Writer, Know Thyself!

A few weeks ago, during the Indie Block Party, we had to write about our favorite or most helpful writing tips. I came up with Know Thyself. In writing that post, I realized how important that really was, and how, for as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been discounting what I know about myself. Oh, I know things like my themes, my interests, the stories that I come back to again and again, my reasons for writing, etc. But, when I decide things like: I want to be more prolific! I completely discount the things that I know about myself. I look to see what others are doing (good) and then I try to cram myself into their molds (bad).

Having this blog has helped me to see trends in my thinking process (who knew journalling could be such a useful tool?! *ahem*) and my implementation process.

Know Thyself is apparently something other people struggle with, too, because I’m not the only one to talk about it recently, in terms of writing. Holly Lisle, one of the best champions out there in terms of going after your dream despite everything, has a writer’s newsletter, which I find to be an excellent tool to keep myself thinking shop. The last few weeks had articles devoted to why it’s important to Know Thyself, as a writer. (A moment here to plug Lisle’s work, not just her written material, but her how-tos and clinics and resources, period. I have not, as yet, paid for any of her intensive clinics, but this does not keep me from considering her a mentor in the field. She’s passionate about her writing, and she’s just as passionate about the process of writing and producing, and the amount of time she puts into all of this blows me away, consistently).

Also, Elaine had this to say about the importance of knowing yourself as a writer. I realized, if people are writing about this, it’s because 1) it’s something they’ve gone through and 2) it’s something they think needs to be shared — likely because they’ve gone through it. Hey, knowing you aren’t alone while you’re stumbling, that others have stumbled also, is important.

Still, I wanted to be more prolific. I have tales to tell, and I’ll never tell them all, but that doesn’t mean I get to not tell any of them. I was struggling with Brit’s novel, watching it sputter to a stand-still, when I realized that I was sucking all the joy out of my writing by making it be about getting to the finish line. I thought, maybe I’ll try plotting it out first, even though I know that doesn’t work with me. I’ve read through a number of Lazette Gifford’s 2YN: Two Year Novel books — in part because I was enjoying the story snippets she shares with us — and decided that I’d try her phase outline in trying to get the novel jump-started again. And that was fun, for the first day or so, but it really just had me itching to write again. Except I’d go back into the material and stare and feel overwhelmed and ill prepared and daunted.

This was followed by my token “I’m done writing!” moments, which last for about as long as it takes me to say those three words. Then, I thought, maybe I should focus instead on the shorter works, and work the novel in as I go. This decision gave me the creative freedom to write Sanctuary Farm as well as getting the ground work for the next story I want to write firmed up in my head. And I was going to start it, too! Except then we went to Crater Lake, and I met the real next story, and now five chapters into it, it’s shaping up to be a novel, and it’s actually flying by. I started this story on August 19th. I have 22k words written already. It’s first draft — this is about getting the story out, nothing else, so I know that I’ll be fleshing out scenery in the next pass through, once my bones are set. 22k words. Since August 19th. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a lot to you. Me? I’m in a place of shock.

I wanted to get the stories out. Since starting up this blog, I’ve decided time and again that I need to have a daily word count goal. And I kept stumbling on that. Ideally, I like the roundness of 1k words, 4-5 times a week. At that pace, I would have 4-5k words every week, and the story would continue to go forward. This isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve got two years of having this goal in my head constantly, and of constantly failing, of constantly deciding that no, I’d rather not write right now, thanks. It’s not that I don’t have the tales to tell — gods above, do I have the tales to tell! — and it’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, because I do.

What’s working for me right now? I admitted, finally, that I cannot — no, really, cannot — treat writing like it’s my full time job when I already have a full time job. I cannot let it push everything else of interest out of my life: I have knitting that I like to do, I have reading that I don’t want to give up, I have religious stuff that’s important to me, I have cats to snuggle, a dog to dote on, and friends and family that I want to stay in contact with. (Still sort of sucky on that last bit). I want to be the writer who can write any time, anywhere, but I’m not. Especially in the beginning of a project I need quiet and solitude. I admitted that my one day home alone needs to be my writing day, and I started making sure that I had that day clear to write. To get up and sit in my pjs and write. And, on the 19th of August, I did just that. And I had just under 4k words by the end of it. I wrote in two sessions, with a nice, leisurely lunch hour or two in between. And I was so intrigued by the story that I wrote another few thousand words during that week. And then, on the following Monday, I wrote another chapter . . .

It seems silly, thinking about it. But, having the one day to get the ‘goal’ writing in makes the writing fun. It gives me the time in between to set up the next few scenes and puzzle out problems — which is my most successful way of writing. I need to be curious and to be in puzzle solving mode to go forward. It frees up the week so that I can either write on other things or read or get in a few scenes. It’s strengthened my writing stamina, so that now 1k words seems like nothing.

And I’m realizing, the last two full length novels I’ve written were written in spurts like this: let the well fill up during the week, and release the deluge in one or two days worth of writing, and then back to letting the well fill up.

If I was sticking to this formula of 1k a day, 4-5 times a day, and I was actually doing it, right now, I’d have, at most, 15k this morning. Instead, I’ve got 22k. That’s 7k more words than I “should” have, based on my goals that weren’t working for me, and about, oh, I don’t know, 22k more words than I would have if I was still trying to cram myself into that particular mold.

Writer, know thyself. And then, trust yourself and above all, use that knowledge.


2 thoughts on “Writer, Know Thyself!

  1. Pingback: Honesty, mini-goals, knowing thyself | The Saturated Page

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