Archive | Momentum

Writing More is Easier

pencil_notebook_writing_237689_lYes, you read that headline correctly. I am going to set about telling you why writing more is easier than writing less.  KEEP READING. I know you were about to click away when you read that writing more bit. But stick with me.  You can throw tomatoes at the end if you like, but at least give my brilliant and thought-provoking words a ponder.

Years ago, (not even going to tell you how many), when I was learning to drive, my sister would sometimes take me out to practice. (Seeing as how she was only three years older than me, that would be illegal today.)  There was one curvy stretch of road fronting the air base that tended to be traffic free, which is where we headed. As I got behind the wheel, my sister urged me to step on the gas, saying “Driving faster is easier than driving slower.”

While the fact that I had three older sisters to share such helpful tidbits  might explain a lot about me, it also illustrates the principle of writing that I want to share: more is better.  But first, let me mention another example, that of meditation.  Yes, yet another topic you don’t want to hear.  I’ve experimented with meditation for years and never managed to get a regular practice going. I’d sit down for five or ten minutes, as the experts told me, planning to gradually increase my time. But here’s the deal: nothing happened. I felt no effects from it. Only when I regularly carved out twenty minutes of time to practice did the benefits begin to accrue.

And now back to writing.  I have been a bit stymied with my WIP.  This first draft is a mess, complete with all caps notes to myself like THIS IS THE WORST PIECE OF CRAP EVER AND THIS SCENE MAKES NO SENSE.  I’m not kidding.  I was rocking along, forcing myself to write 500 or 1,000 words a day.

But one day, I managed to eked out 2,000 words. And suddenly I enjoyed writing it again. I set a goal of 2,000 words a day (generally accomplished first thing in the morning) and started flying.  Not only were the words piling up, but I fell in love with the story and the characters all over again. The more I wrote, the better I felt.  Truly, committing to a higher word count a day became easier than trying to get excited over 500 words.

Here’s why I think this happens:

  1. Mental momentum.  When I get more accomplished each day, I think about it more.  The characters pop into my brain throughout the day, and I find myself scribbling notes often.  By writing more, I’m engaging my brain more.
  2. Encouragement.  Man, its nice to see that word count pile up.  I was despairing that I’d ever write a eke out a full novel with this story and suddenly I have 75,000 words.
  3. Writing fast.  In order to accomplish my goal, I have to write fast and not worry too much about getting it perfect.  This allows me to get the story on the page and push through the doubts. Much better than wringing my hands because I don’t know where to go next
  4. Writing breed writing.  Or, the more you do, the more you can do.  Just like energy breeds more energy–its all true.
  5. It gets easier. The more you write, the easier it is–and I mean this in terms of having ease as you are writing. If you only write a little bit once in awhile, your writing habit is rusty and it is hard. But if you’re writing a lot every day, you get into the rhythm of it and fingers fly.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it because it is true. So say I.  What say you? What’s your word count goal?

Also–a note for regular readers.  Do you remember a post I did recently called Meditation for Writers? It would have been since the start of the year, or at the very end of last year. I am certain I wrote the damn thing, but I can’t find it to save my life.

Photo by len-k-a.

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Write On, With Confidence and Hope, Even Through Christmas*

My color-changing tree in full color.

My color-changing tree in full color.

Yes, I know.  It is the holiday season, and whatever holiday (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, a pagan solstice celebration, your own made up day) you celebrate, odds are good that things are a bit, shall we say, busier than usual.

And, if you are anything like me (I presume you are, because we writers do tend to have certain traits in common) when things get busy, what’s the first activity to go? Yep, writing.  This is clearly ridiculous because writing is the most important thing in the world to me (besides my family, of course).   So why do I let my writing practice lapse at the first sign of being busy? Let me count the reasons:

  • Because writing takes concentration, and when I’m busy I don’t have enough bandwidth in my brain to work on my project.
  • Because in the crush of Christmas activities, writing easily becomes the least urgent item on the to-do list, so it doesn’t get done.
  • Because going out to Christmas parties and staying up late wrapping presents throws me off schedule and it is hard to get up as early as I usually do.
  • Because people visit from out of town and expect me to be at their beck and call, and really? I want to be. I want to spend time with them.
  • Because I ate too much sugar/drank too much wine/insert favorite Christmas vice here and now I don’t feel so good. Surely you don’t expect me to write?

You probably have a few choice arguments of your own to add to the list.   But I’m here to tell you why you don’t want to pay any attention to those arguments and carry on with your writing throughout this season, and how you can accomplish this.  First the whys:

  • Because for me, this is one of the most creative times of the year. The dark days of December engender all kinds of new thoughts and plans and ideas. If I didn’t spend time writing, I’d lose all those.
  • Because when I’m Not Writing, I’m an anxious, miserable mess. I feel like there is something missing.  I feel weird and out of sorts.  Now, listen, the holiday season messes with our emotions enough—do you really want to add an additional layer of anxiety onto it?
  • Because I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when I start writing again. I want to maintain the momentum I’ve created by writing every day or nearly every day.
  • Because it will make me feel better.
  • Because it gives me an outlet. When Great-Aunt Matilda tells me my hair looks awful for the tenth time, I can put my anger on the page and let it simmer there instead of inside me.

 Yeah right.  This is all well and good, but how in the universe am I supposed to accomplish keeping up with my writing.  Funny you should ask.  I have a few suggestions.

  •  Lower your standards. Of course, your writing is brilliant and you must labor over every word to make it so.  But cut yourself some slack this time of year.  Allow yourself to write crap.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Do just a tiny bit. So you usually are a writing machine and you devote mountains of time to it every day.  This season, write a pebble’s worth.  As in, make yourself sit down for five minutes and be satisfied when you are done. Because…
  • You need a placeholder. By lowering your standards and lessening the amount of time you require yourself to spend, your keeping your hand in. You are maintaining the momentum and upholding your intention to write regularly.  This will serve you very well when Uncle Ralph leaves and your schedule returns to normal.
  • And also bear in mind… One of the things I love most about my Christmas tree this year its color-changing lights. When the push of a button the lights switch from colored to white.  This appeals to my fickle nature.  And you can make the concept work for your writing, too. How? By switching the lights.  Try writing in your journal every day during these busy times instead of writing a scene.  Write to a prompt, or write a memory
    My color-changing tree with white lights.

    My color-changing tree with white lights.

    from your childhood.  Let the writing be different and fun for a few weeks and see what comes out.

And please, if you have any of your own tricks and techniques for maintaining your writing, share it in a comment

below!

*My knitting readers will realize that this quote sounds familiar, and it is—I based it on the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman  quote, “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”

**By the way, in my last newsletter I offered Complaint Free bracelets to the first 10 people to ask.  I still have a couple left.  If you want one, hit reply and send me your address!

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Life’s An Adventure! Or Wait, is it All Just Routine?

Once upon a time, I lived and worked in Sun Valley, Idaho, taking a semester off from college.  I lived in a dorm that had a fire pole from the second floor with a bunch of other ski bums.  Sometime near the end of my tenure there, three young women appeared to live in the dorms.  In retrospect, I realize they weren't like the rest of us–college students working playing for a semester.  They had moved from a nearby town for the work.  (Most of us were on the housekeeping staff.  Fun job, said nobody ever.)

I don't remember their names or even their faces.  I'm embarrassed to admit that in my memory they all sort of look alike.  But what I do remember is the motto of one of them, repeated over and over:

Life's an adventure! SunValley-01

This admonition has rung in my head ever since.  I've had times when I believe it, and times when I don't.  When I believe it, good things happen:

–My writing flows.  And in my world, when the writing flows, all else follows.

–Fun abounds.  

–Nothing fazes me.  (Case in point: I once missed a connection in Denver.  Instead of fussing and fighting, I said to myself, life's an adventure, and trundled down the concourse to my favorite restaurant there to run into a fellow passenger and have a delightful time drinking wine together.)

–Mysterious, synchronistic things occur.

–Life really feels like an adventure.

And in the times when I don't believe it, everything is vaguely fuzzy and dull, like things aren't quite in focus.  It is very, very easy to forget that life's an adventure.  So how to stay focused in this mindset?  Sometimes, its enough to repeat the mantra.  Uh-huh. Right.  The problem with that is remembering the damn mantra in the first place.

Funnily enough, one way to live life as a grand adventure is to stay rooted in routine.  Take writing, for example (as you knew I would).  When you are writing routinely every day, you fall in love with the world.  Or at least I do.  But I suspect you do, too.  Maybe you don't describe it in quite the same words, but I'm sure we share the same feeling of things just being right.

And when things are just right, they fall into place as they should.

And when things fall into place as they should it feels as if there's a benevolent king arranging things just for our benefit.

And then life truly does feel like an adventure.

All because you committed to a routine of writing daily.

At the workshop I taught in Nashville a couple weeks ago, THE MOST POPULAR THING WE TALKED ABOUT was the idea of writing 15 minutes a day.  (#15minsday on Facebook and Twitter.) Because when people realized they could create a satisfying writing practice in 15 minutes a day, it gave them hope.

So commit to your writing habit–and watch the life of adventure blossom around you.

How do you cultivate a life of adventure? Please discuss.

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A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss, and Neither Will Your Writing

 

Rainforest-green-moss-2067300-h

This stone clearly has no momentum.

 I’m in LA, visiting a friend.  I’m distracted by good food to eat, events to attend (yesterday a book signing for a fabulous cookbook and a Native American Thanksgiving ritual).  And yet I’m writing every morning.  I’m a rolling stone, merrily cavorting down the long hill of novel writing.  I’ve achieved the vaunted state of momentum, where even if I wanted to quit writing, I probably couldn’t, because I’m caught up in something bigger than myself.  

 

For the record, this is my favorite state to find myself in.  When I’m in it, I feel most like myself. When I’m not in it, I want to be, desperately.  When I’ve achieved momentum in my latest project, I’m in love with my writing and my world.  It’s an amazing state, one marked by energy (getting up at 5 to write every morning is not difficult in the least), focus and joy.

And it’s not always the easiest state to arrive at.

I’ve written before about the tasks that will help you achieve this vaulted state of momentum, such as: 

Taking good notes to prime the pump, moving your body, reading (I highly recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel), and writing every day (which is why Nanowrimo is so popular, because it gives people a structure to help them do that).

These activities are all well and good–and important, but they are often more easily done once you’ve established momentum.   So what underlying mindsets will help get you there in the first place?

Discipline.  Which is not a dirty word.  We writers like to think it’s antithetical to creativity, but truth is, its not because creativity doesn’t exist without it.  If you can’t muster the discipline to get your butt in the chair regularly, no book will flow out of you.

Gratitude. Yes, gratitude.  The concept is much written about this time of year, with Thanksgiving soon to be upon us.  People on social media are busy making lists about how they are grateful for family and friends and pets and their glorious lives. But it’s a practice that is well applied to writing also.  Be grateful for the words you’ve written.  Be grateful you’ve got a good brain to think with and two strong hands to write with.  Be grateful that you’re a writer in the first place.  It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy–and warm and fuzzy is much more conducive to momentum than anxiety and angst.

Positivity.  This is easy in theory, harder in practice.  At its simplest, focus on what you’ve done, not what you’ve not done.   I wrote 773 words this morning, so it would be easy to bemoan the fact that I didn’t quite make it to 1,000.  But I’m actually quite happy about the words I did get on the page, because I was in a bit of a difficult spot that I had to write my way out of.

Connection.  Whether through journal writing or prayer, connect with that thing that’s bigger than you.  It might be God, it could be the goddess, or Allah, or Buddha, or even the great nothingness of the universe.  Find it

Courage.   Courage to go to the dark places.  Courage to labor away at something when you’re not sure what the outcome will be. Courage to get up every morning and face the blank page.  Because that’s what creativity demands of us–courage.  (Which is why so many people never, ever do anything creative.)

Those are my ideas on the subject, what are yours?  How do you get to a place of momentum in your writing?  Please leave a comment.

 Photo by frumbert. 

 

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