You will need to find and trust people — teachers, mentors, friends, spouses, partners, and lovers — who are unequivocally on your side. Not stupidly on your side, not uncritically. Unequivocally. Blind or uncritical support can only damage you. But you must have support, and it must be unfeigned.
– Stephen Koch, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop
Had a much better week this week. I chalk it up to getting those processes back in place. Setting a flexible schedule each morning is very helpful for me — it clarifies what I should be doing at each point in my day so that there isn’t any effort/willpower wasted trying to make those decisions.
I’ve also added a bit of meditation to my mornings. I’m not entirely sure if it’s helpful yet, but I’m giving it a shot. Right now, I’m using Headspace.
I realized that part of my listlessness and task avoidance was related to feeling overwhelmed by all the moving bits of all the stories I have kicking about. And then I though, why the fuck am I trying to hold all of it in a nebulous mass in my head? Dumb. I’ve always been a proponent of writing things out, but for some reason I hadn’t applied that to my projects yet. So I wrote it all out on Post-its and tacked them to the wall next to my desk. Immediately, I felt lighter and more collected, just having everything laid out explicitly.
I had a good plotting breakthrough with my fairytale novel project. As I suspected, it strips everything back all the way near to the beginning. I have a tendency to let the scope of my project get a little out of control, which is what happened here. It resulted in extra large events carrying my characters from reaction to reaction, which then led me to lose sight of what their agency and motivations. So I ruthlessly narrowed it down, and it feels much better.
I actually, surprisingly (yay, growth!), don’t feel particularly discouraged about that; I’m more optimistic and excited about heading in the right direction now. Plus, as Sanderson says, every word is valuable. Added about 5000 words to the rewrite.
I also made some progress with one of my short story revisions.
All in all, quite a good week.
I’ve got a stern little editor working with me today. Managed to wedge herself in the narrow space between my torso and the desk. Cats are non-Newtonian liquids.
It’s like this: in me there’s a story that wants to be told. It is my end; I am its means. If I can keep myself, my ego, my wishes and opinions, my mental junk, out of the way and find the focus of the story, and follow the movement of the story, the story will tell itself.
– Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft
Not very productive this week. I worked on plotting for a couple short stories, started season 11 of Writing Excuses, and wrote a poem. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting the requisite structures back in place — the inertia is no joke. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly, but that’s kind of difficult too.
Episode 11.04 of Writing Excuses was about Newton’s Laws of Writing (or, rather, Howard Tayler’s Laws of Writing). They are:
- A word count at rest tends to remain at rest. A word count in motion tends to remain in motion.
- Word count equals motivation times focus.
- Writing is its own reward.
- Sanderson variation: Every word you write is worthwhile.
For the last couple of weeks, my word count has been at rest. And I’m starting to think that, while breaks work well for many people, they don’t work as well for me. At least not right now. I get kind of drifty and mopey and self-flagellating. MRK mentioned that sometimes the easiest way to get out of a funk is to simply start small, because it doesn’t end up staying small once you get going. Maybe three sentences. Maybe 250 words. But just starting there and letting it build. And, of course, the gentle reminder that time spent thinking about your story is still work towards your story. It’s not always just the new words (though those are obviously very important).
As for law two, my issue right now is the focus bit. I’m letting too many things distract me, and I’m being too lax with some of the rules that I know work for me.
So this week, getting structures back in place, and figuring out how to set some writing goals.
What it has to do is move — end up in a different place from where it started. That’s what narrative does. It goes. It moves. Story is change.
– Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft
I spent most of the week reading and reflecting and figuring out how to actualize my plans for the new year. Finished setting up the new bullet journal. Did some more beta reading.
The short story intensive for this weekend got postponed, so I spent a good amount of the week kind of at a loss. My original plan was to kind of take it easy since it was a shorter week due to the NYE/NY holiday and since I was going to essentially have a writing jam this weekend. So that was just my general mindset the rest of the week. I did some edits on short stories and went through the rest of the feedback DVA gave me, so that was useful.
I still have trouble knowing what to do when I have some plot issues. My best (in my own opinion) stories so far are the ones that feel like they come easily and naturally. I tend to write relatively clean prose, so it feels like flowing. But I have a couple of story ideas that I really believe in that I haven’t been able to get into that headspace for. And when that’s the case, my inner editor comes alive and I spend time line editing when I should be pushing the story forward, writing from plot point to plot point. That’s a big thing I need to consistently work on this year.
Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.
When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant, defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”
Yes… the same age you will be if you don’t.
So let’s start.
– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
There, caught between the dream of action and the fear of failure, shadow artists are born.
– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Not a particularly productive week. Tooled around with outlining more. Worked on polishing a few short stories. Felt mostly bleh all week. That feeling where you know you should do more, where you even want to do more, but then you just… don’t.
It’s a stupid feeling really. Because it’s not like I don’t know what I need to be doing and it’s not like I don’t know exactly what’s happening. But even still, I let some of the structures crumble and I milled about listlessly. Drifting.
And I can rail at myself mentally, and I can scold and exhort. But the fact remains that I already made the decision at the beginning of the week (semi-consciously probably) that I wasn’t going to be super productive, and then I followed through on that decision.
I need to make better decisions.
But also, I suppose I need to have a little forgiveness for myself, a little grace. Because it’s okay to have a few off days here and there. It’s not the end of the world. And part of the whole not self-flagellating (as much) thing is also focusing on what I did manage to accomplish.
So, here goes:
- I figured out a couple major places where the plot of my novel breaks down, and I figured out a good fix for one of them. Unfortunately, this means some MAJOR rewriting, but I’m okay with that actually. Still excited about this story and these characters, and I want to make it work.
- I did a few readability passes and light editing on a few short pieces, and FINALLY sent them off to DVA to look at. I’d been putting it off for almost two weeks at this point under the guise of editing, but mostly it was because I still feel nervous about letting other people read my work. Definitely need to get over that.
- I got some good feedback and some great insights, and now I have a list of things that I want to add and play with to try to make those short works as good as possible. I’m pretty excited about them too actually. (This being proud of my own work thing is a little new for me. I’m literally realizing this as I’m typing it out because typing out that I’m excited about the stuff I’m working on feels… weird.)
Then, some not writing things:
- Play tested some Levelhead, which is the new upcoming Butterscotch Shenanigans title.
- Made six types of Xmas cookies and put together a few care packages.
- Restarted The Artist’s Way.
- Worked on the next episode of a podcast my friend and I are putting together.
That’s not a lot of things, but it’s not nothing.
I didn’t get that many new words written, lost to the fog of bad habit loops and dopamine fixes. But it’ll be okay. I will.
Next week is all holiday/family shenanigans, so I’m not planning to do anything too heavy. I’ll work on a few short story edits, do some feedback for DVA, and otherwise take most of the week off, I think.