Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ya Learn From Everything ...

Yep, it's true. Remember that great line Gene Hackman had in SUPERMAN (the original, with Christopher Reeve, for those of you who are old enough): "Some people read WAR AND PEACE and come away thinking it's a simple love story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing-gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."

I'd like to think I'm the latter, not the former (hey, wouldn't we all?) -- but truthfully, I can be so dense at times that I can't bear myself.

The big question I've been grappling with over the last few weeks (since we returned from a much-needed and much-enjoyed trip to Walt Disney World) is: Why am I so unhappy?

Well, okay, a lot in my life is changing, and I expected it. A lot of things are breaking down (principally my beloved car), getting worn out (like my furniture) and just plain no longer needed (like my wedding china). Clearly I'm in a period of transition.

But what can I do to make myself feel better during this extremely stressful time?

Guess where I got the answer.

Nah. You'll never guess.

So here it is:

I got the answer -- from reading earlier posts on the Carolina Conspiracy blog.

Yep -- sometimes it's that obvious.

And what I got, from all these highly professional writers who spend their days thinking about their writing, then writing multiple books, then promoting them with a fierce devotion you have to see to believe, is -- I'M NOT WRITING ENOUGH.

Yeah. It's that simple.

Sure, I've had plenty to do since we got back from Disney World -- tons of mail and calls and emails to catch up on, errands to run, job applications, endless paperwork -- big deal. It piled up and I'm trying to get rid of it.

In the process, guess what went by the wayside? Yep. The writing itself.

In previous CC blog posts I've noted authors talking about daily word counts -- something I usually disdained, because if I set a word count, I almost always exceeded it anyway by the first morning, so it seemed silly.

Doesn't seem silly anymore.

I NEED something with hard concrete numbers and perimeters to give me a sense of structure, especially now. And if it's just x number of words per day -- hey, I can handle that.

I've been thinking, naturally -- how many words is a decent word count that I can expect to fulfill daily? I mean EVERY WEEK DAY -- what's enough? And what's too much to expect me to reach every day?

Well, during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), I write 1,700 words/day, and it's always a little breathless. Usually, of course, I stretch myself to do more, because the 50,000-word limit that denotes Nano winners from Nano losers (er, non-winners) would mean roughly 1,700 words/day. And my Nano finishes have always been higher -- 76,000 words the first year, 62,000 the second, 54,000 the third. (Hm -- I'm continually trending downward -- maybe in this year's Nano I'll barely make 50,000 -- but I hope not.)

How about starting smaller -- like, 1000 words per day? Seems to me I could handle that. It's a little over three double-spaced pages/day -- something that seems eminently doable. (I'm usually a pretty quick writer when I know where I'm going -- what slows down the express is not having the vaguest clue what to do next.)

Also, 1000 words/day usually means you're writing a draft. As I'm actually rewriting a book now, that may mean working on another project in draft stage, just to prime the pump.

But prime it I will -- I'm tired of feeling, at the end of a day, as though I haven't done anything worthwhile, whereas (like the bumper stickers) the worst day writing is usually better than the best day doing something else. And it allows me to focus on something I like, something for myself. As mother of two active boys (ages 13 and 10), I can testify that that's all too rare in my recent experience.

So ... I'll report in my next post how things are going. But I promise you that tomorrow, I sit down and knock out 1000 words -- no matter what -- even if I skip around in my manuscript, even if I don't know exactly how those words will fit in the final project, even if ... fill in your own favorite.

The important thing is to plant my butt on the seat and my fingers on the keys and GET ON WITH IT.

Writer's honor.

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