Another try at this

Today I commence on 100 Days of Writing—Take Two. This time around, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. I’m giving myself 14 days off instead of 10, hoping that it helps with the quality of what I’m writing. Last time there were days when I just wrote something (usually a blog post) so that I could tick off another day. And there is something to be said for making yourself write, but 14 days off still amounts to, essentially, writing 6 days every week. This, I think, is a bit more realistic to what I have going on in my life, what with work and all (i.e., I already spend 35ish hours every week in front of the computer).

Also, this time around I’m eliminating the time and word count requirements for counting each “day” of writing. I know what a good amount of production is, and sometimes it doesn’t conform to either of those requirements I’d set for myself. Some days, for instance, I’d rather spend brainstorming and jotting down notes for a story or my book. Some days I’d rather go back and reread a particular story or passage because what’s getting me down in my writing is something I’ve seen somewhere else. Both of these things are, to me, essential steps in my writing process. I don’t need to do them often—writing is usually better for me—but some days those things are needed.

I’d like to eventually add a reading requirement to all this, too. Maybe the same requirements for writing: 6 out of 7 days each week. After all, reading (anything) is vital to improving as a writer, but I’m not ready for that yet; I have a hard enough time tracking one set of requirements.

Anyway, so this marks my first day of this next 100 (or, 114 if you want to get specific). My specific goals for this iteration are as follows: write a new book review, clean and submit a new story for publication, start and finish a new story, and work 20 days on my book.

Here I go!

And I’m back

After nearly three weeks away from this blog (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), I’m back. I can hear my adoring public cheering; I just need to tilt my head a certain way, and the wind has to be right.

Yeah. Anyway. My absence was unplanned and really not all that fun. For the past few months I’ve been having pain in my shoulders (first one, then the other), and just over two weeks ago it got so bad that I couldn’t lift my right arm without massive amounts of pain. This resulted in me trying to do everything with my left arm (including vacuuming, which was a time consuming disaster), and let me just say now that if I ever lose full function of my right arm, I’m doomed. Doomed!

After a week of this, I went to my wonderful physical therapist father and got the diagnosis of tendonitis (yes, at 26) caused by too much time on the computer. I took half days at work on Friday and Monday and gave myself a no-computer-at-home rule, which I am only now lifting.

The worst part about this is how it’s affected my writing. When I enacted the rule I was at day 90 in my 100 Days of Writing challenge. I had missed 9 of my 10 days and was perfectly on schedule. Now I’ve missed something like 30 days and I still haven’t hit my 100. And so, as I said I would, I’m declaring myself a 100 Days of Writing failure. I think I might start again though, once I’m sure that this whole problem isn’t going to start anew.

But other than not meeting the goal I’d set for myself, I’m also now majorly behind on various projects. Until my hiatus I was on a role with this story, and now I feel sort of stalled. Playing with things in your head is, for me, not the same.

Anyway. I’m back. Yup.

100 Days of Writing: Update

I’m checking in at my one fifth point. Unless I’m remembering incorrectly (the official count is written down on a sheet of paper about five feet away and my sadness over not being at AWP is making me too lethargic to go get it), I’ve done 20 days so far (out of a possible 21). The biggest step so far? Diving back in to my book (formerly my thesis).

I pulled it out, for the first time since turning it in prior to my defense, this past weekend. I’d been preparing myself for this move by writing short shorts featuring my characters, but Friday night I decided to stop putting off the big step and to just go for it. And it’s been fun. Right now I’m in the middle of a reread looking for the things I like and the things I don’t. I know that the next big step is going to be a reorganization, so I’m hoping this does two things for me. First, I’m hoping it helps spark some inspiration as to where the next iteration of the book should begin (I’m quite sure it will start at a different place in time, maybe a month or two past where it’s currently set). But also, I’m looking for scenes/threads that are salvageable and those that aren’t. I’m looking for holes in the backstory and possible directions the new story can go. I think I’m getting quite a bit.

However, this has led me to reevaluate the initial rules I set up for this 100 Days of Writing project. The farther I get in, for example, the less fulfilling blog posts seem. But they fit the criteria. Tonight, for example, this will be my writing. On the flip side, I’m spending a lot of time in my car, in bed, in the shower, at the kitchen table, etc., thinking about my book. I’m trying to work through problems, to answer questions, to consider solutions. This, however, does not count as official writing time, and no matter that it feels so much more important to me in the grand scheme of my writing career.

So I’m trying to decide if I’m going to adapt the rules or if I should just finish this challenge the way it was intended—its limitations certainly haven’t been hurting my creativity. If anything, being forced to sit down and produce something has been a good thing for me. (Plus, if there’s one thing that’s hurting my book and short story writing, it’s the writing I do for work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be doing creative writing for work, but I haven’t yet found a way to partition and separate the two types of creative writing in my brain yet. My book is not appropriate content or style for developmentally challenged 5th graders and on the flip side, the type of writing I do for the specialized reading passages does not mesh well with what I do in my book.)

Maybe I’ll keep the rules I have but sort of loosen up a bit. I’ve already stopped obsessively timing my sessions—as long as I have found myself dwelling on my book throughout the day. It’s funny how even though I have a deadline, I feel very free to play and experiment. I don’t feel stressed when I sit down to write each day (even when, as now, I’m writing 90 minutes past the time I said I wanted to be in bed). This is a very good thing for me and my writing, but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that I didn’t get here sooner. I think this was something Sam (my advisor) was always trying to get me to understand. “Don’t think about the thesis,” he would say. “The thesis doesn’t matter.” And only now that the thesis has been removed as a stumbling block am I really able to look at this piece of writing as my book.

100 Days of Writing

I have decided to start 100 Days of Writing. Haven’t heard of it? No worries. I just made it up.

It started like this: I learned about the 10,000 hour rule. Basically this rule claims that to become an expert in something, be it playing the French horn, playing soccer, or writing (three hobbies of mine at various points in my life, though obviously the writing thing is much more current—say presently relevant, even), you need to put in 10,000 hours of work toward it. Well, I did the math, and that means that in a decade you need to spend about three hours every day—EVERY DAY!—working toward your chosen skill. I don’t know about you, but between working, sleeping, feeding myself, showering, and occasionally remembering that I have friends and a family that would like to spend time with me (the friends more than the family at the moment), I don’t really have three hours left over every day. So there goes my expert-in-a-decade idea.

But then I remembered that, for my chosen expert field (writing), I’m hardly starting from Hour Zero. So maybe it was possible after all. No sooner had that happy thought kicked in, however, then I remembered something slightly less thrilling. Namely that I’m not exactly doing everything I can to make sure there’s a spot for writing in my schedule. So I should probably start with something a little more realistic than between two and three hours each day. And so I thought up 100 Days of Writing.

Here’s the deal. Out of the next 110 days, I will write for 100 of them (or declare myself a 100 Days of Writing Failure). I can skip any days I want, but starting today, I’ve got to hit 100 out of the next 110.

For a day to count as a Day of Writing, I must do one of the following:

  1. write a completed piece (blog posts count, but emails, no matter how lengthy, do not);
  2. write (or revise) for a minimum of 30 minutes; or
  3. write a minimum of 500 words

Writing at work does not count, but if I bring optional writing home from work, it does count, provided I double the above mentioned provisions. Also, for work pieces, revision does not count.

And I think that just about covers it. My 110 days are up in early May (the 4th or the 5th; I have the date written down upstairs, but I’m feeling too lazy to go and get it). If anyone would like to join me on my journey, just say the word. Happy writing!