Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Vision in Perpetual Motion: Everyday Writing

What I really wanted to set down in concrete - like God scribing the 10 Commandments was 'You shall write three pages a day', but it seemed like setting myself up to fail dismally from the start. That's not what I'm into this year. This year is about nurturing and growing sustainable writing habits. Sustainable in the sense that I am actually able to do them in the short, medium and long terms and that they naturally become part of my daily writing craft. This year I'm starting out with the goal of writing something every day.

Last year I was sporadic at best at putting anything down in words - other than keeping to a strict routine of three handwritten pages in my journal (but having established that writing habit it's exempt from the word count this year!) I struggled with being plugged into the creative ether - going as far as believing my creative flow was being spirited away - but that's a whole different story of paranoia I'll save for another post. As I watched other writers around me flourish, I stagnated. I wanted to write, but I couldn't. The worst bit was I got out of the habit of writing, which made it even harder to get back on the bike to start writing again.

This year, tackling at least two big writing projects I'm confident that I wont be stuck for material to write. I believe the lack of an ongoing writing project was partly the problem last year. Writing short stories sucked me dry - coming up with new characters, new scenarios, twists, turns, hooks and the likes - it was exhausting and I clammed up. At the time I wished that I had some established characters, a chortling story on which I could jump on the back of and whip out my three pages. I know better this year. I have learnt something from the tribulations of last year.

Currently I'm in training for the three pages a day gig. While I'm training my write anything is committing to writing a blog post (or two on a good day), a few pages of Blue Melissae, a new short story or edit/rework an old story. The last item is where the three page rules gets a bit difficult. How do you gauge how many pages you've written, when you are editing and rewriting the same three or four pages for hours at a time?

Last night I was reading a number of blog posts on new years resolutions in writing - the pros, cons, costs and benefits of such lists. One piece of golden advice (and this is where my editing clause comes in) was from Jennie Cromie of The Golden Pencil:a freelancers resource. Jennie's post No Fail Freelance Resolutions: How to succeed in 2009 deals with planning in advance for low motivation days. She writes:

"There will be days when you wake up all motivated and ready to tackle your daily goals, and then several hours later—for some inexplicable reason—you’ll feel like throwing your hands up in the air and chucking the goal, the novel, the article, or whatever you’re trying to accomplish. I call these the “F*&k-Its.” You have to decide how you’re going to handle these moments ahead of time. Because no matter how much you think you want to achieve that dream of yours right now, I guarantee that there will come a time when that shiny new goal of yours becomes a pain in the you-know-what .. For example, if you have the goal of writing a novel and one week into it, you start thinking: “No one’s going to want to read this anyway. Why am I wasting my time? Why even bother?” Then you have to pull out that strategy that you’ve mapped out ahead of time ... The key is to maintain the forward motion toward your goal, no matter how imperfect that forward motion is."

I have decided then on the days when I can't face writing or I'm not motivated - there is always editing to do and if I can't cope with editing my own work there are plenty of other writers that I can do editing work for. And this is where the crux of my success lies on this bullet point.

Other back up plans to stay writing include:

* Julia Cameron's suggestion to use wide margins and large fonts to achieve those three pages on the days when it seems like you wont make it over the line (something to keep in the back pocket as another of those back up plans for the periods of drought).

* Just write anything - if it can't be creative, write a letter or an email to a friend, blog, jot something down in a journal and if you're really stuck - start on next week's shopping list or get an early crack at your Christmas cards. Commenting on Facebook and Twitter statuses doesn't count or else we'd all be start in the mire of social networking and truly never achieving anything.

Writing something also includes good and bad writing. When you've made the committment you can't get precious about the quality when you're in a drought. Bad writing is perhaps more important than good writing because it's harder but keeps the perpetual motion happening in a forwards direct. Sometimes we need to be imperfect to achieve our goals!

And if you're wondering how my committment to writing something every day is stacking up - it's cruising along nicely, but I'm not getting cocky, I'm pretty sure I'm not at the three page ultimate yet and we're only 6 days into the new year. With 12 short stories to edit, and these collection of blog posts I'm not short on writing. We'll see what happens in February. How about you?

Do you have a writing target for the day or the week? If so, what is it? Do you set out a schedule or are you foot loose and fancy free when it comes to picking what to write? What are your fall back strategies for the days when you feel like you can't write?

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Hi Jodi!

Thanks for the mention above!

I think it helps to have a general daily goal, but as long as I'm hitting a weekly goal, that's really what counts in my book. Speaking for myself anyway, knowing that I have that flexibility helps a little bit.

Giving yourself permission to write badly can also be helpful. And usually, the writing is not as bad as we think it is. We just think it is because we're not agonizing over every word that comes out or getting stuck in the trap of perfectionism. :-)

Jenny Cromie