Posted in Writing

Input versus Output

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

November is traditionally a month of me trying to sit down and write some more. This is mostly because of Nanowrimo, which I’ve attempted half a dozen times — always unsuccessfully. This month I’m instead trying to publish a blog post every day (and not doing that well so far).

Last week a very clever writer friend mentioned that she works to balance her input and output, so that she spends roughly the same amount of time reading and watching and taking creative works in as she does writing and making things, a very broad definition of creative output.

This is a brilliant idea, but so hard to do! I’ve been thinking about it every day now, making note of when and how I take things in. I’m not embarrassed about my inputs; as social media has gone to the dogs, I’ve been careful to make sure what I read is of good quality. I read the New York Times every morning, with occasional flips through the Wall Street Journal or the Financial TImes (thank you to my workplace for offering me free access). I have carefully curated Feedly content that include blogs and reviews of books, some relating to financial inclusion (my work), the obituaries from major news sources (love them), cooking and nutrition blogs, and feeds on motorcycling and art. Even my Instagram is pretty good these days. I stopped following people I knew who posted lopsided political commentary and filled my feed with wild swimmers from around the world, my favorite authors and artists, and lots of outdoor enthusiasts. When I look at Instagram, it makes me want to go do things.

That said, I have been in a creative rut. I’ve stopped working on my sketchbook (I’m blaming the fact that all of my exchanges are in other people’s hands right now, but that’s only an excuse), and have only had little fits and starts of art projects (I was so excited to start a little zine on surviving winter, and got so far as to bind a custom sketchbook and gather a long list of ideas on what to include, but I fizzled out then). I’ve written very little, although this post is part of a month-long attempt to kickstart that, and I continue to read way less than usual this year. Why is that?

One thing I’ve noticed is that as soon as I get up and have my coffee, I reach for my iPad. It’s so easy to use to read the news in between playing with the dogs and staring out my back window at the birds. But it’s a machine that I use almost exclusively as input. It’s not comfortable for writing more than a sentence or two at a time. It got me thinking seriously about buying one of these crazy devices — a single-use device that only allows you to write/type. Very little room for editing and no browsing the internet or texting your friends. Too bad the Amazon reviews were horrendous.

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