The Writing Process
Okay. Here's the deal.
And there really is a trick, a bit o' magic to the creative process! The problem, of course, is that the "deal" is different for every writer. But lately I've found something, and while it's not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's been helpful for me.
Back to the topic: The Trick, The Answer, The Technique
As a former teacher, I'm used to thinking in terms of classes during the day, that kind of structure. So many classes of whatever length, lunch, more classes, planning period. That was always a very comfortable structure for me for some reason. Who knows why?
Now, a lot of writers, notably Susan Elizabeth Phillips, as well as some others, have found the timer structure to work well for them. You know, set the timer and work at the computer/the ms/whatever until the timer frees you. It's a great technique as it leaves a writer free, so to speak, once released from the timer. You've done your work, in other words.
I just couldn't make it work for me. My own weirdnesses, that's all, because it's a fabulous way of focusing in on the work.
But. . . what has been working for me is setting up my day, sort of, loosely, in a school day structure. While the "class periods" aren't English, math, and so on, I have been using that idea of class periods to get a variety of things done: some cleaning in the basement, some filing, a whole lot of paperwork, and, of course, the real work of writing.
It's sort of as if my brain can wrap itself around the idea of, "Okay, now it's Creative Writing Class." Or, "All righty, then, it's shop class (aka, tearing into some of the basement messes)," and when "class" ends, I move to the next class. Including P.E.–or, in my peculiar mindset, my time at the health club or taking my walk or hitting the exercise bike.
I have to say that this feels very stupid even trying to explain it because it seems so basic. But what I'd suggest is that you might think about the time structures that are comfortable to your natural rhythms for whatever reason–boy, I'll bet they won't be as doofussy as mine!–and then adapt that structure to your writing.
Because the real truth is that the writing is always there, the stories always insinuating themselves into your head, but real life is there too, and has to be addressed.
For me, it's the compartmentalization that seems to settle my brain right down so that I don't have to feel guilty or have to be angsting over whatever it is that I'm NOT doing while I AM doing something else.
I'm curious as to what time management structures work for other folks? For you?
Although I mentioned a bit about the recent NINC Conference I attended in St. Pete Beach, Florida, I wanted to add some more now that I’ve been back in the Fall of the Midwest. To wit: how some writers’ conferences end up sending me into a blind panic, into major insecurity about my creativity and abilities, and. . . why this one was different.
I’ve thought it was the location. I mean, shoot, shugah, there’s nothing like being on a gorgeous sugar and beach with brilliant blue skies and more brilliant blue water slurping at the sand. Restful. Of course the smell of pina coladas, aka sunscreen lotion, was a nice sense memory, too. But I do think the location, at least for me, contributed to the mindset.
The size of the conference was also conducive to thoughtful discussion of what’s going on in publishing, what it all means, and whether or not tweeting is essential to selling. Kind of is. As is the whole digital movement, but that’s another story and, I think, one that in another situation would have made me vey anxious and scared.
But not at this conference where the mood was optimistic and energized. Was that the result of the terrifically knowledgeable industry people there? I think that was part of it, sure, because to a person, everyone seemed hopeful about what’s ahead for the world of stories even despite the faster than Superman speed of change.
Part of it, too, was the chance to spend time with writers who weren’t pitching or promoting. That may have been the loveliest aspect as everyone was more low key, none of that desperate look-at-me, look-at-me intensity.
I loved this conference more than any I’ve been to in recent memory. In my Best Three Conferences, in fact.
At any rate, I’d go again. In a heartbeat.
Today's work dilemma is the inability to remember early parts of the book and to make sure I'm not repeating myself. Ever had that problem?
Oh, sure, I made a real time chart with the chapter chart and keep track of the events, but the brain feels as though everything's floating around and nothing's settling.
Not to be punny, but it's very . . . unsettling.
So here's my solution, such as it is: I just force myself to stay heads down in the mess until somehow it starts to register, starts to make sense. I continue to keep track on my book chart–you know, the one with time of day, weather, events in the chapter, where the romance is at that point in the book, where the mystery is at that point–and then I simply hope.
Hope that doing the work will make it all come out. Hope that the brain's not as flaccid and grey as it feels. Hope.
Yeah. Hope's good.
So. What do you do?
Oh, boyohboyohboy. What a strange day it's been. A temperature drop from yesterday of almost 40 degrees, plunging us into quite cold and curl-up-in-front-of-a-fire mode.
Which I think I'll do after I finish the pages for today.
I'm at that point where it just feels like slogging through mud to get to the end. I want to be the hare, racing along, zipping to the end, not the tortoise.
But, like the hare, I've gone off track while the tortoise has slowly and steadily plunked its feet down and crawled on.
My lesson for this month?
Be the tortoise, not the hare.
But, goodness to godness, Miz Agnes (as we say down home), I sure do want that zipping along in the breeze rush!
Nevertheless. . . .
Today's fun soundtrack is sexy-hot Tim McGraw. Hoo, babee. I especially LOVE "Red Ragtop." It takes me back to the days of my youth.
Some writers can't write to music with lyrics.
I need the words in the background. They block out the other stuff going on in my head. I think perhaps I'm a bit weird–oh, what the hey, I KNOW I'm weird–in that I work best in my cocoon of noise all around me.
As long as no one talks to me. Or asks me for something. Or needs my help.
Noise is good.
Need is not.
The delightful weird of work.
In my case, anyway.
Working today to the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou. For some reason this CD really works for me whether I'm doing the walk at the health club or working in my office. The lyrics somehow lodge in my brain and conjure up images and ideas. At the moment, "You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine" is playing and I remember singing that over and over on car rides with my little sister.
If you've never heard the wonderful, haunting "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" as sung by the ethereal voices of Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch, you must. It'll send shivers up your spine.
I can play this CD over and over without tiring of it. Nostalgia? Maybe a a call to my southern roots. Who knows?
And I loved the movie.
A dear friend gave me a CD of music from Desperate Housewives. I play that one over and over, too. Hmmm. I seem to have a repetitive thing going here. This doesn't sound good!
Writing–man, some days the voices aren't there, are they?
Or the energy isn't there. Or the need to go to that place where you can hear the voices loudly and clearly, where they provide the energy, and you can just slide into the zone.
I thought I'd be energized and rarin' to go after Rob and Emily left, expected that their visit would just lift me up and keep me flying right into that zone. But here's the thing. I miss having them here, miss the coming and going, miss the noise–although they're both so quiet that "noise" isn't the right word!
So I'm wading back into the icy waters of work. You know, edging in, dreading the cold shock, holding my breath.
And outside, oh, outside my window, there's this perfect day calling me to come out and smell it, breathe it in, bathe in its colors.
If I were a surgeon, I wouldn't be looking out my window, would I? If I were still teaching, I'd be racing around the room checking all kinds of things out, boogieing along at ninety miles an hour instead of sighing gustily and wishing I were outside digging in the dirt.
Well. Back to work, huh? Yeah. Back to work. Maybe I should pull the shade down.
But I didn't.