have a whole lot of real life to attend to.  For me it’s either late nights, gritty-eyed in front of my laptop, or early starts that never seem to be early enough.  The disheartening thing is, if I have a great writing night I’m more often than not exhausted the next day.

So why do it?

Well it’s what I’ve got right now, so I just have to make the best of it.  And that means finding a way to keep myself motivated when it feels too hard.  It’s about digging deep and pulling out the things that keep me going when I’d rather just chuck it all in.  So in the spirit of sharing – these are some of the things that get me through:

1. Magical Elvish Elixir.

Okay, so I don’t really have any, but I love the sentiment.  In the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship get hit by a snowstorm that threatens to destroy them.  They are cold, disheartened and at risk of failing fairly early in their quest.  But Gandalf has some miruvor – a cordial with magical properties:

As soon as Frodo had swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a new strength of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs.  The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigour.”

Sounds good doesn’t it!  Now I’m not suggesting you look for this in a bottle either, but we can all seek out those things that lift our spirits and rouse us to keep going.

2. A Reliable Travelling Companion.

Preferably someone walking the same path as you.  The single biggest blessing in my writing life, is my writing group.  Those girls get it and they get me.  Warts and all.  Where would Frodo be without Samwise?  Or the rest of the Fellowship for that matter?  And don’t tell me Luke Skywalker would have been anywhere near as endearing without Han or Leia.  As the good book says: “As iron sharpens iron…”

3. The Inn at the Crossroads.

You can tell I am a fantasy writer huh?   Metaphorically speaking this is the place where people on the road come together and catch up on what’s going on out there.  It’s a pit stop, and a chance to have a hearty meal and share a story, before everyone heads off to wherever it is their journey takes them.  That’s how I think of the online writing community anyway.  We make connections with people we don’t really know, but those encounters can be encouraging, and uplifting, and a reminder that we aren’t alone.

4. A Decent Map.

You need to know where you’re going.  I once drew the worst map in the world for my WIP.  I wish I could find it, because I would put it on this blog and let you have a laugh.  It was essentially an oval with a few place names scribbled on it, squiggles for mountains and a river I’d redrawn about 3 times so it looked like the Kingdom was flooded.  My friend who was warned it was bad, was literally lost for words. She stood there looking at that piece of paper with wide, disbelieving eyes (note to self: when book is finished pay someone else to do the map).  But my point is, if you know where you want to go, you are more likely to remember why the pain is worth it.  Write down clear directions, keep it somewhere safe, and get it out when you need to stay on course.

5. A good belly laugh.

Some days you just need the LOL cats.  Or the Big Bang Theory.  Or some weird link you saw on twitter that you followed down the rabbit hole.  Today I read The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam – by David Parker on E. M. Castellan’s blog, which really tickled my fancy.  It has 75 questions for the fantasy writer, to see if your story has crossed over into genre-cliche-land.  Who knew there were so many stereotypes, or that I could relate?  For example:

55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?

61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?

65. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?

There are plenty of others which are a bit too close for comfort… If you can still laugh at yourself, (and at your genre if needs must), then hopefully you can keep the rest in perspective too.

6. A Dragon’s Hoard of Treasure.

Well if you’re going to store up treasure you may as well think big!  When times get tough we all need something to fall back on.  So squirrel away things that encourage you.  Your first positive critique.  A favourite tweet.  A book that changed your life.  A song.  A scripture.  A poem.  Whatever you need to remind you why you write.  And when your tank is empty, take them out and find fuel to keep going.

I am writing a story that will require my characters to come to grips with a world being turned on its head.  And they will all, one way or another, face something life-changing and bigger than they could imagine.  If they can keep going in the face of that, then the least I can do is write another day.

What encourages you to keep going?  What do you have packed in your bag of survival tricks?


2 thoughts on “Sustenance for the Road

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