Recently I have found myself getting into lots of conversations about ‘what you would do if you didn’t have to work.’ I know, for me it is obvious; become FreeCell champion of the world and get a few novels written on the side, but for others it spans from the mundane to the entirely fanciful, but everyone has something they want to do.
The common thread, whether it be learning a new language, a new skill, or indulging in an artistic pursuit, is that they are putting it off until they ‘have time’. The truth is none of us have time other than that which we make. We push so much into tomorrow that by the time we get there, it is full.
This isn’t intended to be a lecture post, but it is an observation that has been really present in my life recently, and it is related to the risk taking I spoke of a few weeks ago. It is easy to fall into the monotony of our lives and lounge there, we do not challenge the status quo often enough. Don’t wait for tomorrow, grab your passion, and make some time for it now.
So tonight I’m going to take that story that has been kicking around in my head and I’m going to put it on paper. So it’s a short post today, because I’ve got to do some writing.
What are you going to do?
May has been a month of deadlines. One of these deadlines was for a novel development program, open to any genre. Keen to get advice from other writers and editors about how to write a better book, the first decision I had to make was which partially written novel to submit.
This was a bigger challenge than you might expect given how many novels I have started over recent years. I kid you not, I have six novels actively on the go right now. They are in different genres, aimed at different readers, written in very different styles. The one thing they do have in common is that they all stop after the fifth chapter. Why? Because for me, that is when it really starts to feel like a novel and I begin to fall in love with it. So naturally I become terrified that I’m going to stuff the rest up and will find any excuse not to go back to it.
I have long known of this is a particular affliction of mine, and I have read other blogs by other writers who have similar problems, but at different parts of the book. But gratefully for this novel development program I could ignore the bits past chapter five and just pull together the first few chapters for my submission.
Here was my surprise. The first five chapters weren’t great. In fact the first five chapters weren’t even good. They were actually crap. I had spent three years avoiding this book because I loved it so much that I didn’t want to bugger it up, and it turns out that by neglecting it that was exactly what I had done.
What was meant to be just a weekend of work turned into about 25 hours of re-writes and hard edits to get my chapters up to scratch in time for posting on Friday. But what’s even better is that I’m raring to go on chapter six and beyond! So even if the development program doesn’t come through for me, at least I now stand a chance of finishing this book!
So now I guess I have nothing to worry about… Until I hit the curse of the ¾ mark –where you become convinced that your novel is crap. But we’ll cover that in another blog.
Okay, so I promised a word count (oops, nearly made a hilarious but very rude typo there, no I’m not trying to distract you). But seriously, this word count reportage is not nearly as easy as it seems.
What can I count as words written?
Obviously not the hundreds of emails I send a week at work (of which at least half actually pertain to work) and none of the memos, briefs and manuals I have to write there either.
But what about the web content I helped my partner with (1200 words)? True, it is non-fiction, but I had to get creative to try and make deodorant sound exciting! Do I count the book review I wrote for the blog (270) not to mention this blog entry (271). I also wrote out a plan for yet another YA novel that I want to write (1,267).
Then there is the whole edit factor. I finally edited a short story I’ve been avoiding for weeks (9,097), but I didn’t track how many new words I wrote, and then do I have to take them away from all the old words I edited out? Finally I wrote a little bit of new stuff on another short story that is currently haunting me (487).
So, depending on your point of view, over the week I have either written 12,592 words (wow), or just 487 words (ugh). Maybe this is why I have never reported before.
On a completely unrelated topic, I’m currently sitting on 99% on FreeCell! I wonder if they have a world championship that I can enter?
It seems like everyone I know has recently started a blog. Most of us are trying to stick to a theme (mine is meant to be the journey of a writer, just in case you’ve missed that). But about six weeks into it you suddenly find you are writing about your cat, your impending high school reunion, or your inability to embracing the move from daylight savings time. The theme gets a bit lost. So when is it okay to deviate from your theme?
As I said in an earlier entry, every action in a writer’s world can be put down as gathering material, likewise all writing can be passed off as ‘exploratory creativity’ –but when does a blog move from sharing your views on a theme to gratuitous ‘me-ism’? And does it matter? After all, would readers rather hear about my success on Saturday when I forced myself to sit at the computer until I wrote a page and actually ended up with five (true story). Or would they rather read about the challenges in making six fingered gloves, complete with false fingers, so I could attend a ‘P’ party as a person with Polydactyly instead of a pirate (of which there were eight).
The first story, while it gives me the warm-fuzzies and fits well with my theme, won’t ring many people’s bells as a story. Conversely, the six fingered gloves have nothing to do with writing (despite the apparent benefits, they didn’t improve my typing speed) but probably piques more interest.
But I think it is important to keep with a theme, so here is my writer-ly advice for this week; write. Sit down, allow for no excuses, and put words on the page. It has always been my last line of attack when I don’t want to write, and it always works. Only once you have those precious (even if they are crap) words in the computer can you waste your time on other endeavours, like building six fingered gloves.
I had big intentions of writing lots of great stuff today. But then this glorious Melbourne autumnal day snuck up on me with its luminous blue sky, perfect temperature and sweet-caress breeze, and next thing I know it is 5pm and I’ve done almost nothing at all.
The birds were singing, calling me out to play. The bugs (while avoiding the afore mentioned birds) also knew the day was grand enough to warrant rubbing their legs together, or wobbling their bums or doing whatever it is that bugs do to make their ‘isn’t it a great day’ noises. It seemed that everything that could herald a beautiful day was doing so, and who was I to ignore this? Isn’t this, after all, what life is all about?
But here is the fantastic thing about being a writer; even when I’m being as lazy as can be, when my biggest act of writing for the day is to push out these 386 words for my blog, even if I was to watch back to back episodes of Oprah for the entire day (which on a day as beautiful as this one would be nothing short of a crime against nature) I get to put it all down to gathering material.
So I gathered material while reading a book in the sun, then I went down and gathered some more material over a yummy lunch at a cafe in Camberwell. After that I strolled down to the shops, gathering material at numerous retail therapy outlets, before concluding with a walk home (via the long way), with much material gathering occurring along the way. And just when you thought that I would not be able to fit any more material in, I gathered six games of FreeCell material before opening Word to write this blog entry.
So you can see, so far I’ve dedicated this entire day to writing. One could argue that I’ve even earned a break! Okay, that might be pushing it. There are still a few good writing hours left in the day, I might get that next chapter started yet… But the sun is still out, maybe I should go for just one more walk? The cats come out about now and they do enjoy their belly rubs…