Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

Writing is Easy. Writing is Hard.


Anyone who’s a writer of any kind knows the magic: when the words flow, fly off your fingertips onto the paper or the screen, where you’re so in tune with the work you’re doing that thousands and thousands of words arrange themselves neatly and it feels like no effort was expended. We walk away from it thinking what a great day’s work that was, how much we love being writers, how we’ve found our niche, how we know with surety we’re doing the right thing.

Then there’s the flip side: those days when every word is a struggle, when we’re tapped out. No ideas flow. All the dialogue sounds forced. Descriptions are trite. We steal from ourselves because we don’t even have the creativity to steal from someone else and pretend we’re not. We rebel. Our characters hate us. We blame the distractions of the internet. We blame the book we were reading. We blame the dog next door, the one that won’t stop barking. We blame the baby who won’t nap or the dishes that need putting away or the noise from the television.

It’s my supposition that we need those flip side days to balance out the magical writing days. I try not to get angry at myself when I’ve had one of those days or weeks or months because in all honestly, I’m not creative 100% of the time and to expect myself to be so is unfair. I write, but I do other things too and sometimes those other things require all my focus. I can say they sap my creativity and sometimes they do, but in the moment they’re more important than the writing.

I went through a phase last fall where for a couple months solid I wrote at least 2000 words of fiction every day. Not all those words ended up making it into the story, but it felt great. It made me feel unstoppable, and as so often happens, one idea generated another and another and I thought I would never run out of words. I guess I haven’t run out of them yet. Some viable characters were created, some of whom have taken on lives of their own beyond the boundaries of that story. When I think of writing sequels I get so excited: those stories are like writing fanfiction about my own characters, where I get to fill in the missing pieces and continue their tales. Entire universes live in my head, and in the head of everyone writing fiction. Those worlds play by our rules.

My profile says I write a little, and dream in character. That’s not entirely accurate. I also daydream in character. I write from the school of method-acting, where I like to inhabit my characters as much as is possible while I’m telling their stories. Of course I can’t do all the things they can do or go all the places they go, but writing for me is about the closest I get to lucid dreaming. It’s fun, it’s fascinating, and I get to do things through writing that I never get to do on this side of the page. So yes, even though there are long stretches for me when the writing doesn’t flow and doesn’t come easily, I don’t mind so very much because I know about the rewards of the magical side.

All of this goes in a circle. When I can’t write, I edit. When I can’t edit, I read. When I can’t read, I write. For my money, it’s a great way to spend my time.

Author: G.L. Jackson

Writer, reader, amateur photographer. Mostly, I just like pretending to be a different person each day of the week.

2 thoughts on “Writing is Easy. Writing is Hard.

  1. I am so like this: uptime, downtime in everything I do. And yet, I find it’s worth it if I ride the flow. My productivity soars if I just realize that the downtime, uptime is my flow and it’s okay to have to listlessly write nothing from time to time, read instead, fill the well, do something without words at all. It’s okay because it works and it’s like those snakes that eat each other’s tails and represent infinity.

    When the fires in Black Forest hit (my own backyward, essentially), it was such a slam in the gut for me, I couldn’t write, and then when I finally could it was just fanfic, finishing pieces. I still don’t feel back up to hitting original. I get it when my mind shorts out and says, this well here is dry, chica. It’s hard, but the ebb is part of the flow.

    So yeah, thanks for writing this.


    • Once I gave myself the freedom to not have to write every day, I felt a lot better about things. I’ve read a lot about writing process from different authors, and so many of them talk about establishing a routine and writing every day, whether or not you like the words that come out. I’ve come to realize that all of it is valid, all of it is part of the process, and that for me at least it’s not a requirement that I write a certain amount every day. I know I have those phases where it happens.

      I said over in LJ that I look at the downtime not as time that isn’t constructive, but rather as time to let my creative batteries recharge. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      Another thing i know about myself is that when I’m ruminating on something new, most of the creative process takes place right in my head. I have to give it time to settle out, time for the characters to start making sense, and that’s the way it’s always worked for me. I don’t need to stretch to conform to someone else’s idea of the proper way to be a writer. I have my own. Apparently I’m not the only one who works this way!

      Also, let me say how glad I am (and you know why) to hear that ebb and flow description. Writing is like the ocean. The tides (words) roll in, the tides (words) roll out. Everything in life ebbs and flows. If it was always constant, it would be… stagnant or worse. So here’s to in and out, up and down, back and forth.


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