2016 is now half over, and I like to look back and celebrate my accomplishments. At the beginning of the year I set a crazy goal for myself. So far nothing is going as planned, and that’s totally okay! I think it’s even better than what I planned. In the interest of finishing this post and getting back to writing, I’ll do a bullet point rundown of the year.
Do you ever have that moment when the creative work just flows? When it’s easy, and effortless, and the words seem to show up on the screen all on their own? And they’re beautiful words, too. No toiling to craft the perfect sentence–it just appears.
In positive psychology, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi asserts that flow is the sweet spot between boredom and anxiety. You’re fully present, in the space between autopilot and overthinking.
In those moments, we know pure joy. We feel fully alive. We recognize the truth: that we are creative beings, meant to be doing this work. Those moments make the frustration and confusion of the creative process all worth it. When you’re involved in a creative endeavor and you’re in the zone, everything seems easy and perfect.
But it isn’t always like that, is it? In fact, I’d wager that most of the time, it isn’t like that.
An object in motion stays in motion. But how do we go from the state of not-writing to writing? How do we build up the momentum to just start?
Kinetic energy is the work needed to get something from a rest state to movement. In the process of acceleration, it gains energy that it will retain until the speed changes. Let’s apply this to writing.
Sometimes we take a break from writing. Slack off. Burn out. Get busy. Whatever it is, and whatever the reasoning, the result is the same: we get out of the habit of writing. Continue reading
“What a great idea! I’ll totally remember this in the morning.” How many times have we told ourselves this lie? I get my best ideas in the shower or right before I fall asleep, and chances are, if I wait too long to write down whatever plot twist or scene starter has occurred to me at those times, I lose it.
For this reason, I’m a big fan of jotting. Ideas, notions, characters, whatever – I write them down when they occur to me. Even if it means I have to drag myself out of bed and write for the next two hours. Continue reading
This post is a little late, as I just spent a week in California. But since I am trying to post more, I’m not skipping it. Besides, February ended up being a big month for me. Continue reading
I have a Shiny New Idea. A few of them, actually. I’m allowing myself to jot down notes and brainstorm during idle moments, but I’m holding back from diving right in. I’m so close to being done with Venus and having it ready to query. The query and synopsis are just about done. The manuscript is just about polished. So of course I’m beset by a multitude of plot bunnies. Continue reading
Yesterday the topic of writing speed came up. This is something I focused on last year–well, not writing speed so much as streamlining my process to increase output and finish what I start. After twelve years of doing NaNoWriMo, I could knock out a first draft in a few weeks, but then I was at a loss when it came to revising it. I had a feeling that learning more about pre- and post-production techniques would help me, but I wanted methods that would specifically help me write even faster, and with less stress and drama. Continue reading
This month has been a series of upswings and downswings in terms of productivity. At the beginning of the month, I still felt burned out from the holidays and National Novel Writing Month. I had done the editing prep work for the novel I finished in November, and for the most part, I knew what I needed to do next. But I was having a hard time doing it.
Luckily, I have a lot of friends that I can talk about writing with. They’re not just writing friends, but real friends, people that I can talk deeply with. One such friend came over to my apartment, and we talked about our writing projects. We got real about the resistance we were feeling, and wouldn’t let each other shy away from examining it. Then we sat down side-by-side on my big sofa, set a timer, put on some music without lyrics, and got to work. In talking through my resistance, I was able to jumpstart my productivity again. But I was still falling victim to my own bad habits. Continue reading
This week I’m reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I have to share this gem from the section on dialogue:
“You write a sh**ty first draft of it and you sound it out, and you leave in those lines that ring true and take out the rest. I wish there were an easier, softer way, a shortcut, but this is the nature of most good writing: that you find out things as you go along. Then you go back and rewrite. Remember: no one is reading your first drafts.”
You can’t edit a blank page. And unlike real life, the lives and worlds we create with our words can be revised, edited, even completely rewritten. That’s part of the creative process. The biggest part, actually. A coworker once told me, “Writing is 10% first draft and 90% revision.” He probably got it from somewhere else, but 10 years later I still remember him sharing that in the break room, so I attribute it to him.
Takeaway: Get out of your own way, get the words down, then go back and fix them. You got this.
This morning I read a passage in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that I found helpful for where I am in my writing process. (I’m revising, and this week it feels especially daunting.)
“[A pro] understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique.”