Monday, July 10, 2006

Challenge of Learning

Well, we're five weeks into this writing challenge (at least, Instigator and I are) and I'm finding this to be an incredible learning experience. Most of it good, some of it not so good. Seeing my story come together in such a short amount of time is incredible and exciting. For that reason alone, I recommend some form of this challenge to any writer out there.

But some nights the words would break free and fall down like a landslide. Other nights they wouldn't come, even if I tried to chip them with a chisel. So this hasn't been all fun.

I've learned so much! Amazingly enough, not a lot of it has been about writing. Just in case you'd like to do a challenge of your own, let me offer some of the tidbits I've learned for your perusal:

1. Repeat after me: "I can fix that later."

This is my mantra during this time when I'm trying to just get the bare bones of the story on the page. Sure, there is some descriptions in there, elaboration on what a room looks like, tons of stage direction, but mostly it's just internal and external dialogue. That's what comes to me first. There are some days when I look at it and think, "This is crap." Yes, the essentials are there, but how will I ever turn this into a publishable manuscript?

That's when I say "I can fix that later." And I can. I love, love, love to revise. The doubts continue to come, but I'm able to move along only through the use of this phrase.

2. You simply have to lower your standards.

For everything, not just the writing. Don't plan on doing this during a time when you are planning a big event or anything that will require your full attention, because you can't serve both masters and do it well. Translation: I'm getting behind on laundry, the meals aren't always what they should be, the floors could use some vacuuming and the kitchen is a little sticky in places. We won't even talk about the flowers wilting in my front flower bed. Unless you have a husband like Instigator's that does all the cooking and cleaning, this WILL happen. That's okay. You can fix it later. :)

3. Quick and Easy Meals

Now, I've never been one to fix a three course dinner every night. Heck, getting one course on the table that everyone will eat is enough of a challenge for me. But there are several nights a week now that we have sandwiches or chicken tenders from the freezer. And no one has died yet.

One thing I don't recommend is eating out a great deal during this time. Yes, it is convenient, but it can really pack on the pounds. I should know, I put on 4 during the first 3 weeks of this challenge. Now I'm trying to choose lower calorie quickies or have a salad when I order pizza in for my family.

And don't forget to exercise!!!

4. Accept all the help you can

Even some that isn't offered. Set up some babysitters or pawn your kids off on the grandparents more often than you normally do. Force your husband to fold some laundry while he's watching television. Insist the kids pick up their own toys and put their own clothes away. Teenagers can easily could dinner one night each week. (I'm saying all this as if it is new. Quite honestly, they should be doing this stuff already. So no time like the present to enforce it.)

5. Know when enough is enough.

There are some days when your brain is going to hold up a big stop sign. Let's face it. No one can write every single day for 6 weeks. I suggest you build some leeway into your goal to allow for these days. I simply rounded up. I needed 9.2 handwritten pages per day to hit my goal and I rounded up to 10. That worked for a while. When it didn't, I upped my goal to get back on track.

Sometimes the issue isn't you, your story, or your characters. Sometimes it is simply life or those in it. Yes, during this time writing should be a top priority. But children don't understand that. On some days, they simply need you to focus on them for a little while. Husbands fit into this category ocassionally too. There have been times when I've had to put them first, then write whatever I could eek out really late at night. I'd quit when I woke up to find I'd fallen asleep on top of my paper.

6. Reward yourself.

You deserve it. This is a stressful and exhilirating journey. When you've had a particularly good week, do something special for yourself. Get a pedicure, read a book, go window shopping. Give yourself permission to relax. Your brain will reward you for it.

And don't forget to reward those around you too. When you husband has been particularly patient, work hard to get your pages done early in the day so you can spend the evening hanging out together without having to say "I've got to go write." When your children have been patient and not interrupted you very much, take 30 minutes to do something fun with them. They'll be that much more patient for it. (I say as I yell at mine for talking to me for the 5th time in a row since I started typing this. Oh well, we're none of us perfect.)

So, there you have it. Take what works for you and dump the rest. If you do decide to set up your own challenge, let us know. We'd love to know what is working for y'all and what you find doesn't work at all.

Angel



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3 comments:

Problem Child said...

I don't know...my standards are pretty low when it comes to housekeeping. Any lower and the Health Dept. may come take AC away...

PC

Playground Monitor said...

:dealing with aftereffects of an overflowing toilet that dumped water in the air conditioning return: The HVAC folks have been called and I'm awaiting their return call to schedule a service call. Meanwhile the system is turned off and the temperature rises. Please let it stay overcast today.

Back to our topic. I have no children at home so it's harder for me to let the house go and put quick meals on the table. I could live on tomato sandwiches from the tomatoes I've grown in the backyard. But the DH wants a "real" meal. So I cook. He IS my patron of the arts, after all. :grin:

"I Can Fix That Later" has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I tend to want it to be perfect the first time and will go back and re-write and re-write and re-write the same paragraph over and over and never get any further. That's why I've turned to writing longhand. My brain will allow me to just write, with notes such as "add character description" or "describe setting" in the margin.

Good luck with the remainder of your challenge!

PM

Smarty Pants said...

"I can fix that later" is a major revelation for me. If the dialogue is flowing, I don't have to put in the "she paused, planting a hand firmly on her hip as she searched for the right word" or the "his tight denim pants were straining against his thighs as he stood before her, blocking her exit from the room." I can just have them fight and worry about clothes, scenery, weather, whatever later.

I'm loving that.