Routines

The Writing Life

Image by Simply Bike via Flickr

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

I probably shouldn’t have titled this post, “Routines” since that implies a certain healthy-ness that my writing habit does not have. Maybe “Ritual” would be more appropriate. Or, “Addiction.” Oh well.

Anyway, a running theme with all time management gurus is this: whatever goal you have, make sure you do it first thing in the morning. There are plenty of reasons why this advice is common, so I won’t get into that here. And, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that advice. I’m just saying it’s out there.

Well, I’ve discovered a long time ago that I’m not a first thing in the morning kind of writer. I’m actually not the best thing at anything first thing in the morning, unless you count coffee and meditation (read: staring off into space) as a “thing.” (Although, while on vacations, I enjoy morning walks on the beach. Since I live in the Midwest, this is not so much a possibility in my everyday life…) But, after my cup of coffee, putting the dishes away, and my morning ablutions, I can sit down and hammer away at the keyboard and sprint out a couple of pages before work. Then, after a day of work and other non-think-y pursuits, I can bust out more pages at night right before bed. (Actually, through a happy accident of passing out on the couch after a late night movie marathon, and not being able to get back to sleep, I found that I’m the most productive and creative between 1AM-4AM…possibly because my brain is really supposed to be sleeping and dreaming, but hey, whatever works, right?)

But, before my self-discovery, I thought I was the most uninspired, unfocused writer ever! After all, ALL the author websites that I’ve visited that have a “My Writing Process” page include waking up at 6AM to write their requisite page counts per day. I know all writers have a different process, and we all have to find out what works best for us, but I always felt “wrong” for not having a morning writing session.

Now, I have my semblance of a routine, and feel good about it. (I know, I know, I should sleep more, but sometimes, writing into the night and “dreaming” that way is WAY more refreshing to me than sleeping a full eight hours.)

How about you? When are you the most productive? What habits/quirks/superstitions do you have in your writing routine?

Stuck, Redux

Post-it notes

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I’ve been working on my WIP2 for two weeks now, and I’m having So. Much. Fun.

I do have a confluence of inspiration and motivation helping me out, thanks to conversations with my lovely writing friends*, and to life in general (remind me to tell you all about my introduction to resin one day).

Mostly, I’ve decided to slow down and really think about what I write. I have decided to give myself a hiatus from scribbling ANYthing down, including journaling in favor of taking the time to write out a scene and flesh it out as I write out my draft. I would sketch out a scene or a few scenes, and then go back over them again and again, and see how they read with the rest of the story so far, adding, deleting, and revising lines as I go.

Before, having the sketch of a scene was good enough and enabled me to move forward in the story. But, I inevitably get confused about next steps or where to go, and just skip ahead just so I can get to the end of the story. Which was a great confidence booster for WIP1: I made it to The End. Admittedly though, most of what I’d written had no value in the long term. The Hot Mess I’m left with would basically need to be rewritten.

Now, as I’m writing WIP2, I wait, think, and consider my writing as I write it out on the computer. I know that sounds elementary, but you have to understand. I’m a consummate scribbler. I’ve been writing notes and filling out journals for as long as I remember. Sometimes, I write whole scenes, and even once, a whole chapter, on index cards and sticky notes. Writing directly on the computer (I thought) was a death knell to my creativity.

Well, as I have discovered, being stuck and writing at a slower pace (and even waiting to write) does not lessen my creativity. I don’t have to be afraid of forgetting a cool idea or a cool thought. In fact, keeping the story in my head (for now) has helped me think it through one step at a time. I’m usually dying to get on my computer to write even a few words or pages, even after a really long day at work. (Who needs sleep? I’ve basically adopted Thomas Edison’s lifestyle of catnapping my way through a creativity bout.)

Not scribbling every little idea that comes to me while I’m away from the WIP has freed me to reread what I’ve written and expand on scenes, remember buried plot points, start new scenes, move things around. Basically, has made this draft’s beginning stronger than any other first draft I’ve written (and never finished). And, I don’t get discouraged when I’m “blocked” because when I reread what I’ve written, I can always find an idea or thought that I can expand on in a new scene, which feeds other new scenes.

So, I may not be chugging along as quickly as I normally do during moments of rough draft inspiration. But, so far, I’ve written more valuable words for much longer, and that’s worth more to me than phenomenal word counts.

Once I’m halfway through the story, in other words, once the story becomes too big to see all at once (as I can right now), I can see the need to jot down scene sequences Scrivener style to help keep it all straight.

For now, I’m enjoying this story-telling experience. Honestly, I’m still in awe that I’m adding to WIP2, and that it’s growing and evolving. Fingers crossed that I will finish this draft soon, and still look at it with this same loving glow.

I’ll leave you all with this motivating quote I found from Janet Reid aka, Query Shark:

“Writing can be learned.
Syntax can be taught.
Determination is yours and yours alone.”

 

*conversations including, but not limited to, Michele, Carol, Kayla, Melissa…thank you!

Thursday Thoughts on the WIP

The writerly blogosphere seems to be abuzz this week about conflict.  Check out these posts that I found during my blog time just scrolling down my blog subscriptions:

The Writing Lair: Why We Need Villains
Tempering the Steel: Death, Destruction, and Despair: Writing Conflict
Ink-Stained Scribe: Character Flaws – Make Them Matter!

Erin Writes: I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About Antagonists

I thought these posts about conflicts and character flaws and resolutions fit perfectly with my own recent mindset since I had to conquer (yet another) mental obstacle before I can push on and make progress on my WIP (any WIP, really, including my guest post for a friend).  I wrote a ridiculously long blog post last night about the root cause of my work stand still, but Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) captured the essence of what I felt when she said: “…some days it feels like you just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.”  The end result of my realization was my comment on Sierra Gardner’s blog:

“You are a different person, which means that your success will look different as well and that is a very good thing!”

Thank you so much for this post! Not so long ago (coughcoughlastyearcoughcough), whenever I saw others finishing books, landing agents, etc, I ended up thinking, “why bother?” and stopped writing. But, I would always pick up my pen again or start doodling another idea in my journal, like I’m some kind of unstoppable masochist.
It took a LOT of stops and starts (a lot, a lot!) to realize that
1. I obviously love The Writing, otherwise, why would I keep going back to it against all my ridiculous reasoning and
2. The need/desire for stories will NEVER run out, so I should stop feeling like the world will sell out of agents/publishing houses.

Plus, all this reminds me that I am in charge of my own success. I’m accountable for how much (or little) work/effort I put into the WIP. So, if I haven’t been putting a lot of effort into it, then I really have no right to complain.

The Shiny: My To-Read stack

So, not only did I have my own random (and fleeting) feelings of inferiority to overcome, I’ve had SO much fun (maybe too much fun) recently reading the GLUT of books that I’ve been desperately waiting for, that I have only given my WIP half-hearted attempts.  Well, enough of that.  I have a hard enough time getting over my own mental obstacles, and writing around a full-time work schedule, that I don’t need pretty shiny books distracting me.  (But, oh, The Shiny!)

So, I have reined in my readinglust to one fiction book and one non-fiction book a week.  And, I will only get to read another book with each chapter I finish revising.  I’ve also put my wordmeter back up from my days of NaNoWriMo, to keep me accountable to my words.

For my mental obstacle?  Well, even though I feel like it’s sufficiently solved, there may, MAY, be a time when it will rear its obnoxious head again.  And, when it’s time for me to relearn, I’ll revisit Anne Lamott’s words in Bird by Bird (what, you didn’t know she wrote it specifically for me?):

“You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story.  You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive.  But you cannot will this to happen.  It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work.  So you might as well just go ahead and get started.”

Time to get started.  Again.