I learnt a lot over the past couple of days, about myself, my creative inclinations and habits, and how I need to let myself use them instead of stifling them. It was a valuable learning experience.
What’s also a valuable learning experience is just sitting down and making yourself write, and finding that you can actually do it.
I was seriously considering not writing today, like I didn’t write yesterday. I am definitely going to draw up some new goals for Weekly Words that don’t involve a word-count; I want to be exploring and experimenting and testing things out, and that might involve things other than “real” writing – it might involve planning, of all things. It might involve me getting better at it.
But also writing, because writing is good, and while I went into today’s writing session with trepidation and not a little reluctance, by the time I was done I couldn’t even remember what I was so worked up about.
Oh right: character voice. One of the big things I discovered over my “detox” weekend was that the ideas of mine that I’ve made something of – some sort of manuscript or drafting attempt that doesn’t stop after a week of spontaneity-fueled enthusiasm – are character-driven pieces. Except for Wolf Gang, but that was never actually meant to be good to begin with. Everything else I’ve stuck with has characters that I love and adore, and what I’ve found recently – meaning the past few years – is how much angst I have around getting characters “right”. Even if I have whole scenes in mind, once I actually sit down to put it in writing, it all just starts to fall apart; I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, I completely lose grip of what drove me to write it in the first place, even though once I step away from the page the scene – and characters – return to me just as vividly as ever. It’s infuriating, feeling unable to match up the ideas in my head with the reality of how it translates through my writing of them.
Perhaps I need to treat it a bit more like transcribing than writing; I need to not “interpret” it, which I think I actually end up doing when I set out to Write. Mostly because interpretation is fun in its own regard, and not wrong – but it’s also muddying up perfectly good ideas and driving me away from them. So I think I’ll be working on that for the rest of this week/forever.
Well, today was a good start: I got up at 10:30 for one thing, which is about an hour earlier than I’ve been getting up for the past fortnight, so that was good; and immediately I felt like writing. Just my thoughts and feelings upon waking up, observing the place I was in, not to turn into anything else, just a sort of morning pages deal. Going to continue that. It’s a nice way to start off the day.
After that, I did a writing exercise; I had an idea, and I wrote it down, and while the idea was visual it felt like a direct translation – a transcription, even – when I put it down in words, so I’m calling that not just a success, but a precedent. My Weekly Words word-count is now going to include these sorts of writing exercise things, because while they are not directly connected to my projects, they are going towards honing my writing skills, and I do want to count that.
I did also write some more of my project that I’ve been finding hard to work on for the past couple of weeks, and it’s so much easier now. I think there really was a hump that I just had to write up to and get over, because last night and this afternoon it’s been smooth sailing, and I’ve been enjoying writing the different characters. I started off with a sort of omnipotent but snarky third-person narrator, and now I’m giving way to the characters and allowing them to colour the narration with their own voices. I guess I feel a bit more relaxed about it, now that I’ve written the difficult, kind of boring set-up stuff. It’s not going quite according to the plan that I had, but it’s getting written, I quite like what I’ve got, and there’s always revision. The point is that I am building something to revise, and I finally like what it is that I’m building.
I didn’t write on Sunday, except for some co-writing plotting with my friend and making “detox” notes, and I’m not going to count those here. But it does count. It helped tremendously, and I feel very confident that I’ll be writing for the rest of the week very happily indeed because of what I got done over the weekend. It’s a very nice feeling, looking forward to writing again, and writing lots of different kinds of things for different reasons.
More of this.
Can’t write I’m busy writing other stuff that doesn’t count towards my weekly word-count goal.
Brainstorming, in particular terms. How can one measure brainstorming? I guess you just say you’re doing it. Maybe I could use a checkbox for that with Weekly Words, like have a bunch of “bonus objectives” that I can tick off every week, and brainstorming could be one of them.
Started getting back to writing a … well, not new per se, but newer project that I’ve had in mind for a little while and wanted to explore more fully. Felt good. Also felt frustrating, because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but I got it done and feel like I’ve got some groundwork covered.
Then came back later this evening and did even more; the original word-count was 1203. It’s all exposition, and I’ve decided that the best way for me to work off the frustration of it “not being what I want it to be” is to take what I’ve written and turn it into a scene – make it character dialogue and/or action, showing rather than (just) telling. There has to be some telling when you’re making shit up, laying out rules of a fictional world and how it works, but it’s always better when characters are involved and it feels like the world not only makes mechanical sense, but feels lived-in.
As good of a foundation as this has been, it does still feel like, at least in the moment, I haven’t gotten a lot done by doing any of these writing exercises – I guess they don’t have to, either, but it is a feeling that I sense needs a counter-balance to it that isn’t just waiting things out. For that reason alone (although there are others), I really do want to go back and read over some of my old drafts, things that I’ve actually finished, especially the couple that I’ve identified as projects I’d like to continue with. Writing new stuff is all well and good, and in this case particularly good because wow it is hard to write this new thing, my ideas are so thin at the moment and I really hate that feeling. It’s good, I know, to just be getting down the ideas that I do have, no matter their quality, but it still pains me to do it when they’re this under-developed. So, to balance that out, I need to do some reconnecting with some of my better-developed stuff. And take notes. As I found over my “detox” weekend, just taking down my reactions to my own work and ideas really helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings about them, in a way I don’t get if I just go back and browse through them. I am already missing the clarity that came from the weekend and want to get it back again, probably to the detriment of focusing on the here and now, just the usual existential crap of a disorganised mind.
But anyway, got writing done. Gonna make another big push with this new/revisited project tomorrow. Feeling kind of excited about it, even. Always a nice feeling.
Not as big of a push word-count-wise as I was hoping for, but in terms of what I actually got done – well, I got both some plot-development and character-development done in those 1.5k words, and that’s worth a lot to me, especially with a new project.
New-ish. I threw some hooks in; the characters themselves I’ve always found a bit awkward to work with because they’re just kind of dull as cardboard, but now there’s some intrigue, and it ties in with the plot, and it just feels … promising. I did enough today, I’ll say that happily.
As for this week …
I’m back in business, y’all.
And all of that for my own projects. Yes, lots of it is brainstorming, but it’s brainstorming that counts, because it’s serving two purposes: it’s developing my ideas, and it’s helping me to practice exposition. And turning that exposition into something more interesting.
Also proper writing; I’ve been working on two personal projects this week, and while one of them is in the brainstorming stage, the other one – the one I was writing last week and the week before, to varying degrees of success – I’m trying to do less thinking about. But I might do more of this … “active planning”, I guess, where the brainstorming is the writing, or is there to be turned into proper writing in a more direct way.
As in, tonight, I took the big world-building info-dump thing I wrote last night and turned it into a scene between the two main characters that also ended up exploring their relationship to each other and tying into the main plot – which I was making up on the spot as I wrote, and it was working and gelling and just … it was fun. It was satisfying. And most importantly, it made me want to keep doing it after today.
Which is going to be a little awkward, but also maybe quite good, when I take the weekend off to do other things. There’s a piece of writing advice that says to always stop when you’re in the middle of your flow, so that you want to come back and do it the next day, instead of using up all of your motivation in one sitting. That can backfire pretty hard if you just lose motivation because you cut off your own momentum, but I think my idea of taking two days off after five consecutive days of writing – and writing quite a bit, on the whole – plays to the strengths of that strategy. Besides, I do want time to decompress, to focus on doing other things without worrying about having a quota to fill, so that I can 1) do other shit, and 2) look forward to being able to fill the quota when I get back to it. Which I did not think would ever be a thing that I would want, but even just taking Saturdays off for Weekly Words has proven to me that it is, indeed, a thing.
Sadly this Saturday is not really going to be “off”; I have a Youthline thing from 10-4, which is sure to be intense and hopefully very rewarding, like the last one was, and I’m kind of dreading it because if there’s a point in this course where I realise I shouldn’t be here, this is probably going to be it, but also kind of looking forward to it because, conversely, if there’s a point where I finally feel certain that I’ve made the right choice in continuing with Youthline, this is also probably going to be it.
And then after 4 I’m free, but still, it’s not going to be much of a weekend. And also, I realise, according to my new plan, today should have been part of my “weekend”.
Oh well. Next week. Fridays and Saturdays off, and I’ll keep the optional day off during my week as well, though the way things are going I highly doubt it’ll get a lot of use. I think as long as I can keep my weekends sufficiently full of doing things that I actually want to do while simultaneously denying myself the opportunity to write (though writing down awesome ideas that I have in moments of inspiration is still allowed), that’s a balance I can maintain.
I think. Next week can be the trial run. Just gotta remember to do it. And I think, given the past week, that I can. This way of brainstorming that fulfills a second role as being the “zero draft” of scenes for books I want to work on – I had the idea, a while back, to write summaries of my potential novels and treat them as the “zero draft”, rather than as a plan that was separate to the “real” writing that I’d have to do to make the novel, like, exist. Brainstorms that can also serve as future word-count. That’s a keeper, I think.
And with it, I think I’ve found a new way to motivate myself to work on my own projects. Which is the eternal struggle with writing. So that’s cool.
And now I’m going to try to ignore my nerves and get some sleep. Until next week.
As in I’ll post something next week, not I’ll sleep until next week. Though I wouldn’t complain …