The Haze of Writing Forgetfulness

My view as I write each day

We arrived here in France two weeks and three days ago. Since then, I’ve written ten chapters on a new novel at a pretty good clip. Except for the two days last weekend when I stalled myself out.

I’d written up to the point I had outlined. And then realized that several other scenes needed to be inserted before that point. Which meant much rearranging and figuring and deep thinking.  Which eventually turned into procrastinating, otherwise known as forgetting all the advice I consistently give in workshops and to coaching clients.  Because I’d decided what scenes I needed to write. I was just having a hard time actually writing them.

And what is that advice about writing that I consistently dish out? It is quite simple: get thee to the page and write. Just freaking write. Don’t worry about making it pretty. Don’t worry about having it make sense. Just write. We are way past the age of typewriters, and rewriting is easy–that’s what God made computers for. And spell and grammar check. Getting something, anything on the page gives you a basis on which to build a draft.

I know that. And generally, I follow it. Knocking out ten chapters at a fast pace is proof, right?

But then I got myself blocked. And I forgot. Literally, forgot.

The pet crow who lives behind me

It wasn’t a matter of not walking my talk. It was that, in the moment of facing the page, I totally forgot. There was  a gray concrete wall in my brain between the idea to write fast and get something–anything–on the page, and the act of doing it. And instead I fiddled. And thought I had to have everything all figured out before I wrote the scene. Told myself I was stuck. Ate a piece of chocolate. Stood up and went looking for the pet crow who lives in the house behind me.

The funny thing is, I’m surrounded by writers here at the retreat who are following my advice. Who are busting out the pages, even though it goes against their usual grain of carefully rewriting and revising as they go. So I should have remembered. But I forgot.

I offer this as a cautionary tale, because your brain, too, might play tricks like this on you. Fortunately, in a desire not to squander my time here in France, I have come to my senses and started throwing words on the page once again.

And I remembered another truth, which builds on the first one: the things you need to know will come to you as you write. Yes, I believe in planning ahead. But some things just reveal themselves to you on the page, plain and simple. And if you’re stuck, the best advice is to start writing.

I do not know why it is so hard to remember this. But I will do my best not to forget again.

Does this happen to you?  Please leave a comment and discuss.

And, by the way, are you interested in coming to this wonderful part of France for a writing workshop? We have space in our September events in Collioure! Take a look and email me if you have any questions.

All the Different Ways to Write (A Post on Process)

I’m sitting at a table on a terrace in Ceret, France, thinking about writing processes. (That’s my view in the photo to the left.) Okay, I’m also thinking about the wine and cheese and bread we’ll have for dinner. And taking a walk through the charming town in a little bit. And the delicious quiche and salad I ate for lunch in said charming town.  Oh, and I’m thinking about my WIP, too. Proof is that I’ve written five chapters since I arrived here on March 3rd.

One of the reasons I’m thinking about process is because I read and enjoyed this post today. I love reading about people’s specific processes. The other reason is that I’m here amidst other writers, all of us trying our best to make great progress on our projects.  And it is fascinating to get a close-up view of how other’s work.

Here are some of the different ways to write:

Planner vs pantser.  Do you plan everything ahead or just go where the writing winds take  you? You’ll find strong and vocal adherents to both way. And, just as many like me who fall somewhere in the middle. I really, really, really need to know where I’m going next or I will wander off and read knitting blogs instead of writing. But I write what I call a loose outline, which is really more of a list, and allow the story and characters to develop as I go.

–Chronological or all over the place. I, with few exceptions, write in strict chronological order. I like to allow my chapters and scenes to build on each other. But I know plenty of people for whom this would be torture. They want to write whatever scene feels the juiciest to them in the moment.

–Write fast or edit as you go. I am of the write-as-fast-as-I-damn-can persuasion. And then I fix things in subsequent drafts. Often, I am convinced that what I am writing is pure crap. And sometimes it is. But just as often, I’m surprised by what I’ve put on the page. It needs work, yes, but it is not as bad as I’ve thought. A couple of writers here on the retreat are pushing to get to the end of first drafts and doing the write fast thing for the first time. It’s a bit uncomfortable for them but they are doing it!

–Marathoner or sprinter. Do you write in bursts and then take breaks? You’re a sprinter. Or do you sit down to write and only hours later stand up, realizing how much time has passed? Marathoner.

–Scrivener or Word. I really, really, really, want to like Scrivener but every time I try it I get so confused I give up. Once it ate my draft, too. And that’s just rude. So we’ve not yet become pals. So I’m a Word girl myself. And I do know that Scrivener has many rabid fans out there. I need one of you to sit down with me, hold my hand, and teach me how to use it.

–All one file or separate ones.  When you’re working on a long project, such as a novel or memoir, do you put it all in one large file, or create a new one for each chapter and compile later? (And yes, I know there’s “easy” ways to deal with this on Scrivener. But you’ll have to come show me.) I’ve done it both ways. I’m having a brain fart, but I’m pretty sure the last novel I wrote was all in one. The new one is in separate files. It’s a pain to go back and check things in previous chapters, but then so is scrolling and scrolling back to find what you’re looking for.

So those are just some of the different processes I’ve thought of as I sit in this lovely French town.  What have I missed? What processes do you follow?

Leave a comment or come join the Facebook group and share.

Indecision is the Devil for Writers

Indecision is my downfall.

If I know where I’m going next in my writing, it is no problem to sit down to my computer and get words on the page.  I can wrack up a good word count in no time.

But if I’m not quite sure what to write next, forget about it.  My brain gets fuzzy. I can’t seem to connect with my work. I don’t know what to do next and so more often than not I don’t do anything.

This goes for my to-do list as well.  Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I just stare at it–and then go look for an interesting knitting blog to read.  Or, better yet, a writing blog, because then I can pretend I am working!

So lately my process with my to-do list has been to make a decision on what needs to happen next.  In today’s case, it was writing this blog post. And then I just focus on that until it is finished and I can move on to the next thing.  Here’s the key: if other things crowd my brain for attention, as they do, I remind my brain what I’ve decided to focus on. Once it is finished, I can look at the other things clamoring away and decide what’s next.

Funnily enough, as I was pondering this post, this post came to my attention. It outlines a very similar process, called the Ivy Lee process for productivity. (It is worth heading over there and taking a look.)

So how does this relate back to writing? For me, it means always knowing where I’m going next so that there’s no time for indecision to take hold. Once I’m rolling on a project, this is usually not a problem.  But sometimes writer’s block does strike–and it’s always, always, always because I’m not sure where to go next.

Things I recommend to prevent indecision from stymying your writing:

  • If you start to feel blocked, even a faint whiff of it, free write. Take the last line of the last scene you wrote and use that as a prompt.  Or just write out the problem as a prompt.
  • Maintain a list of ideas in a dedicated notebook. Anytime you have a moment of indecision, check out the list. It might get you going again.
  • Don’t slavishly adhere to chronology.  If the scene you’re working on isn’t lighting you up, move on to another one.
  • Create a loose outline. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Mine is just a list of scenes with notes about each scrawled about each one. But it really helps those moments of indecisiveness.
  • If all else fails, just choose something and go with it.  Not sure if your character should jump off a bridge or ride a merry-go-round? Just commit and write. You’d be amazed how often this works.  And if it doesn’t, you’ll soon figure it out.

How do you deal with indecision that blocks you? Leave a comment!

Or join the Facebook group and come chat there!

Photos from everystockphoto.

Writers Judging (Who, Me? Yes, You. And Me, Too)

I’m reading a book about judgment. Yes, judgment.  It’s called Judgment Detox by  Gabrielle Bernstein.   I love this topic because I am a very judgy person and I don’t often see it addressed.  Yet, it is important–so important, especially for anyone trying to do anything creative. Like writing.

The first self-help book I ever read was a mass market paperback that I can’t remember the name of. I’m pretty sure i was embarrassed to buy it (this was in pre-Amazon days, before you could order books online). Because in those days, I knew nobody who read self-help, or spirituality, or books on productivity and brain stuff. (There weren’t many books on brain stuff, so much of the science is so new.) The only thing I remember about the book is that it instructed readers not to judge.

And I was outraged. Not judge! Harumph! Of course we judge. We have to.  We have to judge little things, all day, every day–like what should I eat for breakfast, does the outfit look good on me, and what’s the fastest way to drive to work? All judgements, all needed.

Well, yes. But those aren’t the types of judgments that long-ago self-help author and Bernstein are talking about.  These judgments–the ones we’re talking about today–are the kinds that separate us from other people, the world, and ourselves.  That last bit if crucial for creativity, because if we are separated from ourself, how can we create?

And yet that is exactly what judgment does.  Because when we judge, we’re judging something that makes us uncomfortable about ourselves. When we judge, we ultimately feel ashamed and guilty.  And cliche of the tortured artist aside, those are not good emotional states from which to write.

Some ways we writers judge  

Other people.  We judge other writers.  How did that 21-year-old get a mega-publishing deal? She can’t know anything at that age! Or, oh no, that writer I got my MFA with has published five novels to my one. And let’s be honest–they all suck.  Or, her writing is not nearly as good as mine.  On and on and on the variations go.

The world. Publishing in particular.  It’s all rigged. It’s all hyped. Traditional publishing takes forever.  You can’t get past the gate-keepers.  They don’t pay any royalties. They don’t do any marketing.  They only want to publish big names! On and on we go.

Ourselves.  I can’t write. Nobody is going to want to read this.  This is dreck!  My family is going to hate me when my memoir comes out.  Oh, I can’t believe how awful this is! People will laugh at me! Oh no, oh no oh no.

Just reading all that crap makes you feel sort of gloomy and heavy, doesn’t it? And yet we feed ourselves a constant stream of it all day every day. (At least I do.  If you don’t, please leave me a comment and tell how you got to this enlightened state.) And I do know for a fact that an incessant inner judgy voice is not conducive to getting words on the page. At all. So what’s a writer to do?

Dealing with Judgment

The thing with judgment is that it is easy to fall into the trap of judging yourself because you are judging. Sigh. So the trick is to become aware of it without judging. Just become aware of it. Let it rise up. Say, oh hello judgement and let it go.  Sort of like when thoughts come up as you meditate.  Do not do battle with it.  Do not engage it.  This process get easier over time–both the recognizing of it and the releasing of it.

You can also try techniques such as:

Journaling–write your angst out on the page.

EFT–tap away the judginess.

Meditation–everyone’s favorite. Hahahaha. But I have noticed that over time, a consistent meditation practice reduces my judgy ways.

Exercise–go for a walk and get your ya-yas out!

Most of all, be kind to yourself–don’t judge yourself if you sit down for a writing session and start telling yourself how awful your work is. Changing ingrained habits like this takes time.

Do you have a favorite technique for dealing with judgment? Leave a comment–or come join the Facebook group and discuss there.

(Note: the link to the book is an affiliate link.)

Do What You Can (In Writing and Life)

This is an embarrassing confession from a writing coach, but last fall I got blocked on a project.  I was working on the rewrite of a novel for my agent. She and her staff had given me excellent revision suggestions and I was excited about them. But part of it involved giving the protagonist more motivation, digging into her backstory. And to do that, I had to add a couple of chapters. And to do that, I had to figure out to make them flow seamlessly into the book.

Usually I’m pretty good about such things. I wring my hands for a couple of days and then get to it. But this took weeks to get over.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t doing any other writing, either.   And when I get into that state in life, I am a very cranky girl.  Finally, I began writing a short story set in the same world as the novel I was supposed to be rewriting (there will be a whole series of novels set there) and that got me going again.   I turned in the revision to my agent earlier this week.

As I ponder the process I’ve just been through, the song running through my head, is Do What You Can. (Apparently I made the song up, because even though it is playing in my brain on a constant loop now, I can’t find lyrics or a video anywhere.) I wrote that title down on the note pad that is always beside my computer a few days ago to remind myself of its importance.

Because, I don’t know about you, but I tend to get stuck on one thing. I tell myself, I must finish that novel, or I have to write my newsletter, or any one of a million other things. And then if that particular thing doesn’t go well I’m either wringing my hands or farting around on the internet, reading stupid or upsetting stories.

This is at least partially about setting impossible expectations for myself. As in, I’ll sit down to that rewrite and it will flow smoothly from start to finish. Right-o.  Can’t think of when that has ever happened so why do I place such ridiculous ideals upon myself? I think it has to do with an outdated image I carry around in my brain.  I know better than this based on years of experience, but still it pops up. I hear the word romance novelist or English author and there it is my brain immediately: an image of a woman (beautiful, of course and dressed impeccably), devoting every minute of her days to writing her novel.  She sits at a beautiful desk in the country somewhere, stops only for tea, and never gets blocked.

I swear to you, this is a thing I carry around in my head. And the reality for all novelists and authors is quite different. We stop and start.  We wear yoga pants, or, often, jammies and drink coffee by the gallon. And there are plenty of times when the writing ceases (witness my afore-mentioned recent experience). This outdated image I can’t seem to shake is part of the reason I don’t turn my attention to another project when I get blocked.  Because I’m starting to believe that doing whatever I can on my writing is the best way to have a prolific writing practice.

Others reasons I don’t do this might be:

  • I’m afraid I’ll get totally absorbed in the new project and never go back to the old
  • I’m afraid I’ll forget where I am in the old project and lose the thread entirely
  • I’ll do so much switching back and forth that I’ll never finish anything

All valid concerns, and yet also easily dealt with.  Because, ultimately, isn’t getting something done better than nothing? You know the old saying–energy breed energy, I’ve found that to be true.  If I sit for too long I become one with the chair and I feel sluggish and lethargic. But when I’m making an effort to get up and walk around often, I feel much more energetic at the end of the day.

And the same is true of writing–writing breeds writing. If you’re blocked on a long project, write something shorter.  Scribble a blog post or a brilliant missive to a friend.  Start an essay or a short story.  Writing breeds more writing for sure, and somewhere in all of that you’ll find your way home to the thing you got blocked on.

It takes quite a bit of single-mindedness to finish a long writing project like a memoir or a novel. You must continually turn your face back to it despite all the marvelous distractions of life. And I think we end up taking this single-mindedness too seriously sometimes.  But once in awhile, maybe you could unloose the grip and give yourself some rope.

Do you focus all your energy on one writing project at a time or many? Please do share.  Also, if you’re having trouble with any aspect of your writing, I do have some coaching slots open. I’m currently revamping my coaching pages and they are a bit of a mess, so the best thing to do is contact me and we’ll chat!

On Discovery Drafts and Writing Fast

In case you hadn’t noticed, writing fast has become quite the thing lately.  This is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, if you want to indie publish, your fans expect you to pump books out one after another.  And you can’t maintain that pace if you write slowly.

Writing Fast

But I think it is also because writing fast works.  Again for a variety of reasons:

–When you write fast, you access the subconscious mind, bypassing the conscious mind which tends to be, um, critical.

–When you write fast, you get something, anything, down on paper. And once you have something down on paper, then you have something to work with.

–When you write fast, you bypass perfectionism.  And let me tell you, perfectionism breeds procrastination big time. Because if you’re putting yourself under pressure to be perfect, you’ll think of 5,000 other things you’d rather be doing.

–And besides, writing fast is fun!

It’s when you get to revision that the hard work begins.  Which I am learning as I take the first draft of my novel, which I wrote really fast, just working to get the story on paper.  Which leads us to…

The Discovery Draft

You’ll often hear the first draft of a novel (or a story, or a memoir, or anything) called different things. Like a rough draft, or a discovery draft. I’m guilty of most often calling it a rough draft, though I think the term discovery draft does it more justice. Because the most important thing to remember is that you are discovering the story.

You are not:

–Worrying about every comma and period.

–Fussing over not knowing everything.  Instead, when you get to a place you don’t know something, you insert a TK and keep going. (Using TK allows you to do an easy search at the end.)

–Stopping writing for a month when you don’t know what happens next. Instead you start writing where you do know what happens.

–Reading back over your work and editing as you go. Forward motion is the name of the game.

In other words, you are writing fast, getting the story down.  The discovery draft is for you to discover the story. Subsequent drafts are for you to figure out how best to present the story.

I am currently rewriting a discovery draft of a romance novel I finished in February, though in this case, the word rough really does apply.  There are vast stretches where I’m not exactly sure how it all goes together, and these pages are full of TKs and all caps notes to myself.  There’s lots of cursing and name-calling in those all cap sentences.  Not that it does much good to call myself names and tell myself what a terrible writer I am. But it does the trick to get those thoughts out of my head so I can keep going.

What I’m finding, though, is that the bones of the story are strong. I’m rearranging like crazy, dramatizing long stretches of narrative that were flat on the page, and making the characters more complex.  But my discovery draft, written fast, captured the story I wanted to tell.

So the moral of the story is: don’t agonize over every word.  Produce those pages and get to the end of your discovery draft. You’ll be happy you did!

Should you need help with your discovery drafts, learning how to write fast, or any aspect of your writing, I’ve got a couple of spots open in my coaching.  Pop me an email and we’ll set up a time to talk!

Photo by hisks.

What it Takes to Be a Writer: Part Three

You’ve revved up your brain, planted your butt in the chair, and now you’re ready to write. I sometimes envision this moment as that of a piano player: you place your fingers on the keys, expecting great music to pour forth….and nothing happens.

You freeze. You don’t know what to write. Or the words won’t come. Or you are so damn critical of the words that do come that you shut down the computer and decide to go clean up dog poop in the backyard.  Because dealing with that kind of shit is better than dealing with the crap you’re putting on the page.

Ahem. I have news for you. Writing crap is good.  Writing crap is desirable (at least in a first draft). GETTING ANY WORDS ON THE PAGE AT ALL IS YOUR ONLY GOAL.  So do it. That’s my first bit of advice:

Write Crap

Just write, even if that means reminding yourself how awful you’re doing as you go. My first drafts are full of all caps exhortations about what terrible work I’m doing. Like: THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE AND IT’S REALLY STUPID. Once I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can carry on with the rest of it.

Here is an unedited glimpse of what I wrote yesterday as I tried to get going:

Okay I’m just sitting here with the cat, staring at the computer.  What the f#%k. Staring never got the writing done. Just write something. This is where prompts are really handy!   Start with the image.

And I did. I started with the image and the scene flowed from there.  Writing crap, and reminding yourself of it, is incredibly freeing.

Write Crap Often

Like, every day. We already talked about making time and conserving energy for writing in part two.  Do your best to write as often as possible. It makes a huge freaking difference, I’m not kidding.  Doing this, you gain momentum. You have that lovely feeling that half of you is living in your fictional world.  And because of that, you’re in love with the real world you actually do inhabit.  And when you are in love, you want to spend more time with your beloved, correct? So you will be eager to return to writing your novel.  And that, my friends, is the power of writing every day. (Even if it’s crap.)

Plan Ahead

I’ve proven to myself over and over that I procrastinate and get distracted when I don’t know where I’m going.  This is why I like to write a loose outline for the plot of my novel, and why I’m such a huge fan of character dossiers.  The other thing I like to do is write notes to myself. I do a lot of “writing about” the project in my journal, and I just about always write little notes to myself in the manuscript as to where to go next.  Then when I open the file first thing in the morning, I know where I’m going. I often diverge from my plans, but at least I have a way in to get started.

Employ Systems

There’s lots of help out there for writers.  You can download Freedom, which will turn off your access to the internet for a predetermined amount of time.  You can use a Pomodoro timer that allows you to write in spurts (or just use your phone’s timer).  You can use Scrivener.  The point is, there are all kinds of tools out there that will help you in your daily writing. Find the ones that work for you and use them.

So there you have it. What are your favorite tricks to get words on the page?

Preparation is Three-Quarters of the Battle

Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons_(cropped)I’m leaving for France (Paris and Ceret) soon. I’m not one of those people who pack and repack a week ahead. No, you’ll find me throwing clothes in the suitcase the night before.

But, and this is a big but—when the time comes for me to commence said throwing, I will know exactly what I’m going to take. (Okay, because I’m a terrible packer and a confirmed right-brainer, there will be last minute changes and additions.) Because I’ve been thinking about what I need to take clothes-wise, book-wise, and technology-wise all month.

Chance favors the prepared mind.  And the prepared packer. And the prepared writer.

At least I think so.

I know there’s an endless debate between pantsers and plotters.  (For the record, a pantser is one who flies by the seat of his pants when writing, and a plotter is one who plans everything out.)  And, seeing as how I have a completely somewhat loose approach to organization and house cleaning and the like, you would think I would fall down on the side of pantsing.

But I have learned through many years of experience that when I pants, I get into trouble. Not that I don’t love it, because I do. What could be better than allowing your mind and fingers to ramble down shady lanes and sunny byways in strange worlds? But the key word here is ramble, because that’s exactly what I do. Ramble along with no worry for the strictures of plot or character. Or showing a cohesive setting. Or anything but my rambles.

And one cannot write a novel without worrying about plot or character or setting.  Or one can, but one will need to do a lot of rewriting when one is done.  I do love rewriting—but not when I have to figure out how to make a shapeless lump into a story.

So, I plot. And write up character dossiers. And draw maps of locations and diagrams of houses and offices.  I call all of this prep work and I actually enjoy it. Sometimes I think I enjoy it too much, as I can get so engrossed in it that I never quite get to the writing of the novel.

It occurred to me, as I pondered what clothing I should take to Europe, that it might be helpful to share what I consider to be the bare minimum of novel prep work, because it’s been awhile since we discussed this.  So here you go (and remember this is a minimum. You can do a lot more if you wish):

Character Dossiers.  I fill them out for all of my main characters and do at least the rudiments (appearance, personal traits) for the minor ones.  Because all story starts with character, this is time well spent and often helps me come up with plot ideas as well.  It is also helpful to know who is going to tell the story and if it will be in first person or third.

Setting Sketches. I need to be able to see where my character lives and works.  This goes for big setting, such as the overall city she lives in, and small setting, such as her home and office.

A Loose Outline. And by loose, I mean loose. I’m not one of those people who plans out every single beat and action and character thought. I do like to leave some room for surprises.  A simple list of potential happenings will do.

Really that’s it. I know, you don’t see research on the list. That’s because, like technology, I’m on a need-to-know basis with it.  When I don’t know how to do something on my computer, ask the Google How do I do _______________ ? I always get a quick answer.  Same thing with research.  At least for the first draft you do not want to get mired in a lot of facts you might not really need. (And if you’re writing an historical, my hat’s off to you. And you’ll need to do a lot more research.)

Since I just finished my rewrite, I’ll be prepping a new novel myself soon. Can’t wait.

While I have you, are you a pantser or a plotter? What do you think are the advantages of your approach?

Photo from Wikipedia.

The Tyranny of Word Count

Every morning on my calendar I note how many words I’ve written (my main fiction writing time is early in the morning).  My goal is 1500-2000 words a day, which is a nice pace for me. If I’m on, I can hit 2K easily, but on off days, 500 words is a stretch.  Counting words is a great way to remind yourself of how much you’ve accomplished, and of course you know that what you focus on, grows. (I imagine myself staring at a page of words, willing it to multiply like the dandelions on our front yard.)

And its not just the daily word count that we focus on, but we think about it in other ways as well.  We fret and stew about how many words a book should be.  How long is a novella? How long is a short story? If I go over those standard word counts wills something bad happen? And so on and so forth.

And so even though I love checking in on my daily word count notations, I sometimes think they can become a bit tyrannical. And result in bad habits. Tell me I’m not the only one who:

  1. Writes complicated sentences–because they entail more words.
  2. Use two words when one will do. Because, word count.
  3. Catch myself repeating something and then letting it stand. Because, you know why, word count.
  4. Endures excruciating moments when I’m straining for just 100 more words to meet my quota.

Okay, okay, I am writing raw as coal-before-it-becomes-a-diamond drafts.  And I know that the value of rewriting is inestimable.  But still, sometimes I wonder if there’s a better way to keep track of it all, or if I really do need to keep track? To answer that last question first, when I’m writing regularly, I think it’s important to have metrics.  The novelist J.T. Ellison says that we must “touch our story, think about it” on a regular basis, and I agree. (Regular basis=daily.)  Keeping a word count reminds you of the importance of this.  When I wring my hands and tell myself I’m not much of a writer, all I have to do is flip open my planner and there it is, ink black and white (well, okay, color from gel pens), proof that if nothing else I do get up and throw words at the page regularly. And if there are lots of blank days with no word counts listed, I am reminded that I’m slacking.

But is there a better way to keep track? I suppose I could write to the end of whatever scene I’m working on and list how many scenes or chapters I’ve completed.  But often when I end my writing session at the close of a scene, I close myself off as well. (Hemingway famously ended his writing sessions in the middle of a sentence.)  And of course, there is rating yourself by time as well.  If you’ve sat at your computer for two hours, you’ve done your job.  Except one could easily sit at said computer for two hours and not write a word.  I know, I’ve done it I had a friend who did it.

I dunno. Maybe you can tell me a better way?

The truth is I’m the worst goal setter in the world.  The standard advice to block out time for writing on my calendar doesn’t work for me, because I rebel against myself.  As in, look at my calendar and say, meh, don’t feel like doing that today. This is clearly a variation of the childhood refrain, “I’m doing it because I want to and not because you tell me to.” Yep, childish as all get-out, not to mention counter productive.  I actually love to set elaborate goals, goals that even the most vigorous Type A personality could never meet.

And for some unknown reason, writing to word count, tyrannical as the process is, works for me. It is the only thing I’ve found that keeps me productive on a regular basis.  And so on bad days I groan and strain and complain until I reach at least 1,000 words and on good days I pat myself on the back when I easily sail past 2K.

Nobody said being a writer was easy. (And if it was, we’d be bored.)

What metrics do you use to keep track of your progress?

And by the way, for the truly nutty among you, my friend Milli Thornton runs 10K Days for writers every month, twice a month. There’s one coming up tomorrow (July 20) that I’m participating in, and one this Saturday as well.

Happy writing!


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.