Writing is work. A lot of people think they understand that, but do they really? Most people have a job. They are employed by someone else, scheduled to work certain hours, with direction of what to do. In exchange for this time and work, they get paid. Now some people work more than others. We have all seen it when someone comes in, does a half-hearted attempt at working then leaves. They still get a paycheck. I have a hard time understanding this but I see it happen. I don’t know about you but I always want to do my best when it comes to my work, whether I’ve been hired by someone else or working for myself. It is just my nature.
When you are an artist or writer, you are self-employed. Meaning you don’t have anyone setting your hours and telling you to show up except yourself. This work that you do is usually a solitary pursuit. Interruptions can be frequent unless you guard your time jealously. Progress also seems to match the movement of the tectonic plates at times. Laura Bickle said, “Progress on writing is so often invisible to the world, and it’s easier to mitigate the importance of it.” Hence why some people don’t understand when you say you’re working when they invite you out in those hours. Distractions are what I call them.
Most art or writing is speculative. This means you don’t get an automatic paycheck. You get paid for what someone else decides they want or need that you’ve already done. Payment can sometimes be problematic. Once the work is out there any number of things come along with it: public or professional reviews, criticism, contractual pressure, fan pressure, etc. Some people want you to do the same thing in every story; others complain that you did the same thing again. There is no pleasing everyone. I guarantee you will garner criticism if you put your work out there. I’m reminded again of what Neil Gaiman said in his commencement address to the School of the Arts in 2012, “if I did work I was proud of and I didn’t get the money at least I’d have the work.”
Get to work. Write on.
One of the first things that writers generally learn is that (most) stories convey change. I say most in parentheses because some writers think they can get away with writing where nothing happens. I, personally, do not find those stories interesting enough to read. Change can loosely be connected to cause and effect to drive the story. Sometimes it is obvious: the world ends. Sometimes it is only the mind of the character or the circumstances that have changed, but something has changed.
When we talk about something happening we talk about cause and effect. Something didn’t just happen, it happened because something else happened previously. Event 1 happens and Event 2 happens because Event 1 happened. Simple, right? This makes a platform for how the story progresses. Otherwise known as plot. Cause –> Effect.
Obviously it can be this simple, or it can be so much more complex depending on the story. That is the beauty of creation.
What changes in your story? Write on.
“Will he finish what he begins?” asks Yoda in the classic The Empire Strikes Back. A new project always has the siren call of the new, shiny, sometimes the unexpected. But do you finish?
Sometimes it is the small stuff that counts. Work, time management, planning, and yes finishing. Starting new projects is fun, we all know that. Something catches your eye, or you get an idea that won’t be denied. You start the new project. But how far do you go? I do a lot of classifying of projects in my life. Everything from settling my grandmother’s estate to cleaning out a junk drawer in my 15 spare minutes on a random day. It’s part of my own personalization of Getting Things Done by David Allen. Each project is broken down into manageable and identifiable next steps. I know how much time I have and what I want to accomplish. Then I work the project to completion. Bigger projects, more steps but I work to complete one step or stage before moving on to the next. That way I can say it’s done.
I have recently tried applying this to my writing life as well. Whether it is planning, characterization, plotting, writing or editing, I pick a “chunk” and get to work. When I get to the end, I work on the next part. Prior to doing this I left a lot of projects undone. Are you a list maker? Do you cross things off your list? Well, I was the complete opposite and added things to the list. The list got longer and longer and I never felt like I was making any progress. I changed what I was doing and started working in projects and making sure it was complete before moving on to the next. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have any number of projects going on at one time. I’m not that serialized. But I have one short story, one blog, one novel, one edit, one chore, one errand, one whatever going at a time. If I don’t feel like writing on the short story or edits during my writing time, then I work on the novel. I also keep track of how much I am accomplishing to see if I need to change anything, but that is another post.
Do you finish what you begin? Is there something you could go and finish now? Write on.
What is it that you are passionate about? I mean the things that get your blood boiling and you just have to do something, even if it is wrong? Do you know what it is?
I thought I knew. I’ve come up against some things recently that have made me more introspective about what I am thinking and feeling. It wasn’t any one thing or occurrence that happened. It was more an accumulation of things. Is this good or bad? I don’t know yet. At this point, it just is.
When it comes to my writing, it is affecting my current story line. What I thought I knew about my characters has evolved. I am not sure I like it yet, but I am continuing on with it. I do know that it will affect what I’ve already written so there is editing that will have to happen. Shocking, I know. Gasp, it’s NOT perfect! Writing books, blogs, teachers, workshops say you must have passion for what you write. I think I’ve lost a part of that.
I write a lot about motivation because I am unpublished (at least outside of academia.) What can I offer about writing tips and tricks? Just the things I’ve done, learned and experienced myself. I am no writing expert. I just do it. Motivation is big for me. It gets me excited and makes me want to do things. I also hope that it works for others. The beauty of it is that we are all different and something that doesn’t motivate one person will completely get someone else moving. That is passion. I believe I have moved from the passion stage and into the work phase.
Have you found your passion? Write on.
I don’t know about you, but I need a catch up day after the holidays. I expend so much energy and time getting everything ready and through the holiday that when it is over, I crash. I do almost nothing. After Thanksgiving we hiked Friday and drove home on Saturday. Sunday was a birthday party. I had enough trouble just getting ready for and through that I did absolutely nothing else. And no, I didn’t spend any time shopping! My time is worth more than that. Now it’s Monday and I’m trying to get back into the rhythm of things.
Thoughts for the day:
More holidays coming, time to decorate, bake and make sure I have everything ready for friends and family.
Where did the year go? I just got used to writing 2013 and now I am going to have to change it next month?!
Oh yea, what about my goals? Get back to writing. Whatever is going on in your life make sure that you make time for your work. Write on.
I am a writer. I write. My take on the “I think therefore I am” business. I did not participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have never been able to commit to it because of choices I’ve made. I am ok with that. But for those of you who may have started and given up, stalled, or gotten sidetracked, here is a second chance for you. There are 2 weeks left. If you start now and write all 13 days assuming the base word count that NaNoWriMo touts at 1,700 words per day, you can have over 22,000 words done on the novel/novella/epic that you don’t have now. If you want to be picky, 22,100 words assuming you stick to the base word count. Now if you manage to get your internal editor turned off and go stream of conscious writing, I’d be shocked if you stuck to the base word count. Think about that. 22,000 words is nothing to sneeze at. Get writing!
My choice is to try and make writing a life change. I want to write every month, not just put an artificial deadline out there and see if I can hit it. It isn’t my way of doing things. And that is ok. People need to make commitments to themselves to work on the projects that are important because they are important to them. In my case, that means that I’ve set up a writing schedule and I’ve been sticking to it by choice. Have I hit my goal every day? Hell no. Do I let it get me down? Give up? Put pressure on myself to make up the difference? Again, hell no. I choose to write. I choose to take this difficult career path because it speaks to me. I choose to keep working on it because every day that I sit down and put words in whatever medium, it makes me happy. I am a writer. How about you?