Blood for the Machine (or) An Exercise In Daily Content

In the dark, there’s a yowling. Ideas clawing about, demanding some kind of form, always at the edges, never well seen.

I’ve been having trouble writing almost from the moment I discovered the joys of the process. I enjoy using text to create form, but I too often find the task to be impossible.

There’s always an excuse. Always something that needs to be just right before I can create. These things can be anything, from a distraction easily provided with a wifi connection, or a sense of unease with my surroundings.

“If only I had things organized just right,” I cajole, “Maybe these papers over here, these words in this journal, these colour coded pens to give structure. Then it will be easy. Then I’ll be able to write.”

This has not proven to be true.

I know there’s only myself to blame. There’s not a single person stopping me from writing but myself. I’m the person who will choose to watch something instead or let the organization of a bookshelf take precedence over sitting down and typing words.

And once I’m going, there’s the constant muttering, under my breath or locked in my head.

“You’re terrible at this,” an audible whisper, “Delete that. Delete all of it. No one wants this. No one cares.”

Each paragraph becomes a bargain.

Maybe I leave it for now and come back to it later. Maybe I just jettison the whole thing. Maybe I just throw the computer. Throw it so I can stop looking at this absolute garbage.

Because obviously, this is happening now, too.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. And for as long as I can remember, I have never been a writer. I came close for a few years when my pal James and I were doing Comics! The Blog on a daily basis, but that all went away in dribs and drabs. The site stopped being a place for our voices and started becoming part of the yowling maw. Ideas screaming for release, all at the edges, formless and waiting and expecting.

Writing for it, and writing in general became somewhat of a burden, and writing was… is… supposed to be something that brings me joy and release.

So I stopped. And I’ve never been back to that place.

I want to change that.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I have never been a writer.

I’ll find any excuse not to be one, despite the catharsis and joy it brings me.

I get mired in the self hatred and delete whole swaths of work because I can’t get any of it it sit properly. I get frustrated, and stop writing and just leave everything to howl in the darkness. I need to stop doing that.

I need to write, because I love to write. I need to learn to ignore my impulse to set fire to hours upon hours of work, because you have to something through to an end before you can claim to be giving form to the work.

I’ve allowed myself to frame the process of writing as a burden while I’m in the midst of it all, instead of recognizing the ways it adds to my life. So today, I’m starting something to help myself. A process I’m calling Blood for the Machine.

The idea is that, every day, I will sit down and write something. I’ll give myself some expectations and limitations, and I will allow myself to be imperfect. I will get the words out, and that will be helpful.

I will take back this thing that I enjoy, and give myself permission to indulge what I see are all of my writing flaws as I fill the machine with blood so it can work once more.

I will make the machine run, and I will make it hungry for more. I’ll build it bigger, build it better. Something to be proud of. And I’m going to start with something that I’m not.

This piece? It isn’t good. It hang together, doesn’t have a good flow, doesn’t sit, doesn’t whatever. It isn’t a thing. But the machine is being fed, and honestly? As bad as my writing is today, in this moment, I know this is just the start of something. I know that tomorrow – at least in a general sense – will be better because of what I put out today.

Blood for the Machine. Something placed on this website every weekday outside of holidays. An exercise in building a contraption that might help build things I’m actually proud of, reframing a thing that I love that I turned into a burden.

This is when it starts.

1 Comment

  1. I’m going to vent my spleen a little and some of it may land for you or it may not. As a writer talking about writing it does take the form of advice, which I always hate receiving unsolicited, but it is only that in a very broad and vague sense.

    Like you, my desire to ply my trade with words has led me to project after project, in search of… (recognition? Gratification? Something to do?) As you may know I have spent the last 3.5 years reading through Uncanny X-Men and writing about it – one of my longest-running projects and arguably one of the most pointless, considering how 1200 other people do the same thing, how hard it is to scare up attention, and how relatively time-intensive it tends to be.

    But I enjoy it. So despite not-infrequent times when life gets too heavy to find time to work on it, I always seem to come back to it.

    I don’t run my own business or even co-run one with my wife so I can only imagine how much more draining that is than just working a regular 9-5. But I *do* get being drained and having no time to do things you like.

    At the beginning of Covid, I found myself managing to carve out about 2-3 hours every Saturday and Sunday morning to do whatever I liked. Usually writing, which may have meant the blog or one of my other creative projects. Prior to that, the rhythm of life simply did not allow for me to take this chunk of time for myself. Now, knowing when my next dedicated writing session would be, I was able to stop feelig anxious about when was I ever going to do this thing for myself, which made me feel better about life. And because I was making progress on things I liked, I felt less of the usual demons of “Nobody wants this, I suck at it, I should give up.” Because my mind was sated with the joy of doing the thing.

    Nowadays, the rhythm of life is starting to return and I am fumbling that great momentum I once had, strugglig to find where in my life writing fits and falling prey to the usual inner doubts. But on days where I do get my writing time, it carries me through for days afterward.

    So my advice, such as it is, is only this.

    Make sure you are doing a thing you enjoy

    And make sure your brain knows when to look forward to doing it.

    And uh, wear sunscreen I guess.

    I wish you well, friend!

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