What I’m experience right now, I wouldn’t call writer’s block. It’s not that I sit down and can’t think of anything to write. I’m more in the throes of what I’d call motivation block–I have a bunch of things I “should” work on, and a bunch of ideas floating around in my head, but none of the things that I should work on appeal to me. Instead, I want to keep writing on my novel, which is presently out with my beta readers. And I need to take a break from it to improve it more anyway.
I think that my regular job and family stuff is playing into this at least a little. Work is extremely hectic, to the point where I’m working through lunches. Guess when I would normally write? And between family illnesses and other issues, my personal life is just as hectic. It really saps my motivation.
I know that the solution is the same. I should just put my but in the chair and make myself work on something. But that’s really hard to do when life is so hectic and I just want to relax in my free time.
I suffer pretty frequent bouts of mild depression. The kind of depression where I just want to come home, plunk down on the couch, and watch something that will keep my brain busy until I can finally go to sleep, which is the only thing I enjoy doing. I don’t want to go anywhere, see anyone, or do anything. Half the time I can’t even decide what I’d like to watch on TV and end up just sitting on the couch, bored and indecisive. It makes it difficult to keep powering through with revisions.
But writing has actually been helpful to recognizing when depression is trying to throw a wrench in my plans. There are some days where I do really just want to watch TV for a little while. Taking a break to recharge is fine. But when it happens three, four, five days in a row, it starts to look like a problem. And it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t even notice it unless I had revision page goals keeping me on target all week.
I put a stop to it through improved diet, improved exercise, and more sleep. I let these things slip every so often when I really shouldn’t. But it’s easy to skimp on exercise. And it’s certainly easier to pick up fast food than to make dinner, especially when I know I’m looking at an hour or two of revisions when I get home (after being at work where it’s my job to do revisions). The best way to break a deeper trip into Depression Land is to catch it at the beginning of the path. Not meeting my page goals has turned into my “STOP: TURN AROUND NOW” sign.
The bad news from my hunting trip is that I didn’t get any deer. The good news from my hunting trip is that I had plenty of time to (hand)write. I finished chapter 35, which was about half done, and completely wrote chapter 36. Then when I got home, I put it all into my writing tablet. So chapters 35 and 36 are officially complete!
Today is also the last day of nanowrimo. Unfortunately, I didn’t make my goal of 50k words. My total word count was 28,367 during the month of November. This puts the total number of words in my first draft of my novel at 68,828. That’s pretty spectacular, I think.
If I maintain this pace, my nanowrimo site estimates that I’ll hit my 50k words by December 23. I have 15k words left to reach 50k. I have 9 chapters left. My typical chapter is about 2k words (if you do the math, the actual mean is 1.9k, but there are a couple of very short ones skewing the mean). I expect that a couple of the chapters toward the end will either be longer, or broken into multiple chapters. But the point is, if I maintain my nanowrimo pace of about two chapters (or 4000 words) a week, and if I have 9 chapters averaging 2000 words a piece remaining, I will be done by the end of January.
That’s really amazing to me. I may finally get to write the end of the book, which is what I’ve been fantasizing about since around chapter 5. Go me!
A lot of my acquaintances are surprised to learn that I’m a writer. This is because I always engage in a mental cost-benefit analysis before I decide whether to tell someone that I write. It isn’t that I am shy about discussing my work. Though I used to be extremely hesitant to discuss what I’m writing, now that I have a bunch of rejections under my belt, I have stepped past the point of caring whether people think I have a stupid idea or not.
The problem is that I’ve found that the vast majority of non-writers that I talk to writing about fall into two camps: (1) you’re not ever going to get published and you’re going to make any money at it so why bother, or (2) oh that’s so cool can I read what you’re writing. In other words, they’re either a downer or a supporter.
Talking to supporters makes me enthusiastic to write. But I don’t like to talk with downers. They approach the whole idea of writing from a place that is completely foreign to me. I usually find the conversation depressing. A conversation with a downer about writing usually ruins my ability to sit down and plug away at a draft for a couple of hours at best, or ticks off a malaise that keeps me from writing for weeks or months at worst.
How people are going to react to me telling them that I’m a writer is a complete toss-up. The old adage ‘appearances can be deceiving’ is extremely true when it comes to trying to figure out which camp a person falls into. I’ve had people that look as nerdy as I am unexpectedly turn out to be downers, or they might even be hostile to the very idea of someone presuming to try to write something. And I’ve had people that look like non-readers wax enthusiastic to me about their favorite YA authors.
As a result, my default is that I wait to talk to people about writing until I have a better idea of whether they’ll be a downer or a supporter. This entire process would be a lot less complicated if the downers would refrain from doing certain things. The next time I get a few moments for a substantive post (nanowrimo is still alive and well in my house), I’ll give a few examples of statements from downers, my personal answers to the statements, and why the statements are hurtful.
I usually get up in the mornings, take a shower, walk my dog, have breakfast, make lunch, make sure the internet still exists, and then go to work. But some mornings, walking my dog is a thing I don’t do because it’s raining. She doesn’t like the rain, I don’t like the rain, so we just don’t go.
That leaves me with about half an hour of extra time. And what do you think I do with it?
If you guessed ‘writing,’ you have a higher estimation of my abilities than I actually have. I usually think, oh I should do some writing. And then I completely fail to get any writing done. Instead, I dick around on the internet for longer.
But I really should start turning it into writing time. Maybe not actually sit-and-write time, because I tend to get involved in that and lose track of time, which is not a good thing to do in the mornings, but I think I’ll start spending some time adjusting my outline or re-reading my most recent chapter and brainstorming ways to make it better. I really need to use all the extra time I have on writing because, while I’m pushing along at about a chapter a week, it really wouldn’t hurt to get done early.
One of the hardest things about working full-time and writing part-time is just finding the time to write. When I was in college, I used to have to spend between half an hour and an hour reviewing what I’d written so that I could get into the mindset of my characters. If I didn’t have a chunk of a couple of hours free, I just wouldn’t write. This isn’t a luxury I have any more. I rarely have hours-long chunks of time just sitting around.
As I may have mentioned before, another thing I used to do was write in a specific notebook. There were actually two notebooks, one with the character sketches and one with the story. I would find myself wanting to write but then I would become frustrated because it’s not very easy to transport two notebooks everywhere. I wouldn’t have them with me at all times. So I would find myself writing when I had big chunks of time alone in my dorm room. Again, not something that happens these days.
Now I have a writing tablet. It’s a tablet with a keyboard attachment that I use solely for writing. I’ll pull it out when I’m in the doctor’s office waiting room and write a couple sentences. I’ll put it out when I’m waiting in my car and write a couple sentences. I definitely take it to work so that I can write at lunch.
But most importantly, even if I don’t have the tablet with me, I can write things down on whatever scrap of paper I have handy and put it into the tablet later. I used to think that writing the same scene twice was a waste of time. But I’ve long since gotten over the idea that every sentence, paragraph, and scene I write has to be perfect the first time. And when I realized that I can push perfectionism off to the second (or third, or fifth, or tenth) draft, and that there will be second, third, and tenth drafts, I realized that typing up a scene that I’ve already handwritten isn’t a waste of time. Anything that allows me to convert more of my ‘wasted’ time into writing time is a very useful.