I haven’t written a piece for a long time because I’ve got out of the rhythm. There are a lot of links between music and writing and one of the strongest is a sense of rhythm. Rhythm of working and rhythm of reading. Writing and music are temporal arts, they use time as one of their tools and time needs a beat. To make that tension, to make that roll, you’ve got to have a routine to work to. When it breaks and you lose the rhythm all that’s left is a scary, shiny white silence and nothing comes out at all.
There’s a myth out there that writers, artists and musicians are crazy, mad people who have wild parties and stay up all night with a whiskey bottle at their elbow. Many of them do let loose a little when they’ve escaped the harness and they’re not working but that’s when they’re off duty. Writing (which is the one I know about) demands discipline. You can’t write a novel without a real rhythm of sober work. You’ve got to get into the rut and stay there day after day after day until you’ve written 80,000, 100,000, 130,000 words. And when that’s all done you’ve got to work out what’s wrong, build up your characters, fill in your research and write the whole damm thing again for your second draft, and again for your third and your fourth. You have to hold the complete tune in your head. You have to build the arc of your story in time sentence by sentence, month after month. And you can’t get away with just making it shorter. It doesn’t work like that. The shorter the work the tighter the rhythm. It’s one of the reasons I can’t write poetry, I haven’t got enough beat in me.
Lately, for me there’s been too much stuff getting in the way; in my head and in my life, and my story has broken up into discordant parts and random phrases but I’ve done too much to let it lie. I know I need to work at it hard and sit down every day until the whole thing begins to sing together and I get the rhythm again.