Rethinking my writing
Earlier in this collection of articles I indicated my plans for the future. Now I see that I must amend those plans. At some point I will also have to amend my writing process. It has changed a bit and I’m still not certain if I’m at a final version of it. Once I believe my adjusted writing process is sustainable I’ll do a formal update. In the old version I was writing for a half hour and spending a few minutes meditating and thinking about the story. I repeated the process three times per writing day. That idea, pulled from a book I read, was adopted due to a quick onset of mental fatigue and back ache after a few minutes of work. I’m getting stronger. Now I can write, or should I say dictate, without breaks for an hour or more. The meditation and thinking about the story, giving my subconscious mind time to do its part, still appear to be a good idea. I just use it less now.
I had begun using a dictation program as I wrote some of the previous articles in Overcoming Writer’s Regret. I had suspected, but not fully realized, that it would be much easier for me to dictate -- easier on both my mind and my back -- than it was to sit there and type in a rigid fixed position. The rough draft of this article was written in an hour with no breaks and no fatigue. While dictating, I can lean back in my chair and be comfortable. The editing process will require more frequent breaks. But when I’m doing rough drafts using Dragon Naturally Speaking I can easily go for an hour without a break. Except for a few lazy days, I’m still using approximately a three-hour window of time to do my writing. I’m hoping at some point for 2 to 2 ½ hours of my writing window to be actual writing or editing time. In the old version I got about an hour and a half of work out of the three hour window. One three-hour window per day for five days a week seems a reasonable writing schedule for now. I will rethink that as the months go by.
At the end of the first hour of working on this article I checked my word count. I’d gone over 2600 words. That won’t happen every hour but it suggests that I could easily average over 2000 words a day, perhaps even 3000 words, when writing rough drafts. Obviously, the word count would not be relevant during the editing process. But initially, the idea is to get as many rough draft words down as I can, without thinking about whether or not any of them will end up in the final draft. The freedom to not be concerned about writing final-draft quality frees my mind to think more creatively while the words flow.
Some of my recent reading (yes, I’m still reading about writing) suggests that keeping up with word counts can be counterproductive. I can see that point. I anticipated averaging five or six thousand words a week after writing my last article. That hasn’t happened. The past sixteen weeks I wrote this article and finished seven stories. The stories were mostly major rewrites of existing stories or editing rough drafts that already existed. Instead of the 80,000 words I expected to write, I created 23,000 rough draft words. Considering the circumstances, 23,000 words is fine. But, compared to my expected 80,000 words, it looks like I’ve been too lazy.
I thought I’d be writing rough drafts a few days every week. Most weeks all I did was edit. I went off schedule occasionally, working less or not at all, but I did more and better work during those weeks than I have in any other sixteen weeks in my lifetime. I should be proud of that, and I am. I must avoid the psychological backlash of not meeting rough draft expectations. I can’t afford to let a false measure deflate my writing energy.
I know this article won’t attract a lot of readers and I suspect that some who began reading it will lose interest and not make it this far.
That’s okay. This is all more important to me – pay attention young writers -- than it could be to anyone else. Clarifying my feelings, thinking through my situation, doing it in writing … exercising my brain – whether anyone else reads this of not, I benefit. If a reader gains anything, it will likely be knowledge of what one struggling writer is going through as he makes his way down that mysterious road that beckons to him and begs him to write it all down as he trudges along the way.
Right now I’m in the flow. I’m doing the thing I love – I’m writing. How fine it would be to feel this way all the time, excluding the occasional non-flow moments for comparison purposes, needed to help avoid taking this wonderful feeling for granted. I certainly hope to someday write something important. Between now and then I will continue to seek out this feeling; if it’s my only reward, the effort will be worth it.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Learning and accepting the reason why I was born has been a long time coming … but, sitting here with my hands on the keyboard and my mind filled with thoughts about finishing this article and anticipating more thoughts about those future articles and stories and novels waiting to spring onto my computer screen, one thing is clear … the “why” of my birth is answered.