Written by Eki Akhwan
I know I have this resolution to keep: writing at least 450 words per day for a full 365 days. I know I have not always been able to keep up to the challenge. But I keep trying, and have not considered myself failed. The average length of my posts is still close to or about 450 words per day — if this can be a convenient excuse. 🙂
How difficult is it to write 450 words everyday?
It’s pretty easy actually, that is if number of words is the only measure. I can talk just about anything — this is a personal blog and a personal project, anyway. There is nobody out there who can tell me what to write and what not.
But sometimes things other than words themselves can get in the way — especially if I want my writing to be good and worth reading. And by this, I don’t mean the lack of ideas or the mechanics of writing. Ideas are — and can be found in — everyday things; and writing mechanics is an area I am sure I am quite comfortable with. I don’t have any problems with syntax, paragraphing, or the many ‘punctuation-ary’ screws and bolts that can help me shape them nicely. Achieving coherence is not a problem either. Thanks to long years of experiences working with languages (as a language teacher and a translator), I have quite a developed sense of how language works and how texts are constructed.
So, what are these other things then?
At the top of the list is inhibition. Sometimes the idea is there, and I have more or less a clear vision about how to write it, that is, until I — or some nosy character behind my head — begin to question and criticize what I am doing. Hey, what are you writing that for? Don’t you think it’s too cliche, too shallow? How can a man of your stature write something like that? What would they think of you? Your students can write it better than you do. Blah, blah, blah … Blah, blah, blah … Things can get hard from there — sometimes to the point where I have to abandon the idea and the efforts I have been making in giving it a verbal structure all together.
Inhibition makes me overly conscious. It has me doubting every move I make. It chokes the flow of ideas, of words from my brain to my fingers. It clouds and cripples my decision making ability — my judgement — about what feels good, what shapes I want to draw with my words, about which elements I should put together and with what implements. It turns me into somebody I am not. It kills what some accomplished writers call ‘my voice’. It is, I believe, what’s lurking beneath the phenomenon that we conveniently call ‘writer’s block’.
Inhibition is indeed hard for an aspiring writer, and perhaps an area of writing skills that is most ignored in many writing courses. I think this is also an area where I should put more efforts in conquering if I want to become a productive writer and a writer with a unique voice of my own.
Next, after inhibition, comes what I’d call ‘time-intensity’ — that is a block of time that I can entirely devote to what I am writing. This may sound like an obvious thing that needs no special mention. But for a person who doesn’t make a living form writing — and has yet to make it a viable profession — setting a block of time where he can completely free himself from other concerns can be quite a challenge.
Most time, I can schedule the sitting and writing time, but I can’t always free my mind from other thoughts and concerns. Out of the sense of priority, I still often feel quite guilty about devoting an exclusive block of time to doing something that has no immediate consequences with my job and my source of income. This kind of guilt somehow reduces the intensity of my devotion, both in terms of time and the seriousness of my efforts. Writing is a time-intensive effort. Without it, no good piece of composition will ever be made.
The third thing that I often find challenging about writing is research. I read quite extensively and in general have quite a good knowledge base that I can use to launch and sustain my writing plan. But as any good writers know, general knowledge alone is not enough to produce a compelling composition. There are details that can only be worked out through meticulous research and check and recheck. Without them, a piece of writing can only be an exercise of rhetoric, a play of words, a skeletal opinion or fiction without much life and conviction or believability in it. And research — just like writing itself — is not a part-time job. It takes time and meticulous devotion to the subject at hand to be able to find and bring up the best textures and tastes about it.
There are of course other things that can be a hindrance to my commitment. They are, however, relatively minor compared to the ones I mentioned above.