Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Writing

Bruce got up one morning after I'd already been awake for a few hours and asked me "How do you write so much?"

The simple answer is I get up several hours before he does.

The more complex answer is . . . well, more complex.

I once felt like my day was a run-around of a never ending to-do list. Only sometimes that list didn't actually exist. I love to write and want to publish someday once I've got my ideas rounded up, and I was getting tired of waiting for someday. Bruce is more nocturnal than I, so I was finding myself with hours in the morning of just waiting around for him to get up. I realized that this was the perfect time to harness my writing energy and just write.

So now I get up in the morning, turn on the computer, and spend the next couple of hours reading my favorite blogs, posting on Ravelry, writing for this blog, and collecting ideas for my manuscripts in progress. Sadly my fiction is not really going anywhere, but at least I keep poking it with a stick to keep it alive.

Tangent: treating writer's block is like surviving in the snow. Rescue will come, but in the meantime you cannot just lay down and go to sleep. You have to do something to keep yourself from just slipping away, whether it's build a shelter, keep moving, or find a source of heat. In terms of writing that means writing character profiles, role-playing characters, in-depth descriptions of your setting, jumping ahead a few scenes until you can fill in the blanks . . . it's not about survival of the fittest, but of the most creative. Actually, to be honest, I'm better at giving this sort of advice than taking it, and I think I'm at some risk of frostbite.

But there are other things I do for my writing beside get up early to do it:
  • I read a lot - books, blogs, newspapers, magazines, forum posts, whatever. Reading is a key ingredient to becoming a better writer.
  • Knitting - knitting, or crocheting, is very meditative to me and sometimes I get a lot of great ideas while working on something. I keep my journal nearby to record the ideas as they come to me.
  • Journaling - I don't really keep a diary, but I do write down any interesting thought that passes through my head. Or funny conversations I've had (or overheard), other ideas people share with me, random observations of things that catch my notice. You never know where a good idea will come from, so I make it a policy to capture as many ideas as I can.
  • I don't edit too much. I have a lot to say on the subject of editing, but it boils down to the fact that I don't edit at all until I get all my ideas down. I don't worry about technical aspects like spelling, and I don't worry about tone or content until I get the majority of my ideas out and on the paper. Sometimes we edit ourselves so severely that we psych ourselves out of writing anything at all. So to avoid that, I simply turn off the inner editor until I actually need it (sometimes easier said than done, but well worth it).
  • I write even more - even if the particular manuscript I'm working on has come to a complete standstill, I still find ways to write creatively by posting on Ravelry or thoughtfully commenting on blogs - that one can sometimes be hard. Sometimes I read a blog post and my first response is "Oh, that's nice!" But I strive to reach for something more meaningful. If you keep writing the same things over and over, even if it's just comments, it's going to start affecting your larger works as well and they will sound like the same thing over and over.
Another tangent: it's kind of like the girls in my past ballet classes that never took barre exercises very seriously. They could not wait to get out into the center and work on "real" dancing. But because they didn't commit to the warm-ups, their technique suffered and they struggled with the "real" dancing. I made my biggest improvements when I realized that the best dancer in the class was already dripping in sweat by the time we finished barre. She took those exercises very seriously, and it showed in her overall technique. So I sought to emulate her and began making lots of improvement myself.

And I guess you could say that's exactly what I did with my writing. I started emulating practices of writers I admired, and now I not only feel like a real writer, but other people think of me that way too.


  1. What kind of fiction do you write? I used to get up early in the morning as a child and write stories. Unfortunately, I don't have any of them today. Good for you. The quiet in the wee hours of the morning or in the night are the best to do things like that.

  2. A teacher once told me there is no such thing as trying to be a writer--either you ARE a writer because you are writing, or you're not writing and therefore can't call yourself one. Always made sense to me.

  3. I'm sure your fiction will take off. Maybe you just need that one experience or hear that one conversation and BAM inspiration strikes. Good Luck