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.

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