Because the only thing I like better than successfully developing a series of blog posts is to start a theme and then abandon it, I’ve decided to start a Writers Doing it Right series. Part #1 is here, Part 2 is here, Part #3 is here. Part #4 is here. This week I followed the WordPress blog prompt and am paraphrasing from The Write Site.
How Do Writers Write?
#5 – Persistance
The full post for this one is more about getting published, where even though you have almost NO chance for fame and stardom you just have to keep trying. This is where being self-motivated and a blogger really comes in handy… because as much as I love getting new readers and reaching wider audiences with every snarky Game of Thrones post (and I DO! HI EVERYONE)…. I write because if I didn’t I would never stop talking. If I go a few days without writing even a silly nattery post, I start stumbling over my words and my inner monologue gets super hyper. So for me persistence is an act of self-preservation, with a bonus that I don’t have concrete Get Me Published goals (yet) so I’m not daunted by the Spectre of Failure.
#4 – Accept Judgment
A friend of mine who is also in school for nonfiction and I were joking about the various anxieties and neuroses that attend workshopping and critiques. We came to the startling conclusion that uh, stuff isn’t supposed to be perfect the first time you show it to someone. In Progress is a good thing. And of course as intelligent, insightful (read: critical and judgey) people, we love to comment on other people’s work and get annoyed when they’re unwilling to change anything. So this is true. And in the event I ever write anything that could possibly be improved I’ll be sure and tell you when it’s time to weigh in. 😛
Jokes aside, this was a great thing about writing for newspapers because at the school paper, they’d let me quibble and argue and re-edit until it was time to go to press, but once I started writing for the local papers, I submitted my 750 words and had NONE control over what showed up in print. It was scary, it was annoying, and it forced me to let go. Ditto TXT MSG – I turned in a script with ideas, eventually completed clips would show up online so I could frantically search for my contributions.
#3 – Focus
It’s funny – the idea that “A writer is constantly scanning their world for sights, sounds, smells, feelings and ideas that can be turned into an interesting string of words” actually sounds to me like the opposite of focus, like when you unfocus your eyes to see a Magic Eye illustration. By panning back and sort of letting a constant stream of information wash over me I’m more likely to notice the stuff that strikes me as write-worthy.
That said, picking a topic and specializing (even for a limited time) can lead to heightened understanding, a more in-depth perspective, and a general perception of knowledgeableness. For example these Game of Thrones pieces…. it’s such a blast to read and watch closely, to be examining things up close and in a long view. Specializing makes for a more interesting writing process and I think, better results as long as you don’t let yourself be shoehorned into only writing about that thing. When I had to summarize my interests for grad school I was like “uhhhh…movies, tv, New York, baseball, feminism, LGBT activism, women’s rights, theater, books, dogs, India, Bollywood, sobriety and public transit?” But if I try to write about ALL of that ALL the time I’m going to esplode. So choose your poison for a while and immerse yourself in it.
#2 – Create Spaces
I like the idea of creating a writing space – i.e. this blog – and a physical space in which to write. Monday night I came home and was struck by how messy and cluttered my room had gotten. I did 6 loads of laundry, threw away a full bag of random crap, unpacked from my trip, got rid of a lamp… and felt inspired to turn my room into a Grown Up’s Room, where I can write someplace that’s not my bed or Gracie’s vaulting chair (to get up onto my bed she pulls a 270 degree turn off an armchair at the foot) or a Starbucks.
If I were a fiction writer, I’m sure I’d be thinking in terms of fictional worlds too, but as a nonfictioner what I really like is creating a mental haven for the critical process that kicks all my reviews into gear. So coming up with series ideas and committing to doing a weekly recap is a good way to keep myself on a schedule.
#1 – Turn Up At The Page
Yessss. For me, my magic writing time is usually at night, after 10 pm or so. Last summer when I was writing for TXT MSG, I forced myself to work from 9ish-3, but I feel like my brain really clicks and my voice comes through between 10 pm – 2 am. Sometimes I want to skip it, or don’t feel like getting into the whole big subject that’s on my mind…. so I sit down and write something quick or goofy for here, or personal for my other blog. My primary responsibility isn’t to this blog (though I love it, and youse guys), it’s to my brainpan (and my upcoming MFA work), so if I can’t make any headway on Major Project A, I’ll give an hour or so to minor project B or mini-essaylet C or just natter on LJ for a while. And then I have to build on that momentum; if I’m on deadline I just have to suck it up and keep writing until it’s done. Or it’s awesome as it can get. Orrrr until time’s up and I have to go to bed or risk being a zombie the next day.
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I think I’ve done enough surveying to come up with some MKP guidelines for next week! Stay tuned!