Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sometimes the amount of time I spend on writing doesn't seem enough.

And yet, I've also learned a light touch is better than being forced.  I mean, I do want to get in at least 1000 words a day, knowing it will probably turn into more. But I don't want to call it "work."

A thousand words is really only about an hour of intermittent typing. Surround that by an hour or so of living in the milieu and maybe another couple of hours of cocooning that creative space, and you're still talking about 4 hours in total.

Could I do more? Probably. I could do two sessions a day, I'm sure. In fact, in the past I've done that. I'm not sure the quality suffered all that much. I did nothing but write for 2 full years, and they were very productive years and I don't regret it at all, but I can't keep up that pace forever.

But even 1000 words a day, done consistently, produces a lot of story. What this type of scheduling allows is for me to do other things.  So the 4 hours a day of actual writing is probably about right.

It just seems a little lazy. Again, it isn't how hard I work, but how smart. I figure that letting my imagination have the first draft is a good thing, even if it seems like I'm getting off lightly.

I've come to terms with re-writing in much the same way. Keeping a light touch, using intuition for changes. Not bearing down, not turning it into mechanics.

So maybe that's why it seems lazy. Because it is such a "click" thing. Here it is, it's evocative or it isn't evocative, but if I think about it critically too much it becomes a mess.

I'm not certain that treating it as "work," laboring over every sentence, will make it better. You can't force insight or poetry or depth. You can come back to it more than once, doing it once over lightly again and again, until it finally takes on a texture.

But it's done with a fine brush, not a paint-roller. It comes through feeling, not thought. The thought leaks through nevertheless, but the more I do this, the more I realize that it all comes from within, it all comes from feel and touch. I can prime that creativity by asking myself intellectual questions, but when it spews out on the page, it's all instinct.

I've learned that too much rewriting doesn't make it better. That there is a time to back off.

I do spend a fair amount of time just daydreaming about the plot, and sometimes something really valuable filters through. Again, it's just a matter of circling back again and again. I try to think about the book when I nap, or shower, or when the house is quiet and I'm just thinking. More often than not, my mind drifts, or I fall asleep, but that's OK-- I wake up and bring myself back to the book, and this may happen a couple hundred times in the course of a few days, and out of all that, I may get only 1 or 2 really good ideas. But those ideas probably would never have come if I hadn't let myself drift that way.

At the end of the day, not working at the store has allowed me to write. I may only actually do the actual typing for a few hours, but I surround it with an atmosphere of creativity. Including this blog, for instance. And talking to myself. "What needs to be done? How can I surprise myself and the reader? What would really intrigue people? Can I get away with that?"

Linda is off at church for a few hours, and I intend to get up after writing this and pace around the house and circle around and around the vague glimmerings of the story, seeing if anything pops up out of nowhere, that one thing that makes me go "YES!!"

May not seem like much, but it all adds up.


Dave Cline said...

And then there are the times when you enter the "flow". 2, 3, or 4,000 words in a day. I recall a weekend where I pumped out 8000 words. I'm sure you've done that too. When they happen, which, I'll admit, is seldom, you have to go with them -- or miss out. I just want to point out that if you factor those writing spurts in, (among the other items you mentioned) that seemingly low productivity rate irons itself out.

I dusted off a plot I wrote back in October, The Good Aliens, and reread/edited the 5k words of the first chapter (I like big chapters and I cannot lie), and thought, 'hey, this is not so bad..." and proceeded to add 1,000 words to it yesterday. To me, not being a full-time writer, whimsy must prevail or I just can't squeeze those creative juices.

Oh and this: Self-published book fair.

Duncan McGeary said...

Those marathon sessions don't seem to happen for me as much anymore. Partly on purpose. I've sort of limited myself unless I can't help myself (which, as you say, still happens occasionally.)

I've always had an image in my head of a wellspring. It fills to the top with creativity, and when it overflows, you can't help but sit down and start writing. Sometimes it's lapping at the brim, and you have to got fetch it a little. Sometimes it's down a little and you need to use a bucket.

Sometimes it goes dry, though for me, once the wellspring is filling, it tends to keep filling. It only drys up if I walk away for too long.

So even though I can dip the bucket into the well when I need to, sometimes I prefer to wait for it to start lapping at the rim. Same water, really. But it feels fresher.

Dave Cline said...

Nice analogy!