Tuesday, May 31, 2016

100 Days of Writing

I feel sort of like an addict, telling you that today is the 100th straight in which I have written something new. (Maybe I am a laziness addict. Sometimes just sitting down for the time it takes to write a page of . . . something . . . feels like a huge battle.)

Here's the thing, though: while writing every day works for me, it may not work for you. It's important that we have this discussion, because I don't want anyone to feel like they're Doing It Wrong. That's something that gets slung around a lot in the writing world, and I've learned to be wary of people who try to tell me there's One True Way of creating. That, my friends, is a load of crap.

For me, it's important to write every day--at this point in time--for a couple of reasons. One, which I consider the most important of all, is that when I write, I'm happier. Sometimes the good feeling arises just from sitting at the computer and working on a cool scene or a poem that's been gnawing at my brain. Other times, it's glorious to put in the time and feel victorious over my lower nature. Either way, it's healing. Times when I'm not writing are times when I'm not at my best.

The baby alpacas want you to be happy. Listen to the baby alpacas. Do what they tell you.

Second, putting the time in to hone my craft is one sure way I know of to get better at it. And my mind is more focused when I make a point of showing up. I have a lot to learn, and the more I work at writing, the clearer my shortcomings appear. There are other elements to learning: reading widely and thoughtfully, doing research, revising, talking about writing with more knowledgeable people. But none of those can substitute for making words of my own.

I don't work the same project every day, but if I have two or three or four going, of different lengths and styles. A blog post counts as new words. A poem counts as new words. A page of fiction counts, but no more or less than the others. When I lose focus on one project, or run into the Brick Wall of What the Hell Happens Next, the lizard hind brain has already been working on some other thing that needs telling. Or maybe it's worked out what I did wrong the last time I ran into a roadblock.

That's my process. It's what works for me. Your process may be different. Hell, my process will probably change if I ever have a non-self-imposed deadline. And that's okay. I expect at some point in the future, I'll be sane enough that writing every day will seem less important. But for now, there's a deep personal significance in letting the words out any-which-way and getting comfortable with that.

Daniel Jose Older wrote this really great post on Seven Scribes, talking about how wrong the 'write every day' advice can be. I love the point he makes right in the title, that in order to write, we have to forgive ourselves, let go of the shame that can hold us back and even destroy us. It's important advice, and you should read it, because Older says it better than I can.

Whatever form your shame takes, however it tries to take your voice, find the way to let it go. I can't tell you how to do that, but hopefully you'll forgive me for being excited that I'm learning to show shame the door--and write like my life depends on it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A question of strength

Today marks the 86th straight day in which I’ve done some rough draft work. Sometimes just a poem, other days I’ve written as much as 2000 words. The important thing for me right now is the act of showing up. When I do that, my moods are more even and I tend to be more creative overall. It’s the kind of streak that won’t last forever, but it reminds me why taking the time to commit to my work is important.

I'm kind of more in the blue circle right now.

That being said, I’m struggling with the work—particularly the part where I’m supposed to focus on rewriting and making the words sing, and the part where I need to send stuff out and collect rejections, and the part where I should probably make a list of agents and polish the novel query like I’ve been meaning to do for over a year now.

I’m really reluctant about that part, almost on a molecular level. Bit by bit the urge is returning, because I do want to share my work with others. That being said, writing to get published was a huge factor in the massive depression from which I’m emerging, which makes me leery of the risks involved. Not just rejection, though that’s never enjoyable, but the sense of futility and invisibility that have dogged me.

Let's face it, none of us will ever be as awesome as Helen Mirren and Judi Dench.

So here’s what I’m wondering, my fellow creative types: Do you know how to distinguish between legitimate self-care and recalcitrant foot-dragging? How do you tell them apart? Have you found a way to give yourself the courage to fail, while still making a safe space for the fragile parts of your soul?

I could really use your advice.