[Before I begin this current blog, I want to thank my brother, Keith, for sending this link http://www.youtube.com/v/4FrGxO2Fn_M which is related to my last blog about positive things we can focus on. The video shows how we can collectively add one million employed people in our country with very little effort, and no government programs or interventions necessary.]
This current blog is written primarily for young writers, and conveys my writing motivation, therefor, it will not fit everyone else’s style, and it is definitely not meant to be writing advice, but to possibly spark thinking in a new and different direction for a few people.
This blog was partly inspired by reading an excerpt suggested to me by my friend, Lani. The excerpt was part of a talk given by Neil Gaiman: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming. That thoughtful piece by Gaiman is a separate topic, but one I highly recommend people read, although it is tangential to my current focus. It regards the importance of libraries, librarians, and literacy of children.
Another influence on this eleventh blog is the upcoming NaNoWriMo event for November, when aspiring writers are encouraged to complete a novel in one month’s time. I know that a couple of writers in my critique group have successfully completed works in years past, thanks to the NaNoWriMo model. I don’t set that kind of writing deadline for myself, but some people seem to need the structure the model provides. In addition, I recently saw that there is a NaNoWriMo event for young writers.
In the last few years, I have mentored high school students who chose to write a novel for their senior project. It is a daunting undertaking for most of them, (and for me too, at times) and many such students might have benefitted from a NaNoWriMo type of approach. My concern is for those young writers whom this approach does not fit—few though they may be. My apprehension comes from my own struggle as a writer before I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. He described his writing process as one of discovery, and what he knew about the story was like the tip of an iceberg. The bulk of it existed beneath the surface and out of sight, so he had to learn about his story as he went along. (That’s the part I found most helpful.)
Because this famous and noteworthy writer had given me permission to do so, I embarked on a writing journey that has led me to a motivation quite different from most novelists. (Remember, we’re talking fiction here, and nonfiction is a different animal altogether, and not my forte.) I know people talk about setting goals for themselves, such as writing a certain number of pages, or a certain number of words in a given length of time—usually a few hours a day. There is nothing wrong with that, but here is what I do:
I try to limit myself to somewhere between four and eight hours a day of writing, so that I don’t become a vegetable sitting in front of my computer. I know I need enough physical exercise, plus resting my eyes occasionally, and the intake of good, nutritious food. My concern is that I could become so carried away with writing that I might injure my health. How many accountants do you know who have worked ten years or more in their field and do not need glasses? Most did not start out that way. Vision is generally of high importance to writers.
On occasion, I have turned out thirty, double-spaced pages a day (somewhere around 7,500 words). At that rate, I could finish the rough draft for a 70,000-word book in ten days. But the peak result of that particular day represented upwards of eleven or more hours of typing, and I knew I could not sustain that pace without negative consequences.
I accomplished the production of 7,500 words in a day not as a result of forcing myself to write. I completed that amount because I was driven. There was a story thrusting its way out, and it was impossible to contain my writing urge. I don’t write because of a deadline, but due to an inner need to release a new story to the page (computer screen). I am also very random, so I often work on multiple writing projects at the same time. Recently, although I have been focusing on completing sequels to some of my book series, a new sci-fi plot emerged unexpectedly—definitely unbidden—and would not leave me alone.
I finally gave in, even though I was bothered because my books tend to become series, and I really didn’t want to start a new one. Oh well. I went with it. Once I got the initial fifteen to twenty pages down, I was able to return to other projects, and one in particular that was clamoring to be completed.
I never wonder what I will write about on a given day, since I have multiple projects going, and I only give in to the one that burns the brightest to unfold. I often have trouble keeping up with the ideas as they tumble out. It is exciting, and I love what I do, and it is never a chore—just the opposite—writing is always fun and rewarding.
To beginning writers, I urge you to find your own way, because until I found mine, I struggled mightily. My writing endeavors were full of “shoulds.” I really should be doing such-and-such, like outlining. I have not outlined a story for years. (That doesn’t mean I think no one else should.) I move naturally between projects, and some days (or parts thereof) I find myself working on a cover illustration instead of writing.
I often wake up so energized in the morning that I grab my laptop and start right in typing without getting out of bed. At some point, I have to make myself stop and go get something to eat, do chores, etc. But I can’t wait to get back to creating a new world, a new character, or the ongoing interactions between my characters. This has evolved because I pay attention to inner promptings. I write in multiple genres because that is where my innermost drive takes me. I don’t choose a genre because it is currently popular; my genres choose me. The story ideas excite me to a degree that I can’t resist them, otherwise, they will never be written. Enough about all that--
My last blog ended with a visit from a dragon, and I promised to continue that thread. But first, what is a dragon—really? Basically, dragons are powerful, mythical creatures that humans have struggled with for centuries. We'll keep that in mind for later.
In the previous blog, I put on my armor with the aid of my able squire, who also helped me mount my war steed, and then he handed up my long lance. I galloped away at full tilt to meet my worthy dragon adversary. I could already see and smell the smoke emitted by the beast, but one concerning thought plagued me as I neared the giant creature. Armor was really good at protecting against sharp, cutting weapons, but it did not seem quite the best thing to wear for a battle with a fire-breathing dragon. Sweat formed on my skin as I thought of being turned into a cinder within the confines of my metal suit.
Cloth coats-of-arms were traditionally worn on top of armor, both as indications of whose side one was on during a battle, and as a protection from the harsh rays of the sun in summertime. Don’t even get me started on what wearing heavy metal clothing is like during the winter, with temperatures below freezing.
As I neared the great, scaly-green monster through the haze left by its most recent blast of fire, I could not help but notice it was about to dine on a recently barbecued cow. Since I was a most devout and chivalrous knight, I called out to the dragon, “Pardon the interruption, my worthy opponent. Go ahead and eat your meal, thou noble and wise adversary. No use letting your food get cold. I’m in no hurry. I’ll just let my charger rest in the shade of that tree over there, and get a drink of water from the stream.”
Now, to be honest, I had more than chivalry in mind when I proposed such a civil-sounding respite to the fearful-looking dragon. I realized that if I could soak my coat-of-arms in the stream, and remain in the shade when I put it back on over my armor—until such time as I engaged in combat with the dragon—the moisture-laden fabric would form some protection from the heat of its flames, and act as a buffer for my armor until I could approach near enough to bring my lance to bear….
TO BE CONTINUED—IN MY NEXT BLOG— (Sorry, but one of my stories is calling to me, and I can’t resist any longer. In the meantime, contemplate on the fact that a dragon is a symbol, and think in terms of what may be the great and fearful dragon in your own life, and what that symbolizes, and what may be done about it. We may have to call on Haley from The Pigeon Catcher if we get stuck on this little project. Later—)