Long ago, when I wrote regularly, if people would ask me how I wrote so much, I would tell them you have to write to write. I wasn’t being smart, honest. Writing begets writing. Writing is a muscle, in its own way. The more you do it, the more the ideas flow, the more words structure themselves in your head, and the easier it is to keep writing. It doesn’t matter WHAT you write, you just have to write something, every day, no matter what. A few pages on your story, a blog post, a letter, hell, even a shopping list. Just write SOMETHING.
And then I stopped writing ANYTHING.
Granted, I had good reason. Between my separation and having to take care of three kids on my own, all my health issues, job insecurity, house reclamation, and just basic survival, I didn’t have time. (That’s the other thing you need, time. Which can be harder to come by and a lot easier to use as a fallback excuse.) I wasn’t in situations anymore of enforced idleness that I could fill with writing. Writing required scratching out time that I just couldn’t find. I wrote it off (pun maybe intended?) and didn’t write regularly. So when our annual Writers Weekend came around, I would try to cram in a ton of writing all at once. This is like trying to run a half marathon when your previous athletic experience was all back in high school and you didn’t bother to train. You can do it, but it’s going to be really, REALLY ugly. And it was. I finished a book after 5 years when my average for that length had been 6 months. I have another half finished novel that gives me agita just thinking about. Writers Weekend 2016, date yet to be determined, is coming up again. Will it be another bloodbath?
You see, two things have changed. The first is this blog. I haven’t been as regular on it as I would like, but I have been posting, and in doing so, I’ve been pretty wordy (sorry about that.) Just taking the time to do them, though, has started warming up the brain. Kind of like starting a walking routine. Words on paper. Or in this case, on the screen. (Yes, I’m bad. These posts go straight from my brain to the keyboard to you. No editing, no revision. You can probably tell.) The 30 day challenges are really good for that, as it pushes me a little more than just casually posting would. I have to come up with a lot of topics and put the time in front of the keyboard.
The other change is the OTHER blog. The WriteFFS blog is going pretty well. Well, I say well. I have 12 followers. I suspect half of them are porn blogs. ::shrug:: BUT. Because of it, I’m looking at writing blogs, both on Tumblr and on the broader internet, every day. I’m THINKING about writing more.. Which may seem a bit masturbatory, but thinking about writing makes you want to write. Going back to the fitness metaphor, I read an interesting piece of advice from the actor Terry Crews who said that if you want to work out, just start by going to the gym every day. It doesn’t matter what you do, even if you just sit there and read a magazine. Just getting there every day is half the battle, and eventually, you’ll want to try something. That thing will lead to the next thing, and eventually you’ll be working out. Just show up. That’s what the WFFS blog is doing for me. It’s me showing up, every day, 3-4 posts a day. Yes, my queue is doing the actual posting, but I’m having to keep that queue filled, and I want to fill it with more than just reblogs (shares for you FB people). So I’m out on the internet, finding other writing blogs to link to, to follow, to get ideas from. Which is making me think about writing. Which is making me want to write.
I’m not writing yet. But I am organizing. The story that I mentioned was nibbling at me? Not writing it. But I am starting to lay out characters and a rough, VERY rough outline. It’s a major genre change for me, so I may resort to writing tools. Need to start looking for more Scrivener and Evernote tutorials. Right now I just have 35 rows in an Excel spreadsheet neatly numbered, one for each chapter, the first 6 of which just say “Mad Annie is looking for you.” I’ll fill in more as the plot develops. It’s taking its time, so I’m taking mine. I found this amazing quote while working on the blog, though:
It really helped me focus what I was trying to do with this story. (For the record, it’s a post-apocalypse buddy/heist story. Leverage meets The Stand?) I was focusing too much on the politics and the worldbuilding and complicated machinations. I need to focus on what’s important. The people. Relationships, values, the human spirit. But without the blog, I probably wouldn’t have found that, and this would still be more of a wish than a story.
This was a really long winded way of saying Write. Every day. It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter for whom. Post it, don’t post it. Fiction, non-fiction, to do list, wish list, anything. Anything you have to stop and think about. Anything that requires the smallest amount of mindfulness. All the tips about setting aside dedicated writing time, creating an environment, establishing writing triggers, they’re all good, but they don’t always survive first contact with reality. Just write anything. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it every day, but strive for it. You’ll get better at it. It will get easier. Even only 300 words a day gets you a novel a year.