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Writing under pressure

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I rarely feel the pressure to produce, unless of course someone says "come on, let's write a short story for a Tenth Anniversary challenge."

But given that condition, how should a writer respond? Creative ideas don't pop out of a Pez dispenser or appear in fortune cookies, so where to find them? I have in past years suggested a good author never deletes anything he or she writes because in this day of computer storage that is unnecessary. The cast off tidbits you cut from that story a few years ago might just contain an idea for today.

Another source of ideas can be found in the mood created by various things. Gay writing is inclusive of all the various facets of life in broad society, but there are some gay specific items that ought to be explored. The news is so filled with challenges to gay society I tend to ignore most of that as media hype.

I almost wrote a short story about a gay boy who keeps trying to kill himself and fails every time. Not a funny subject but I just can't write a serious look at gay suicide which is a great problem. The suicide of gay youth is not a topic I can write about, thankfully I haven't. But sadness is a part of the life we all share and that idea led me to develop the short for Mike's Tenth Anniversary. (Yeah, you better get with it out there)

What created the mood for that story? The anniversaries for several young gay deaths: Matthew Shepard, Justin Aauberg...all gone much too young. Thinking about those young men makes me sad and when I am in that mood I like to see others who feel the same:


Some things must be seen to appreciate. This is the classiest act I have seen in a decade. So grab your tissues, wipe your eyes, and get back in the saddle. The April 1st deadline for short stories is coming up fast.

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What used to the best solution for writing under pressure for me in the 1980s and 1990s was payment. If I was facing a deadline and was getting $1 a word from a newsstand magazine, believe me, that article would be done by Monday 9AM even if I had to write 20 hours straight the day before.

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I know this sounds bizarre, but I'm always writing under pressure. It's part of my job. I don't write anything interesting like stories. I write proposals, design specifications, test specifications, delivery and installation documentation, system documentation, user manuals, administration manuals... all of it requires, I believe, the same level of mental activity as writing fiction, the stories I write for pleasure. When I come home each day the last thing I want to do is sit down and write anything. My fingers approach being cramped from using the computer the majority of my working day. My brain wants to relax, all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV and watch something silly like reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" or "Family Matters" or similar. Or read; I like to read as a veg-out activity.

So there are two writing pressures I'm feeling now. Writing technical documents at work, and writing stories for AwesomeDude and Codey's World, the writing I (want to) do for pleasure. I'm not coping with that 'writing for pleasure' part very well right now. I don't have writer's block, I just want to do something else, anything else, when I'm not at work.

There must be others in the AD/CW family of writers who have the same pressures of writing at work and writing for pleasure. How do you cope? I'm looking for ideas about how to get out of this veg-a-matic thing I'm doing when I get home and be able to get back to writing for pleasure after I get back home from work.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I have experienced much of what Colin talks about, before I retired a large part of my life was professional technical writing and I was always writing against a deadline. Don't know if this has impacted on my approach to writing but I tend to find that I am doing my better writing when I am under pressure. Some of my best short stories were written in response to having to produce something for the next weeks Creative Writing session. Sorry, they are not gay themed so will not be appearing here.

One advantage of writing under pressure is that it prevents you from going off on lines of exploration that may well lead no where in the end.

The two major disadvantages are that inspiration does not always strike when you require it for the deadline and you don't have time to explore those interesting ideas. That is why I always keep a notebook at hand where I jot down story ideas and notes about alternative story developments.

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...all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV and watch something silly like reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" or "Family Matters" or similar. Or read; I like to read as a veg-out activity.

... How do you cope? I'm looking for ideas about how to get out of this veg-a-matic thing I'm doing when I get home and be able to get back to writing for pleasure after I get back home from work.

Colin :icon_geek:

Colin's problem is a very real problem that I experienced throughout my pre-retirement professional life. It took me a long time to figure out a solution that worked for me. What I discovered was that it was my living room that led to vegetation: as soon as I got home I let down so fast and so far that all I could do was veg out. I became a very dull guy, and my relationship to my partner took a hit as well.

My solution was to build into my weekly routine brief excursions after work hours, to places new, different, and interesting. I'd do it deliberately and specifically in support of my own personal writing, which meant that I'd take my notebook along and not my partner or a friend. I didn't want these outings to be transformed into buddy or relationship or social experiences--instead, I wanted to find the sort of relaxation and debriefing that would clear my head and give me new things to see and experience. (Luckily, my partner understood what I was going through, and supported it fully. We were both mature enough that we did not need to do everything together, and what we did do together more than made up for those brief solitary outings.)

What I found was that by escaping the blind routine and letdown that followed inevitably from commuting home to work and back to home again, I was able to pull back often enough from drudge mode and remind myself that life was still a process of discovery. I enabled me to write after all else seemed to have failed to reawaken my muse, and I think it improved my outlook enough so that my social self became more interesting to others as well as to myself. I certainly gained more to talk about than my job!

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I am finding this topic more and more useful as we go along. Thanks for all the information that has been presented so far. I too have had these problems, without knowing how to overcome them.

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Guest Dabeagle

I find I don't work well under pressure becasue I have too many distractions, more so than ever. For instance, I have a story in my head for the anniversary - names and all. I know it from start to finish, but I'm too damn busy and tired to be able to sit down and write the damned thing. The last few times there have been story challenges, the old gray cells just refused to fire.

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OK, don't sit down and write the thing. When you're in your car, driving or riding, dictate it into a recording device, or get a word-to- type program and use that. Short trips or long, talk. It'll be done in no time, and you won't have spent any time you should have been doing something else getting it done.

Where there's a will, there's a way.


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I do tend to procrastinate, and one thing about writing for newsstand magazines: the deadline was etched in stone, and if you were late, it'd a) drive your editors crazy, b) screw up all the production deadlines, and c) get you fired. The problem with a phantom deadline for writing on the web is, the deadline is whatever you want it to be. If you have the discipline to stick to a schedule and get a chapter done every week or every month, more power to you.

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