TDB’s Writing 101 – Unlock the Mind, Commit to a Writing Practice

I’ve found myself with the itch to write again. I was doing so well last year, leading up to and then all through November and even December as I worked on my novel. The novel has now languished for nearly a year, unedited, and thus uncompleted. Part of it was that I wanted to let it rest, like letting the twist set in a yarn I’ve spun. Then work got weird. I got a promotion to full time and to pet trainer, and there was added stress from my coworker. This has resulted in me turning to more mindless forms of distraction in my off-time, like Minecraft.

But I’ve been feeling the itch again. I want to write. I found an article on Facebook (oddly enough, my main source of information) today about writing and health. It claims that there is a link between people who write 3-4 times a week for 15-20 minutes at a time, and their health and well being. That just seems intuitive to me. And in hindsight seems almost obvious: when I am writing, it seems to me I’m healthier, when I’m not, I tend to get illnesses.

The itch to write now has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks, though it is helping my resolve to reclaim the writing habit. I’ve had to alter other habits in my life recently, especially my eating habits. I’ve discovered I am diabetic, and that I’ve been living with elevated blood sugar levels for probably years now. My headaches, certainly, were coming from high blood sugar levels and not from tension, as I’d assumed they were. I had to shift my eating habits, and learn to control my weight and my blood sugar much better. Certainly I can shift my writing habits, and see if there’s something to this writing/health connection.

If nothing else, writing 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes a day would give my brain something to do. Maybe I could vent my work-stress into something more productive instead of (as I suspect I have done) internalizing it. It might also develop into an every-day habit and then I could almost certainly edit and then perhaps even publish my novel. I have a dream of it being a series, actually, and have the imaginings of another novel already in my head. It would be nice to actually do something with my enjoyment of writing.

I’d also like to work on a collection or two of poetry. I have a hard time writing poetry with a specific theme, honestly. I write when I am moved to do so, and the themes tend to be quite emotionally charged. I’d like to break out of that, to see if I can write poetry that doesn’t have anything to do with intense emotions, that isn’t inspired by drama, effectively. My dream is to write some nature-based poetry, which requires me spending time in nature. Perhaps seasonal themes. Maybe a spiritual collection as well. I don’t know. I need to get in that habit as well, writing poetry more regularly. Perhaps practice with specific structures and styles. Nearly all of my previous writing has been free-verse, but I feel like I want to have some experience with more structured forms.

I think I need to develop some sort of plan, a schedule of sorts for writing. Perhaps nothing too structured, but something that gives me a framework. Like with my crafting, nothing too rigid that I feel as if I’ve failed if I cannot do something exactly as I have planned, but rigid enough that it keeps me motivated. I’ve been restructuring my DayZero.com lists with that in mind, so I can just extend that into the writing realm. I’m going to continue with that, and see if I can’t push myself over the course of the next month and a half, so that come November, I’m ready to write another novel for NaNoWriMo.

Dreamsnake

Tonight we dine on memories
And expect
Time to relent to our desires
In darkness we find images
Moving pictures in unconsciousness
Masking the realities of our existence
Though at their center lies a message
A slice of clarity
Obscured in one dizzying mindscape after another
This meal of moments lasts
As long as your night persists
So ignore the soft groan of aged bedsprings
The whispered sigh of unclean sheets
Seek instead the cataractous vision of dreams
In which the eye cannot quite focus
And makes spectres out of sense
Revel in a figment of reality
Your clairvoyant soul shedding mundane wrappings
Making itself a snake.

Today’s entry in NaPoWriMo is inspired by the prompt, which bids us visit the Bibliomancy Oracle, receive our quote and use it as the basis of our poem somehow. I used one word from the quote in each line of the above poem.

April Intentions

I’ve already written once about my intentions for writing in April once, but I thought I’d revisit that topic again, since it’s a little closer to April First, and I’ve clarified a few things in my head.

I am going to be attempting participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year. It will be my first year doing Camp NaNo, but I’m coming off the heels of a NaNoWriMo win in November so I have high hopes. One thing that may help me with it is that the word count goal is flexible for Camp NaNo – I can choose anything from 10k words upwards. I had started thinking I might set 33,333 words (because the title of my collection is ‘Thirty-Three Words’) as my goal, but I may have to drop that back because I may be working a lot more starting next month. (Yay!)

I also want to do NaPoWriMo, which is the poetry version of NaNoWriMo. I haven’t been writing much of anything lately (I’ve been doing much more knitting and spinning than writing), so it may be difficult for me to do both, but poetry is one thing I definitely love, and I don’t want to let that slide just because I’m writing short stories for a while.

Something I did last April was A-Z April which was hosted at Haiku Heights. Sadly, that blog has closed, but I think I might do it on my own. I really like themes, and at least if I’m posting one little poem a day it encourages me to sit down and write. Also, I enjoy haiku. I’ve written a fair bit of it. I even did a small series of fairy tales rewritten as haiku. I could certainly continue that, or do another themed set … or several.

Camp NaNoWriMo & NaPoWriMo

As you might remember, I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, for the third time, and for the first time I won. I ended up writing over 64k words, when the goal was 50k, and I’m pretty impressed with myself in that regard. I have a completed rough draft of a novel that needs some serious editing, but it’s a completed rough draft and that’s big for me.

The people who run NaNoWriMo also do Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. It’s a more flexible version of the original NaNoWriMo, but based on the same idea: set a goal for the month, and work your ass off to reach that goal. I wasn’t sure I would participate in this, but I think NaNoWriMo was so good for me as a writer that I’d be foolish not to do Camp as well.

I first thought I might use Camp to do my first edits on the existing novel, which I really need to do and not let it sit and be forgotten. But then I thought maybe I could do another novel that’s been rattling around in my brain for a bit.

Thirty Three Days

The asteroid some had predicted would hit the Earth is on a collision course with the planet, and all estimates said there is only a month’s time before it hits. Even if it doesn’t obliterate the planet, life will certainly change.

What would you do, if you knew you had only thirty-three days to live?

The idea for that one came from a writing prompt several years ago, and I thought it might be a nifty novel idea. Maybe a group of short stories. I’m not sure. Short stories seems a little more doable, really, now that I’m thinking about it.

Anyway.

I then was reminded that NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) is also in April, and that led to a renewed wish to put together and publish a collection of poetry. So I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write poetry. I don’t know how much poetry it’ll take to feel like I’ve really accomplished something, especially since I tend to write shorter pieces. I only wrote a total of 5800 words in 2013 (not including NaNo!), though I did write 14k+ in 2012. I’ve settled on 15k words, so I may have to write 6-10 pieces a day in order to get 15k done in one month, but that could be doable, even if they’re crap.

So, Camp NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo are a go! Even if I get that promotion I’ve been teased with for four months, I should still be able to manage it. And if I don’t at least I will have tried.

30 Days of Writing

So my friend Xiane posted on Facebook that she wants to join in the 30 Days of Writing found here, and I thought I might use it to push myself to get back to writing regularly. But when I started looking at the rules, I found myself rather turned off, especially by the requirement to write first thing in the morning. I don’t have a regular schedule of any sort. I don’t even work the same days every week, much less the same time. Sometimes my ‘first thing in the morning’ is already 3am. I’m certainly not going to wake up an hour or two earlier (making it 1am!) just to adhere to some strangers idea of ‘the right way to be a writer’. And before you say it, no, I’m not going to go to sleep at 6pm or earlier so I can wake up early to follow someone else’s rules of writing.

“You need to write first thing in the morning. Period. Your true life depends on it. If you must get up earlier to do this, then get up earlier. I know I have to.”

Screw that. Screw her. She’s a little too judgmental for my tastes, making broad assumptions about those reading her articles. I agree that for me personally, I need to write, but I don’t agree that I have to completely change my life and make myself miserable to write. Perhaps for her it works, but she is not me, and I don’t think she should be informing other people what works for them.

I work best with framework, I know that. But I don’t work well with rigid rules. Structure, not absolutes. So I’m going to take her basic idea, that writing every day is a goal, and I’m going to make my own plan.

She says: “I don’t fucking care what else you have to do.”
I say: Some things take precedence, like sleep. And work. I don’t get paid for my writing. We need to pay bills. Work and sleep will take priority over writing.

She says: “Writing time: 1-3 hours.”
I say: Setting a time limit is stupid. I can sit in front of the laptop for an hour and not write a damn thing. I like word count goals. I discovered that when I was writing my novel for NaNoWriMo, I could write around 800-1000 words an hour. If I’m writing poetry, certainly, I’m not going to write that much, but for novel/short story writing, or blogging, I can certainly shoot for 1000 words a day and be pretty happy. And more often than not, I’ll exceed that.

She says: “It has to be first thing in the morning.”
I say: Screw you. I bet you don’t have to be up at 3am some mornings to work a very physical job. I will write when I can. If that’s late at night, then that’s when I will write. I already know that I don’t do well with the ‘morning pages’ concept from The Writer’s Way, at least not at this point in my life. Screw you for assuming you know what works in my life.

She says: “The only thing you’re allowed to do BEFORE you “sit at your typewriter and bleed” is your physical morning routine: drink water, poo, go for a walk, exercise, shower, have your tea, coffee, breakfast, whatever your body needs to function.” and “What you can’t do: Don’t check your email or social media, don’t make or answer phone calls, don’t engage in any conversation beyond a sweet good-morning to your life companion/s.”
I say: This makes sense, but again, it depends on the day and my schedule. Some mornings it’s not feasible for me to write before engaging in conversation because I’m at work at 3am, or my husband and I have plans. I woner if she’d be a happier person (assuming her tone in her articles is indicative of her attitude) if she didn’t take such a rigid stance with her own writing time.

She says: “It can be ANY type of writing, but it has to give you pleasure.”
I say: Finally something I can agree with. Telling me to spend 1, 2, 3 hours writing poetry every day is the surest way to make me not want to write a damn thing. Same goes for blogging, writing short stories, writing anything at all. I love writing, and it has shown probably all my life. I do best when I don’t limit myself to any particular type of writing, and just write what I’m inspired to write.

She says: “Stay in touch via social media / email / etc.”
I say: I don’t know that this is necessarily important, but it certainly does help a writer feel like part of a community of sorts. I do post about my progress when I’m writing, and I enjoy seeing other people talk about their writing. I don’t think it should be about accountability, though, because I don’t think I have to be accountable to anyone but myself.

So I’m going to take on the challenge of writing every day in March. I may not write every day, and that’s okay. I probably won’t write first thing in the morning, and I may not write for an hour on the days that I do write. I won’t always write before I check email/social media/play stupid online games/talk to my husband. I will, however, write. I will try to write every day, but I won’t adhere to someone else’s idea of the right way, because what’s right for her isn’t right for everyone, just like what’s right for me isn’t right for everyone.

OneWord: clasp

it is all too easy
to clasp hands
to meet another’s gaze
and speak words said
by a hundred hundred other souls

it is a far more difficult thing
to sit in silence
with only the sound of breath
to remind you of another’s presence
with no assurance that they will be present tomorrow
except the knowledge of your own heart