Sunday, March 25, 2007


I find myself in these very, very hectic days pondering time—lack of it, where to carve out more—and my seeming lack of enthusiasm for getting my butt in the chair to write. Don't get me wrong. Once I start writing I love it, but it has more often than not become another chore, or discipline if you will, on a long list of chores I must complete to be the "perfect" person.

Side note: I know in my head there's no such thing as a perfect person, but this is just my personal neurosis. Since I recognize it as such, I'm going to consider myself marginally sane.

I'm offering this insight less as a whine and more in hopes of a discussion. I can discipline myself to write and I must to a certain extent, but I want to enjoy the process despite the craziness demanding attention in my life... Please, let April be over quickly!!!

I recently came across this passage in Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer, a classic published for the first time in 1934 that addresses more about the writer's personality than sentence structure and active verbs. She writes:

"We customarily expend enough energy in carrying out any simple action to bring about a result three times greater than the one we have in view... If we climb stairs, we climb them with every muscle and organ laboring as though our soul's salvation were to be found on the top step, and the result is that we grow resentful at the disproportionate returns we receive from our expended energy.

"Everyone has had the experience of pushing a door that looked closed with more vigor than necessary and of falling into the next room as a consequence... If you notice yourself on such an occasion, you will see that you must make a slight backward motion merely to retrieve your balance... But in changing habits, you will find yourself getting your results far more quickly and with less 'backwash' if you engage your imagination in the process instead of calling out the biggest gun of your character equipment first." ppg. 61-63

I, too, wonder if I have stumbled because I use too much "force" to progress my writing. Like a parent using only punishment to teach a child, rather than mixing in encouragement through positive reinforcement. What if I, instead, encouraged my mind to daydream? To entertain itself with my story as I go about the mundane tasks of cleaning, packing, and child-directing? Positively envisioning myself making time to write a satisfying amount... Jotting notes as my mind fills with the next scene...

I used to do this all the time, but the practice has been swamped under a load of To Do Lists. My mind constantly obsessing over the next thing to be done and where will the time come from? I know y'all know this, but I feel like I'm rediscovering this concept.

What are your thoughts about Ms. Brande's writings?

P.S. Join me in offering a big Playground SQUEEEEEE to Rhonda Nelson—our friend, fellow chaptermate, and a RITA finalist this year for her Blaze book The Specialist!!!!! We love you, Rhonda!



Rhonda said...

Awww!!! I love ya'll, too, thanks. :-)

Angel, I read a post recently by Julie Cohen on Romancing the Blog about "The Power of the Hour" and it really made me think. I am terrible about things messing up my day, calling it a bust because I won't be able to "get into the story" and ultimately not getting any writing done. Julie just had a baby in December and is going to make her deadline by doing this power-of-the-hour stuff. So I tried it. One hour. No distractions. No email, no phone, no TV, no internet, no snacks, no getting up to move laundry from washer to dryer, etc... Nothing but writing. I got 6 pages out of that lone hour. It got me into the story to the point where I didn't want to leave it and it really kept me focused. You might give it a try. :-)

Maven LJ said...

Congrats Rhonda! :-) I'll be cheering for you in Dallas.

I sometimes find when the words won't flow that I've started too soon. A character isn't ready, or the little bit of plot I know at the beginning is somehow wrong. This is when I decide it's more important to clean the house or cook a great meal or even exercise. (this is when you KNOW things are bad.)

I like the power of the hour idea. It would be great for those days when other things take me away until I feel like it's too late to get started. I might have to give that a try.


Problem Child said...

Angel puts waaaay to much pressure on herself.

I like that power hour idea. I think I'll give that a shot.

And another squeeee for Rhonda!

Smarty Pants said...

Yay Rhonda! (I deliberately went shopping yesterday at noon so I wouldn't be waiting by the phone all day for nothing. Good call, it turns out. Next year!!)

I can't write when I don't know what's going on with my story. That's the root of my issue with the middle. If I can break through my mental roadblock, I can sail through to the next one, but its hard. Thinking helps. I think a lot about it in the car, while I'm washing dishes, etc. Like LJ, if I'm not ready to write a certain scene or the character isn't ready (what a diva!) then I stop. These writing challenges force me to skip the scene I'm struggling with and move on to one I can write. Works well enough when I actually follow through.


Rhonda said...

When I start hearing little snippets of dialogue in my head, I know I've finally learned enough about my characters to really get some work done. Like LJ and SP, I ponder while I'm driving, cooking, gardening, taking a bath, etc...

Thanks again, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Rhonda! I've read the Specialist and the Maverick and I thought they were both great.

Beth said...

Congratulations Rhonda

Angel said...

I used to spend a lot of time pondering my book and characters when I wasn't actually working on it. I've just been so obsessive worrying about various things this year, I've let it overshadow my creative side. I'm definitely going to work on this!

Power of the Hour! Love that! I'll look that one up. I used to work well in little snippets, but the less I let myself think about my book, the harder that is. Seems like the two go hand in hand. (Note to self...)

Can't wait to dress up in Dallas and root for Rhonda!!!!

Instigator said...

Congratulations, Rhonda! I'm so excited for you :-)

The Power of the Hour sounds perfect. I used to practice that all the time...I have no idea where that hour went. I need to get back into the routine.


Kathy said...

Congratulations, Rhonda!!! I can't imagine how excited you must be. :-)

Power of the Hour. I've never heard of it. Sounds interesting and worth a look.

And now for something completely different.... In a land far, far away, cheeborgs, half cheer-Mom, half machines, march in unison. One woman, Queen of all she holds dear, fears capture and with great finese outwits said borgs as they seek to undermine the success of her structured world. One by one, they march, always on the search, always atuned to the one moment they can snatch away all that she's invested... her willpower, her dreams, her learned use of the force. Each and every second ticks in time to the beat of her pulsing blood. The enemy moves nearer... nearer still, and only the force, collective spirits of scribes, can save her from the enemy's grasp. Only the force....

Pardon the ode. I'm experiencing some heavy stuff right now. :-) Save me!


Angel said...

Join the crowd, Kathy! I think everyone's feeling overwhelmed today.

Carol said...

Congratulations, Rhonda!

Playground Monitor said...

I've just gotten back in town after a weekend away and have dirty laundry, stuff to put away AND a sick husband. *sigh* I'll take a ton 'o laundry over a sick husband any day.

I like that hour idea. I can do without internet and email for an hour. **grin** Or I can after I get the DH another cold drink and another dose of Tylenol and something else to eat.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

I need that hour myself these days! I've been in outer space for weeks now. :( I really missed you all when I didn't make it to the last meeting. :(

Rhonda, big congrats! The Specialist was the first book of yours I read! I finished it in Hawaii right before coming to Alabama. :) I think I read it in pretty much one sitting (except for those pesky restroom breaks, of course). It was great!

Rhonda said...

Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate all the congrats. :-)