Tag Archives | Fear of Writing

10,000 words in a Day? Impossible!

By guest blogger Milli Thornton 10K-Day-header-cropped

10,000 words in a day? Impossible!

That's what I said in 2006 when my friend Jenny Turner asked me to do a "10K Day."

To be accurate, I didn't say it was impossible for Jenny. I already knew she could do it. I said it was impossible for me.

I had my reasons. I'm a slow writer. I'm a believer in creativity. Creativity is not about hammering out words like some maniac on an acid trip, right?

Funny how hard we can cherish our beliefs–that sometimes turn out to be nothing but assumptions.

There are ten rules for the 10K Day. I know, I know. It already sounds like a forced march of writing, and having rules just makes it sound more militant. But it's an unbelievably fun way to spend a day. And the rules really help. When I followed them on my very first 10K Day, I ended up (to my great surprise) writing 10,277 words. I had started with very low expectations that day, but there's something about the rhythm and momentum of the 10K Day that pulls it out of you.

Breaking the barrier left me feeling liberated in a way I could not have imagined before I tried it.

Here are the rules:

1. No editing or rewriting.

2. No looking back over what you’ve written. Keep forging ahead.

3. No rummaging–either in notebooks or in your computer files–for writing you did some other time.

4. No research. Make it up.

5. Don’t fuss about the rules of writing. Just write.

6. Don’t fuss with structure. You can format, add chapter headings (or whatever) some other time.

7. No struggling. ("Allow yourself to be crappy." – J.R. Turner)

8. Take a 15-minute break every two hours. Use this break to refresh your body, brain and spirit.

9. Report to your writing companions during your break. Use the check-in page that shows the correct date for the event you’re attending.

10. No agonizing over your word count. Yes, the goal is 10,000 words, but not at the cost of your peace of mind. This is not a competition–not even with yourself! Have fun instead.

Adapted with permission from 10K in a Day by J.R. Turner

The problem with assumptions (mine, anyway) is that they usually focus on the wrong thing. In a vague way, if we think it through at all (I sure didn't), when we hear "10K Day" we automatically react by assuming the writing will be the problem. What will I write all day long? Or what if my writing sucks? That type of thing. But a simple plan can take care of the first one–and Rule #7 should take care of the second.

No, what I've noticed (in more than four years of running this monthly event) is that the writing is not the problem. Our waffly boundaries are.

Many of us believe, somewhere deep inside, that everybody else's needs come before our writing. (If you don't think so, watch how you react next time an interruption comes along while you're writing.) There are also myriad distractions in this cyber-world to tempt us away from our writing dreams. The 10K Day asks us to set aside one day a month for our writing. And if we actually DO set aside the whole day–which means rescheduling the needs of others and shutting out distractions–it really is possible to write that many words.

The other trick is to take regular breaks and drink enough water. If your brain gets burned out, you'll have to quit early. That can easily be avoided by taking regular breaks. We recommend every two hours.

The most inspirational thing about the 10K Day is the writer-to-writer support. There are no comparisons made, and everybody's word count is cause for celebration. There's no pressure to reach 10,000. We cheer for anyone and everyone who shows up and gets some writing done!

So. Just one day a month. That's not much for your writing to ask of you. But the rewards can be great.

P.S. Remember Jenny, the friend who introduced me to the 10K Day? She has eight novels published as J.R. Turner. Jenny has used the 10K Day many times over the years to help her write her books.

Want to join us for a 10K Day? We offer a Wednesday and a Saturday every month. Check out November's event dates at 10K Day for Writers.For those who enjoy some extra learning, guidance and support, there's also an online course called Ace Your 10K Day!

——-

Milli-Thornton-Nov-2011-bio-sizeMilli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches her amazing clients at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.

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Fear of Writing

Edvardmunch-thescream-1163553-lWhen I was invited to speak to the Living Writer's Collective in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, my topic was the Fear of Writing.   The subject was enthusiastically received, with several writers sheepishly admitting to me that they suffered from it (and Lord knows I've dealt with it off and on throughout my career), so I thought I'd adapt part of my talk here.

I've identified two broad arenas that your fears of writing might fall within:

Process

This is when you fear sitting down and putting words on the page.  You might not think that you actually have this fear, because fear is a sneaky beast that masquerades as all kinds of other things.  Like suddenly needing, desperately needing, to do laundry.  Or mop the kitchen floor.  Or go grocery shopping.  Or do just about anything but get to the page in the time you've allotted to write.

The fear of the writing process can also pop up once you've actually gotten to the computer.  There you sit, facing that wonderful blank screen.  When you get tired of looking at the screen, you gaze out the window.  And then maybe you go grab yourself a cup of coffee and stare out the kitchen window for awhile.  I've got news for you–all this staring is not writing.

Or, has this ever happened to you?  You are writing along, lost in the process and suddenly your fingers come to a halt.  You've written something that's threatening to the old ego.  And now you're terrified.  All was fine one minute and then next, well, it's not.

Product

Product fears gather around putting your work out in the world.  What if you're rejected?  What if people don't like your book when it's published?  What if you get a bad book review or your mother reads it and is shocked?  What if you wrote a thriller about a murdered and people think you have first-hand experience with crime?  The what ifs go on and on and on, and many of them are as silly as the last one I listed.  But here's the deal: fears are often silly.  But they take on enormous power despite this.

So what's a person to do?

Antidotes

Here's the bad news: the only way out is through.  Well, it may not be the only way out, but it's the best way out.  Yup, to get over your fear of writing, you must write.  And then put it out in the world, even when you don't want to.  In so many ways this is counter-intuitive and probably not at all what you want to hear.  Wouldn't it be just so much easier if there were an actual program you could take that conquered your fear of writing without you having to do any writing?  Well, that program is, you guessed it, writing.

Here are a couple ways to approach it that might help:

–Try freewriting.  This old favorite really does work.  If you do it correctly, it bypasses the conscious mind and taps you into something deeper, beyond fear.  The way to do it is this: pick a prompt (any prompt, it doesn't matter), set a timer for 20 minutes, and then write.  Write without stopping, even if you are writing the same word over and over again.  Keep the flow going–it is this that subverts the fear.  And don't worry about staying on topic, you probably won't.  When you're done, underline or highlight anything that you might find useful and use this as a starting point for another writing session.

–Chunk it down.  Many of us writers are big-picture people.  We look at a project and see the whole thing all at once.  This has many advantages, but a big disadvantage is that it can be overwhelming.   Remind yourself that you only need to look at your project in little bits.  Make a loose outline and take one line of it at a time and write to that.  Then take the next line, and then the next, until you have a rough draft for each item on the list.

–Take time for process time.  In a book called Around the Writer's Block, author Roseanne Barr talks about how important process time is to writers.  By this she means things like journaling, or morning pages.  It can be a conundrum: take precious writing time to journal or get right to the project at hand?  But studies have shown that taking time for process writing helps you beat writing resistance on a consistent basis.

–Approach it playfully.  Try some fun writing exercises every once in awhile.  Open a dictionary at random and fun your finger down the page.  Use the word you land on as a prompt.  Combine it with anothe word and make the start of a sentence and then use that.  Cut up old manuscripts into long strips, one line to a strip and put them in a box. Choose one and use as a prompt.

–Write something different.  I know I get stuck on thinking that I must work on my novel and only my novel.  But last fall at a workshop I tried my hand at Flash Fiction and loved it.  Writing that could be a quick warm-up to displace your fears.  So could writing Haiku.

–Remember to write and let everything else fall into place.  Because it will.  Your job is to put words on the page.  This is the best thing to remember when you feel that fear of putting your work out in the world, or of submitting it to editors or agents.  Your job is to write.  It's not to worry about what people are going to think of the final product.  At the heart of it all, you just need to write.

What about you? How do you banish your fear of writing?  Leave a comment!

**Today is the last day to get $50 off tuition for my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  Learn more here.

Photo of Munch's The Scream by Oddsock.

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Guest Post: The Power of a Written Wish

Please welcome today's guest poster, Milli Thornton, who many of you will recognize from her wonderful thoughtful comments on this blog.  I'm excited to have her blogging here today!

The Power of a Written Wish Mill

by Milli Thornton

 As much as I love writing and words, sometimes words are just too left-brained to capture the magic. I guess that's why I've been feeling nervous about writing this post . . . I didn't want to take the uncanny out of what happened by trying to pin it down.

All I know is that I entered a contest here at Charlotte's blog where I was to name a wish – and my wish was granted.

(Is Charlotte magic?)

On July 16 our favorite Wordstrumpet posted It's My Birthday Week, and I'm Giving Someone a Present . To qualify for the prize draw readers were asked to do something whimsical and fun:

"If you could wave a magic wand and have anything in the whole wide world that you wanted for your next birthday, what would it be? Bear in mind, there's no limits here. You could have anything your little heart desires, such as a bestselling novel, world peace, the entire Amazon catalog in a wood-lined room, a Ferrari, a Grand Tour to Europe, and so on. I'm talking true, mad, deep desires."

The prize (eventually won by Carole Jane Treggett ) was a $20 Amazon gift card. Good enough reason to enter, right? Nobody really expected to have their wish granted, right?

I certainly didn't. Nevertheless, I took the time to get very specific with myself about what I would wish for if I could wave a magic wand. I wrote in Charlotte's comment section:

"If I could wave a magic wand right now, I would suddenly understand deep down in my soul (but also in a conscious way that is not at all mysterious or rollercoaster-ish) how to balance my over-achiever side with my 'I love my creativity and I love to have fun!' side while at the same time making the income I desire to make. Income from my writing and my creativity, just to be completely clear."

I just deleted the paragraph I started to write detailing how my wish has been coming true. It was starting to feel too much like capturing a firefly in a bottle. Because this entire thing hasn't unfolded yet, and I keep bumping down another level to find out it wasn't what I at first thought.

I call it "bumping down" because it keeps feeling like I'm falling off my own cliffs of preconceived notions. Every time that has happened since my wish-casting on July 16, I would feel confused and all out of sync – not to mention embarrassed that I wouldn't be able to write the post I promised to Charlotte. Realism would shift to surrealism and then back to a new reality.

I finally realized I was getting my wish, but it was going to take a while (like any good adventure) and it was going to explode most of what I thought I should be doing (or how I should be doing it).

If you happen to write a wish, and if you happen to have your wish granted, don't be surprised if it seriously messes with your comfort zones. And that's how you'll know you're getting the deepest possible version of your wish.

P.S. Despite my careful wording, it actually has turned out to be mysterious and rollercoaster-ish. But now I get it: that's better than something neatly sewed up and presented as a pre-packaged wish.

———

Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Fear of Writing and Milliver's Travels and coaches writers at Writer's Muse.

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