Sunday, October 26, 2008


Random thoughts related to writing.
November is National Novel Writing Month. I've never participated, but I friends do and they love it. The idea of writing an entire novel in a month is appealing, the competition is also appealing. So why have I never done it? Well, mainly because I've never been in a position to do so. You're supposed to start something new - write word one on page one on day one. I'm always at a different place on day one - in the middle of something else or deep in edits I don't want to stop. Eventually, I'll get there. Even if I only participate on the sidelines. They even have a category for young writers, which I really love because my friend's daughters are participating and when I told my niece the glow of excitement and possibility in her eyes reminded me how I feel about my own writing. Young writers should be encouraged - but that's another post.
My point?
This past week, my writing friends and I have been reporting in daily on our progress. We weren't doing a challenge, there was nothing on the line, but we all had goals to meet and reporting in after meeting those goals was like icing on the cake. On Thursday, four of us wrote over 13-thousand words - the total would have been higher, but one of us had some serious non-fiction work to complete.
That's my point...(maybe, we'll see)
Writing is a lonely thing. We gather ourselves and spend our writing time in solitary confinement. No human contact, no gathering at the water cooler for a few moments of "real world" contact. When we take a break, it's usually to check email, switch a load of laundry, and maybe do a little research on the 'net. Sometimes, especially when the pages aren't flowing, you think about picking up the phone to call someone just to hear another human voice. Then, you force yourself to stop because you've been very specific about the time being dedicated to only writing and not social stuff. If you alter that, you'll throw yourself off track for the whole day. It's better to just get back to the pages even if you have to force yourself into it. A timer works well for that. A timer works well - period.
Setting a goal and having to report that you didn't make it when you had the whole day to do so isn't fun. All you end up doing is making excuses and I don't know about you, but my writing friends can see right through excuses and will totally kick my butt for that. Or they understand what knocked me off track and offer support and advice while I wade through it, and then kick my butt if I haven't gotten over it in a reasonable amount of time.
They're really good at reminding me of what I'm supposed to be doing, about keeping me on track and cheering me on when I meet or exceed the goals I've set. At the end of a long lonely day, that's usually just what I need to get me started on the next day.
(apparently, my point is multi-faceted)
And my point(s) would be this:
1. Set goals for yourself - whether it means setting the timer and racing yourself, breaking your writing time into small increments and seeing if you can beat your previous word count, reporting that goal to your friends at the beginning of the day, and telling your progress at the end of the day.
2. If you don't have some like-minded writing friends - get some. You won't be sorry. Not only do they help keep you accountable for the goals you've set, but the additional benefits help fill that creative well I've talked about. You don't have to be "close, personal friends" at first. That usually comes with time and familiarity, but make the effort to connect with other writers.
Out of every person you know, they're the ones that are always going to "get" you. They know what it's like, how if feels, what you're struggling with, and are fellow travelers on your journey. Your family can support you 200% - they can respect your writing time, your dreams, your ambition and listen to you ramble about your story, your fears, and your rejections and that's fantastic to have. But no one but another writer understands the highs and lows, the stark fear, the empty well, the satisfaction, the high that comes when out of many hours spent slogging through the wordpile you end up with two sentences that fill you with glee. That's the plain and simple truth.
3. Write. Don't spend too much time thinking about things. Sit down and write. If your stuck, write anything - nonsense, a silly story, a journal entry - anything, because eventually you'll break through whatever it is that might be holding you back and creative words will flow.