Monday, July 9, 2012

A Productive Writing Weekend Filled to the Brim with Non-Writing

After a good writing weekend – in which I got very little official writing done, I can say I’m feeling accomplished. I realized a few things this weekend that, yeah, I’ve known for some time, but that bear repeating, because, no matter how many stories or books I write, or how many times I take this writing journey, I forget the little lessons I’ve learned along the way. So here is a list in case any of my writer pals find themselves in the same boat while drafting.

When I'm feeling stuck, I remember:

1. This is a first draft. A first draft! It does not have to be perfect. Gosh, it doesn’t even have to be that good. It just has to be words on a page that are telling the story I want to tell. I will revise and revise and revise again. I hardly ever get a story anywhere near where I want it to be until at least a few drafts in, so why am I letting myself get paralyzed over trivial things in draft one? It’s silly. All it does it halt creativity and that certainly isn’t going to get my story told.

2. What do you have? It’s easy to think of all the things you’re lacking. I’m famous for this – I don’t know the next ten plot points, I haven’t figured out a secondary character’s motivation, how does this plot thread fit into the bigger picture, etc. I have to remind myself to, yes, keep working on what I’m lacking, but also to focus on the positive. What I realized this weekend: I have my main character, I have her voice, I have developed many secondary characters, solidified my setting, have a smattering of plot points I want to hit during this next section, and know the tone I want the book to have. So when I sit back and think about that, I realize, hey, that isn’t half bad for first draft progress. So keep writing!

3. Thinking does absolutely count as writing. Nope, not a joke. Brainstorming counts as writing. I spent a lot of time over the last few months in the mind of my character. I slipped on her shoes, entered her world and imagined exactly what it was like to be in her mindset. I took long walks as her, thinking of how she would view things and how she feels about the world around her. Was this putting words on the page? No. But was it helping me know what those words will be when they get there? Absolutely.

4. Setting goals, but being gentle with myself. Like many writers, I aim to write daily. I used to aim for 1000 words, now I typically aim for at least a scene, even if it’s 200-500 words. But, if I don’t write, or don’t hit that goal, I don’t let it stop me from moving forward. Goals are worthless if they’re only going to foster guilt. I count anything related to my story as working, even if it’s spending an entire long walk just thinking about my characters and letting them wander around in my head deciding what they’ll do next.

5. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ve all had it happen. You were determined to write. You were set. You sat at your desk, you brewed your coffee (or poured your wine), and you cracked your knuckles. And then, the words didn’t come, or life interfered with your plans. So what. Close the computer, go do something else, and come to it later, with a hopefully refreshed muse. Feeling discouraged is often nothing but counterintuitive to writing, so find something else to do.

6. Writing is fun. There is one reason I write. Because I love it. I love telling stories more than almost anything in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the pressure or stress of writing and deadlines and all the mental anguish that can go along with the craft. But at the end of the day, I do it because I seriously could not live without it. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck, I try to remember how much I love this and how good it feels when it is working. I try and remind myself that I’ve been in this position before, but that I’ve always moved past it and through it and gotten back to that creative stride that makes it all worthwhile and wonderful. 

Happy writing, friends.

5 comments:

  1. All very good advice. One of the hardest things for me is doing this when what I'm writing isn't what I want to be writing (because of a deadline or whatever)--I need a healthy dose of #6 at those times! Great post, Jenn.

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  2. I'm glad for #3. Sometimes it seems that's all I'm getting done.

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  3. I wish I could get that first reminder glued inside my head. I tangle myself up in so many doubts during first drafts. Ugh!! Thanks for the reminder.
    I'm a big fan of #5, and it usually gets me through the worst days. These are all such great tips. I have to favorite this. Or tattoo it to my arm or something.

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  4. #2 is literally something I write down from time to time under heading "what do I have?" Even if it's something as simple as "I have a great idea for a story" that is something. You want to know what you need but ruminating on what's not here yet is only going to prevent it from getting here!

    Great post

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  5. Sarah - Thanks! And yes, it's hard to remember how much we love writing. I often have to remind myself.

    Steven - Yes, thinking is SUCH a huge part of writing so good to keep at it! Figuring it out is integral to getting it on the page.

    Lisa - So true. Just remembering that there is another day is so often helpful!

    Ken - That's great. I don't think about it often enough. Going to keep trying to do that!

    Happy writing, everyone!

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