Since the beginning of this year, I’ve written over 50,000 words. For me, that’s fairly significant. Last year, I had a baby (#4), I moved up to homeschooling two of my kids (and I began some preschool work with #3 after Christmas). I did quit my job teaching dance, and gave myself about a month to flail around and figure out what on earth I was going to do with this sudden influx of free time. (Laundry. It’s always laundry.)
Slowly but surely, I began to write more. First, only a few hundred words a day, barely five hundred, and each of those words like the proverbial pulling of teeth. And if my main work in progress gave me a problem, I simply walked away from it for a day or so to tinker with something else.
But then I was struck with a new problem. Sure I was getting words, but every time I pushed aside that main story for something else, it became easier to keep pushing that main story farther and farther away until I was distracted by the shiny of this other story. And when that one hit a rough patch… Well, why don’t I just push it aside for another? And so on and so forth. Until I had more unfinished manuscripts than I could count.
So I’ve learned a few things about my own process when it comes to writing (that is, since January). Which is startling since I’ve been at this for years and years, and am still making discoveries.
First: There is no muse. There is no inspiration. Sitting down and waiting for it to strike will lead you to being one of those crotchety writers of yore who drinks a lot and maybe grows questionable facial hair. Do you know what makes me write more words, what inspires me to keep working on a story? Working on the stinkin’ story. I learned that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, the easier it was to write. Those chipping-at-concrete few hundred words became a thousand, sometimes several thousand in one day. I’d snap on my headphones, put on some Paw Patrol for the kids once their schoolwork was finished, and listen to ten minutes of Mozart or Moulin Rouge while pounding out as many words as I could in that short snippet of time. Get up, load the dishwasher, do it all again. And again.
Second: Don’t be distracted by the shiny. If I became stuck, I couldn’t let myself turn to another story (at least not unless I’d already added at least a page or so to the story that was giving me a problem). I had to write through the wall. Even if I didn’t like the words I was putting down, even if I knew I would have to fix them later, forcing myself through that block made the words come easily again. Because the wall wasn’t a permanent thing. It wasn’t a thick, impenetrable structure. A few swift knocks and I was through. But I had to be persistent. I couldn’t let doubt assail me.
Three: Forget doubt. These are my stories. I can tell them. Only I can tell them in the way I want them told. Your stories are the same. They are yours, they belong to you, and only you can give them their voice, so make them heard.
Now, let’s see if I can finish this manuscript before the end of next month…