I’ll admit it: everything I do, I do it for my fiction. I honor writing as the art with the biggest powers, when considering its effects, and the degree of intimacy, elevation and sometimes “possession” it grants (writing, in its finest hour, becomes invisible, the words stop being “black boxes” with a meaning inside and become something similar to music).
But something must be pointed out: I feel myself comfortable with a European tradition that considers a writer as a humanist, with his writing being a tool to explore the contradictions and dark areas of the human nature. Such a conception is nowadays minority: a writer is usually considered a mere entertainer, a manufacturer of stories. But I always found that point of view very limiting and limited, and I am not interested in it: in fact, telling a story is quite a simple discipline, with fixated structures that are easy to learn, and which can even be generated by a computer. It is easy to tell a story, the point is which story to tell in order to be helpful (Examples: Hemingway writes a novel about the Spanish Civil War because he considers it an important moment, in which the fate of the whole human kind is on stake. Henrik Ibsen writes a play about the unbearable situation of women under the macho domination in his age. The poet Rafael Alberti writes a book of poetry intended to be outrageous, to stir up a dull society that is heading for destruction. It is important to remark that, in order to be considered literature, those books never offer answers, only questions via characters and situations).
In all those cases, the technical skill is at the service of something greater, and more urgent. That’s what makes writing worthwhile in my case, and the kind of passion that commercial bestsellers usually lack.
So, I have a certain gift for words and, logically, I want to be helpful doing what I like. But, just like anything without a straightforward, short-term retribution in our troubled days, good fiction must be protected like a delicate flower (a humanist takes very long to grow). As for me, my flower has been paralyzed for a series of years (which were not idle, because the concept of idleness has no meaning for a real writer: those days when I do not write I feel VERY uncomfortable. But sometimes you just have to wait). Overwhelmed by the growing needs of modern life, I lacked a system because I didn’t think I needed one; prolific a writer as I am, in a way I thought that my garden would take care of itself. But there is a lot of work to do with the pruning, the plague control, the collection cycles…
It was only very short ago that I knew the GTD system. Like I said in many many posts, it was a revolution for me, and, naturally, I tried to apply David Allen’s principles to the creative field. I must say that I have not still succeeded to the fullest extent, maybe because my writing habits are very sporadic, with long periods without action followed by others where everything else must be postponed (yeah, right, I believe in inspiration). I have found very little information on the issue (or at least very little of what I was searching, which I, besides, don’t know exactly what is). One of my main problems is that it is very difficult for me to decide when a text is finished, how many “stages” set in its maturing (here is a comment on a book that is also useful as a checklist for the correction inferno).
Perhaps GTD cannot be applied to artistic activities but to a certain extent. The artistic process, by definition, is free, and random factors have an important role in it. By now, the biggest benefits my writing has obtained from GTD are:
- Saving my life. Exhausted by the “tyranny of urgent”, my writing (as a non-immediate, non-short-term activity) was always a victim of delays; too many fires to extinguish. GTD cleared the mind frame, reduced the complexity of things, and gave me more free space to do what I like (watching TV… hahaha, just kidding).
- Structuring notes. Before having a system (L), my fiction ideas used to pile up in notebooks that I would very rarely re-read. After some GTD gymnastics, it comes natural, as with any scrap of paper, to ask yourself the savior questions: what is this? Does it require an action? Does such action takes less than two minutes?
- Reaffirming my goals. The “democracy” of GTD processing, element-by-element, makes sure I’ll keep an eye on my writing even in the busiest days.
- Fighting procrastination. Writing is a source of energy for a passionate writer, but the hardest thing is always to start. I very usually, when I find a note with an idea for a short story, apply the two minutes rule and write a treatment of the idea, or even a short passage to experiment with the tone, as a “sample” of it. Then you proceed into a phone bill or a reminder that you must renew your driving license in a different mood: the seed has been planted.
Gee, on second thought, GTD has in fact done a lot for my writing already. Who knows, maybe it cannot be taken any further without killing creativity, without putting our inner child into a uniform. What do you think, creative people out there? What’s your system to move ahead? How can you tell when a piece is “done”?