Saturday, September 26, 2009

Re: writing

I've had many nice emails, encouraging comments, and follow-up questions about last week's post on making more time to write. Firstly, thank you for all the encouragement.

To get to the heart of the matter, the new schedule is going well so far. Well, the writing part of it at least. I have yet to try the working out part. ☺ In a mere week, I've discovered many things about my writing.

1. As Marla Beck suggests, making writing a habit is key:

In the process, when you write consistently, you're also adding to your manuscript and--if you're working with intention and focus--learning and practicing your craft.

Do your work. Write. By doing so, whether you realize it or not, you inspire others around you to do the same.

-Marla Beck, The Relaxed Writer: Please Write. Now.

Not every writing session is a winner. There are mornings when what I write will more than likely be tossed in the end, but the actual exercise of writing is productive. That's why I don't feel guilty about blogging or spending hours journaling for a scrapbook. Writing, like anything else in life, takes practice. And simply put, writing is writing; it doesn't matter what you write as long as you're doing it.

2. In her classes and books, Stacy Julian explains that scrapbooking is not restricted to making layouts; scrapbooking also includes taking and editing photos, organizing memorabilia, and gathering materials. Much in the same way, writing isn't only manuscripting. It also includes brainstorming, outlining, researching, and in my case, a ridiculous amount of jotting ideas down on sticky notes. Tuesday morning, I ran out of time for "actual" writing, but I made a great amount of progress outlining and clarifying aspects of the plot that, up until that point, had been unclear. To me, that writing session is just as productive as having written ten pages of the story.

3. A chunk of my story is told through flashback, so I found it essential to create a timeline (I'm using xTimeline) to keep the timing of events straight. But what I've found is that I need to stay open-minded and flexible with my plot. Sometimes a character will take over and move the story into a completely different direction than I intended. At first, this freaked me out a little (I have control issues), but I've come to realize that it's not only okay, but also pretty cool.

4. And speaking of flexibility, allowing myself to be flexible with my schedule is a good thing. My morning "me time" is from 6-9. My goal is to spend 2 of those hours somehow engaged in the writing process. How I divvy up that time might change from day-to-day (e.g., one morning I wrote from 6:30-8:30; another morning, I wrote from 6-7 and then took a 30-min break before picking my pen back up), and that's fine. What works one day might not work on another.

5. I'm more productive if I write what strikes my fancy when I put my pen to paper (yes, I said pen to paper; I like the kinesthetic satisfaction of writing the old-fashioned way). With programs like Story Mill and Storyist, I can easily stitch my scenes together in the correct order. (Note: when I'm ready to transfer my writing from my spiral notebook to the computer, I like using distraction-free writing software, such as Write Room [Mac] and Dark Room [PC]. It helps me stay focused [aka off the Internet]). Writing what I want, instead of forcing myself to write "what's next," is a great motivator.

6. Setting small goals works. Using a technique, such as bookending (thanks, Marla!) can help keep me on track if I'm dawdling. (I also use this technique a lot in my day job.) It's amazing how much you can get done in 15-min chunks!

And finally (I promise), I feel like I need to clarify a statement I made in my earlier post:
And even when I do get up early, the time is usually wasted on email and Facebook.

I do not consider my time online to be a waste - far from it, in fact. Working from home, my Twitter and Facebook time is equivalent to talking around the water cooler in an office or catching up in the mail room at a school. Furthermore, my time online has allowed me to both reconnect with old friends and make new friends I otherwise never would have met. What I really meant in my post is that having a social media blackout during my writing time is really the only way I can keep myself honest. If Twitter were running in the background, I'd probably only be writing a fraction of my designated time because I'd be distracted. That's another reason I really like writing with pen and paper: no need to open my computer at all, so staying "unplugged" is easy.

Of course, it was through the Internet that I received all of your correspondence. And through that correspondence, I found out that so many of you write and are also looking for more time to do so. I hope you do. ☺


Yvette said...

Great post Cheryl! I love your writing style and reading about goals you set for yourself and seeing how each one is coming to pass. Very encouraging!

Jenny said...

I'm so glad to hear all this! I love the bookending strategy. I will definitely have to try this. I'm also very interested in checking out the software you've mentioned. I, too, enjoy writing with pen and paper. I seem to get lost in it more that way - perhaps it's the commitment element. It's so easy to type, edit and revise at the same time...but when it's pen to paper, you just dive in and go. Well, at least I do. I find that I write more quickly and honestly at times in my spiral. And, of course, I COMPLETELY agree with you on the writing as exercise. I was so proud of one of my kids in class the other day who told me, "I couldn't think of a poem, so I wrote this" and showed me a quick write. [Cue angelic choir] HE GOT IT!!! HE REALLY, REALLY GOT IT!!! I'm sure you've seen it too - most of the times students who "can't think of what to write" just SIT.

...guess this comment is getting pretty long. Sorry about that!
Love the post! :)

Flory said...

I agree that writing requires practice. I started my blog in order to get practice in writing. In the beginning, I was writing a post just about every day. Now I am spending more time writing my memoir, but still keep up with the blog.

I like the boodending exercise, and want to check out this timeline link.

I'm glad I stopped by from SITS.

Jen said...

I've never heard of this bookending strategy, but after checking it out I do think it would be extremely helpful for me. I'm so easily distracted.

I totally know what you mean about writing on paper--there is nothing like it! I do a lot of my brainstorming on paper and sometimes entire drafts of whatever I'm writing.

Keep up the great work, Cheryl!!