August 20, 2011

It’s the same, only completely different.

Posted in writing at 1:00 pm by z. l. sasnett

Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. – James Baldwin

It’s said that a writer must find the way that works for them when they write. I suppose, like all things as we live and grow, it will change over time and with experience. What works for me when I write, doesn’t work for another.

I outline, a good writer friend of mine doesn’t.

I’ve tried not outlining and stalled. She tried outlining and lost her enthusiasm.

Neither of us are right or wrong. It simply is the way of things.

Over the years, I’ve picked at writing. Sometimes I was prolific (even if it was imminently unpublishable) and sometimes I was not. In the recent years, I’ve picked writing up again to give it another go.

A project I’ve started and stopped, I’ve scrapped and started again. I tried my old way of writing and it simply wasn’t working. Is it that I’m older, (hopefully) wiser and more experienced? Is it that this particular writing project is resistent to my previous way of writing?

Possibly all of the above. The thing I was reminded of, when I finally discovered the way I needed to approach this project, was what I thought was my most effective way to write wasn’t.

This was a surprise to me. I thought if I just sat down and gut and muscled through X words per day, following my outline (while not being slavishly attached to it) and jumping around to write those scenes that caught my attention first and going back to fill in the others would work best for me.

I wanted it to be that way. I wanted it to have a mix of structure and free form to my writing.

It wasn’t working out so well. When I was writing, it wasn’t working. When I wasn’t writing, well, I wasn’t writing!

Back in the day, I used to love timed word sprints. I did them all the time. They were never shown to anyone, all carefully preserved on my harddrive (and backups!) for the day when one might prove to be a good idea to launch a story. Or to serve as a reminder that I’ve come a long way in my writing.

It was a few days ago, as I struggled with the prose, with the chair, with the keyboard, with winamp, with my attention span, with my interest to be writing and not procrastinating, that it occurred to me.

Writing during my usually successful block of writing time (9 am to noon) wasn’t working for me. I was pulling every procrastination trick in the book and getting nothing done.

So, I tried a wild and crazy idea. I have my word count per day that I wish to strive for. It’s a little ambitious, certainly more than what I’ve written before in one day, but I’m confident I can keep up by doing things a little differently.

I’ve blocked it off into smaller word count sections.

Traditionally, when I was doing the timed word sprints, I could get about 500 words written in a 15-minute time segment. So that’s what I decided to do. I broke my total word count for the day down into 500 word blocks and I will strive to write those words in 15 mintues. If I fall short, that’s okay.

I will then do as many 15-minute time segments as needed to make my daily word count.

As a result of this change, I’ve been more productive writing than I have in months and months and months. I manage to stay at the computer longer because I can get up and wander around between 15 minute bursts.

And still fit in a whole lot of procrastinating.

Only, right after I finish my word block.

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