Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Strength of conviction

Last year in November, my writing group decided to do our own version of the popular NaNoWriMo. Every one of us was in the middle of a novel and we decided we would use November and December to push for the end. 

The experiment was an interesting one for me. (I was forbidden to say I failed. Don't hit me. T.)

You see, I'd never done NaNoWriMo before, and have always been a slow writer who edits (obsessively) as I go. During those two months, I did have a few days when I just wrote without worrying about how well I was writing or how the current chapter fitted in the entire novel. Those days were awesome, awesome, awesome. 

Then there were those (many) other days that found me stalled and hesitant and semi-paralyzed or just plain busy. (Yes, we decided afterwards that it was silly to try this during the most holiday-heavy time of the year.)

Now it's a new year and new years tend to fill me with hope again. Call me naive. So here I am, resuming my intention for my novel, which is to move forward so that I have a finished draft to slash, I mean rework. 

And I'm finding that it's just as hard in January as it has been in November and December.  

Just when I am fidgeting and the butt glue is coming loose, I get an email from my writing friend. And it's about how we need to give up grandiose ideas about ourselves and our writing, and then we can write what we need to write.

I have grandiose and less grandiose ideas about my writing. I have doubts and fears. I have a repertoire of craft principles gleaned from writing professionals. I have the lasting impressions and memories of millions of sentences that have passed through my mind. 

But none of it, whether it is a wish to touch someone with my book or a fear that it will not be good enough for anyone or the recognition of brilliant sentence or an assurance I have portrayed a character honestly, is helpful at this writing stage.

What I need is to clear my head of anything extraneous to the story I'm writing.

Easier said than done, obviously, but an excellent reminder for when I'm lamenting my cliche-heavy prose and confusing dialogues and wooden characters and meaningless plot twists and the over-abundance of interiority. 

To just keep writing. Humbly and with great conviction that it needs to be written.


9 comments:

jbchicoine said...

Well, here' something that sounds really cliche: Just keep writing.

We writers do need to 'clear our heads of anything extraneous to the stories we're writing'...and yes, that is so much easier said than done. But if we stop writing--even cliche-heavy prose, confusing dialogues etc--we'll never get past the fear and doubt. I don't know, maybe those will always be there, but holding a completed manuscript in your hands must surely compensate for some of the anguish...

Yat-Yee said...

"Just keep writing" is something I chant in my head, the way Dory chants "just keep swimming."

You're so right, if we allow bad prose to prevent us from moving on, we'll never get to the place we can write the way we want to
write.

Thanks for chiming in.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Yat-Yee. Except for five days when I was too sick to write I've been doing that Don't Break the Chain calendar I wrote about, and I swear it does add that extra motivation. Each day your write at all you cross off the day and watch the chain of writing days grow. best to you!

Irene Latham said...

We put so much pressure on ourselves, don't we? I don't want to just slap words on a page. I aim for the conviction you speak of, and that's where the challenge is (for me).

Keep going!

Bish Denham said...

Nothing is ever perfect, else we would be gods. Even when we feel a piece is finished, we can always find new words to add or delete. What I am slowly, painfully discovering about writing is that what isn't working can be fixed.

So just write. Breathe in, breathe out, let the words flow. You can go back later and make them better.

Yat-Yee said...

Tricia: I am using the "Don't Break The Chain" calendar as well, but with a couple of twists. First I use it as a record-keeping tool, ie I don't pressurize myself to write every day, but to find out after wards how many days I have written. I know it's a bit of a mind game but this works a lot better for me.

Also, I use it to record my exercise schedule as well: red line for every day that I write, and a yellow line for every day that I exercise. It's going quite well! Plus it's colorful. :)

Yat-Yee said...

Irene: For a task to work in a longlasting manner, I need something more basic to keep me going. And having that conviction works much better than rewards I give myself.

Yes, keep going indeed. Battle cry of the writers!

Yat-Yee said...

Bish: breathing is always good. :)

Yes, nothing needs to be perfect, or even good at the beginning. Things can always be polished. Hope your writing is going well.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nicely expressed.