The Allure of Making Magic

At the start of August, I had a long list of writing goals. After the first few days of the month, I realised I needed to get back to reading properly too, so I added a goal of reading five books to that list. I completed four books in the month, which is a great deal considering how shitty this year has been reading-wise, but I’m as close to meeting the writing goals as the Nigerian president is to fulfilling his campaign promises.

In spite of how difficult writing can be, I’ve always thought I could get a lot done by simply shutting out everything else, and spending a lot of time behind my desk. That myth was debunked last month. I spent one of the weekends in the month entirely indoors, not picking calls, only texting at night, and yet, all I could produce were two paragraphs. I don’t know why my muse had to do me like that and leave me to despair about my ability to construct sentences.

One of the things I learnt in those dry days is that once you make magic, or something that looks like it, there’s a temptation to want to always create at that level. Every thing that passes through your head is refracted though the prism of that singular spectacular creation, which was just a gift. If you’re lucky, you learn to return to working on the pedestrian stuff—basic sentences, competent paragraphs, failed stories—and hope someday you’ll find that magic again.

After that barren two-paragraph weekend, I added about three thousand words to what I was working on. I know I’ll eventually throw out a bulk of that when I start rewriting, but I had more joy writing those shitty three thousand words than I did trying to conjure two perfect paragraphs throughout the weekend.

And I should know better: perfect sentences only come once in a while, and a lot of them eventually prove to be illusions, because months later, that perfect sentence reveals itself to be bogged down by a weak adjective that I’m tempted to edit out of the piece. Then I lean back on my seat and wonder about the many other lies people have been sharing behind my back if they can’t even tell me sentences I’ve been preening myself on are quite trash. I hover my hands above the delete button, then wonder again if that doesn’t make me a coward who isn’t comfortable with his imperfect past. I take the hands away, and go back to read more old posts. I see more errors, and the anxiety escalates.

That temptation to go back and touch up what once seemed perfect in my eyes but is now imperfect is why I’ve toyed a lot this year with the idea of shutting down my blog. I’ll probably do it at the end of the year, but before that, I want to push myself and resist that silly perfectionism that isn’t quite achievable given how clumsy I get. So, starting today, I’ll post an essay every week till the year ends; even if that essay is just a word, a compilation of Youtube cat videos, or a comment on a story I read online. I’ll try to stick to a schedule for once and see where it takes me. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll find magic once again.

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PS: Rosa Lyster already did this for a whole year, so I’m using her as inspiration for the coming months.

PPS: Please check out this story series on Timi’s blog (another consistent weekly blog) that I’m contributing to. It’s a quite interesting, but if you don’t like it, just come back, tell me, and I’ll owe you one story. Deal? 🙂

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Featured image via Flickr by Ivesone.com

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19 thoughts on “The Allure of Making Magic

  1. Your vulnerability is endearing.
    I’ve heard that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. When it comes to writing I’ve followed this saying: just start and inspiration will find you.

    The discipline to start and finish is one creatives have to learn, perfect sentences or not. To be satisfied that in that moment, at that time, you gave the best you had to offer, even if overall it isn’t your best work.

    I think your decision to be consiste

    1. Oh oh didn’t quite finish …

      I think your decision and follow through to be consistent will be the ‘magic’ that eluded you. 🙂

      Ife, thanks again for being part of the series on my blog. Working with you is one of the enjoyable things I’ve done this season.

  2. Whether in art, writing, dance or any creative endeavor, perseverance is the most important talent.
    Writing imperfectly is like priming a pump on a well. Lot’s of work with no immediate results, until water comes gushing out. Please don’t stop blogging. You are one of my favorites.

    1. .”Writing imperfectly is like priming a pump on a well.” One of the few good metaphors I’ve heard for writing. Thank you Eileen. Means a lot to hear I’m one of your favourites.a

  3. I think it takes longer for me to see the imperfection of my writing. I guess i just get disgusted after three months and never see it again. I don’t ever delete because it was kind of difficult writing it, trash or not.
    Yes to essays every week

    1. I think we get to that place of disgust at our own pace, but the feeling looks quite universal enough, if my tiny circle can be called a universe. Difficult trash is just a pain to look at. Always need to rid myself of it.

  4. Yes to what Timi said “I think your decision and follow through to be consistent will be the ‘magic’ that eluded you.”
    & This post summarises my own relationship with my blog and with almost everything else I have written (and not written too! because it just takes a lot of ‘magic’ that I don’t have yet, to actually go to work.)
    Looking forward to seeing your weekly essays!

    1. Your relationship with your blog is one that needs an expert, a counsellor of some sorts, to bring back the love so we can see more of the stuff you like to hide. As for magic, you already said Yes to what Timi said, so I hope that counts for something.

  5. Politicians lie everyday and people still see them as role model and will do everything to keep them in power, that’s a sham. You inspires so many of us through this blog and no matter how crappy we write, we keep holding on hoping to get where you are and more, that’s noble. Now to think that you could speak in this downtune manner about the same post we take our clue, inspiration and reason to write from is disparaging and discouraging. So I am not happy about ur decision to even consider quitting but who am I to say otherwise but think of the many persons you will be doing a huge disservice if you finally pull this blog down..think, think and think, my brother I say think and make had that decision right

  6. Yes. This is one revealing post that matches events around me lately.
    Riding on the reputation of two of my best short stories ever, I got invited to a writing contest and now, one of the organisers tagged my story a “struggle doodle.”
    Now, I’m about to write another story for the contest and I’m wondering how to recover that ‘magic’. The contest’s on Facebook. Here’s a link: https://mobile.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1269409493069178&id=100000004198526&comment_id=1270130946330366&_rdr#1270130946330366
    Thanks for this post. It resonates deeply with me.

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