Random Bloggery: One of those writing days….

So today is one of those days in the writing life when I open up ye olde work in progress, stare at the screen, position my hands over the keyboard ready to write and then…. nothing. Most of the time, I just write without worrying about the outcome (something I learned how to do, in part by participating in NanoWrimo.) Most of the time, I am able to squeeze something out of my head and onto the page when I have set aside time to work on fiction, but these days do happen. As I write this blog it is still early in the day. Not even noon. But my brain seems to be spinning out a bit for some reason.

So, I take a deep breath, a step back, and consider where I am with the work.

And then I remember that I have a novel that is just about ready to be published. All I need is cover art and a few tweaks to the back cover blurb and BEHOLD A BOOK SHALL BE UNLEASHED UNTO THE WORLD.

Then I think, “Holy crap!”

And I remember how creative endeavors have their own cycles. When a project is this close to completion, it makes sense that I need to relax for a few beats about productivity¬† with first drafts. I always hit this moment and try to push through in spite of myself. And I also hit the same moment of frustration each time. There’s a moment when I have to put a lid on the self-generated pressure to produce. I have to remind myself that the words and ideas will still be there and it is okay to take a break.

It is kind of strange that this moment hits on the first day of NanoWrimo, the month in which word count is king. Maybe there is something there, though. Yes, push through, hit those goals, do your best to finish the thing, but its good to remind ourselves that we are human and need breaks. Take those five minutes, get a coffee, do that chore that you’ve been procrastinating on. Then come back to the writing work happy that you no longer have to do that irritating chore.

It seems counterintuitive but it is true that sometimes increasing productivity means taking a little break when you hit the wall. As a person with workaholic tendencies I can tell you that I have wasted time trying to push through when my brain simply would not co-operate. When I am self-aware enough to understand what’s going on I take that needed break and end up producing more and better work than I might have without it. The thing is that it’s hard to recognize when that moment hits sometimes. Everyone’s cognitive/creative process is different, nuanced, and only we can know when a break will benefit us and when it will not. Advice? Pay attention to yourself to figure out when that is. I said before that you can learn a lot about your own process when you participate in NanoWrimo. This could be one of the things.

 

 

 

It is almost here… NANOWRIMO

November is almost here. You know what that means. NANOWRIMO DESCENDS UPON US WITH THE FURY OF WORDS THAT MUST. LAND. ON. THE. PAGE.

National Novel Writing Month.

Most folks who have been considering participating in NanoWrimo have already decided, yay or nay? I can’t do it this year with six projects in various stages of draft. I’ve got things started that I am determined to finish and Nano requires a new first draft of a thing.

I have, however, participated in NanoWrimo in the past. For me, it was a lot of fun, but I also learned a few things about my own writing process. For a person who has ambition around writing fiction this is incredibly valuable. If you, nascent novelist, also have ambitions around writing fiction, I would like to provide a gentle nudge in the direction of participation.

One of the most important things around fiction writing is learning how to finish work that you start. This is a road toward a complete first draft. While the word count requirement to win NanoWrimo is not, strictly speaking, book length, it is enough word count to determine, at the end of it all, whether your story idea will work once you’ve polished it.

Whether or not you have something workable at the end of it, you will have learned whether the kamikaze approach to writing 1,700 words a day works for you. That’s not nothing. if you are a person who has already started and finished long work then maybe the challenge for you is producing content at a relatively blistering pace. Doing this can teach you how to work with deadlines and how you, as an individual writer, work under pressure.

Then there is the lesson that you learn when the race is over. At the end of the month, when you have your pile of words, will you remain motivated enough to complete the work and then edit? Because editing is where things become publishable. Editing is crazy important.

That said, for a lot of us who have been writing for a while NanoWrimo can be a way to force us to shut down the inner editor for a month and simply produce work. We can play on the page unfettered by an impulse toward perfectionism (or even legibility). We need, sometimes, to throw away the million and one restrictive lessons around grammar, narrative structure, expectations of genre, etc… in order to produce work. This is harder to do than it sounds. Nano can provide the jolt and support community it requires.

As true as it is that editing is crazy¬†important, it is also true that we get nowhere if we have produced no work to edit. Nano shows us one road toward producing that work. If you are not sure about your process, this is a good way to learn something about what works for you, and what doesn’t.

That’s my two cents.