Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Campaign to overcome my greatest writing weakness

Welcome Campaigners! I love Rachel Harrie's idea for connecting writers together with other writers, and helping us build each others' platforms at the same time. I've had quite a few of you stop by already, and I'll be out visiting everyone in my three groups this week and next.

Yes, three groups!: YA/MG (all genres), Science Fiction, and Historical. My first novel was an MG fantasy, my second was women's fiction (didn't see a group for that), my third was a historical, and my fourth will be YA science fiction  (getting ready to start that one in November for NaNoWriMo).

I'm officially all over the place. I hope I don't have to write a novel in every genre before I finally settle down and find my niche! Does anyone else have this genre-hopping problem? I hope someday it will reveal itself as a strength, instead of a weakness - I'll inadvertently create my own new genre via cross-fertilization. (One can dream, right?).

I love this time of year when I officially give myself permission to start brainstorming ideas for a new novel, getting to know my characters and playing with outlines. One marathon month of writing the first draft in November is exhausting, but at the same time a thrill and a rush like no other.

In December I set aside my new novel for a month to let it marinate and catch up on my life and enjoy Christmas.

Then comes January 1st, with the requisite New Years Resolutions, usually one having to do with getting New Novel revised and polished. And then the long haul through our endless high altitude winter which lingers into May. And during this long winter I'm wrestling with demons, as one of my favorite writing quotes illustrates:

Revision is like wrestling with a demon, for almost anyone can write; but only writers know how to rewrite. It is this ability alone that turns the amateur into a professional  ~ William Knott

Now, if it isn't evidence enough that I'm an amateur by my genre-jumping, then my tendency to burn out with revisions after a few months definitely confirms this.

My biggest writing weakness isn't revision - once I get into it, I actually really like it. My biggest weakness is procrastinating the revisions. (The blog Procrastinating Writers sometimes helps, but sometimes I procrastinate reading Procrastinating Writers. It's a vicious cycle.)

I just kinda jokingly named this post "On the Campaign to overcome my greatest writing weakness" - because I wanted to talk about the Campaign and share a little bit about myself with fellow Campaigners and why not be just brutally honest up front and admit all my weaknesses? (Not sure if that's wise, but oh well).

At least once or twice a month I read a really amazing post on how to overcome procrastination and get motivated and stay motivated and productive. It's really puzzling that I never remember any of these tricks when I really need them - when I'm procrastinating. What works for me during NaNoWriMo is seeing my writing buddies' progress bars steadily moving. I don't want to get left behind, so I start to write, and at first it's brutally painful, but eventually the idea muscle gets back in shape, and then I get a rush (or writer's high) (reference to my running days when I'd get a runner's high when I really pushed myself).

So what are your tricks to keep procrastination at bay? Please share! Then I can re-read the comments on this post whenever I'm procrastinating.

Leaving you with a quote about the idea muscle that I linked to above, credit to the fascinating Altucher Confidential blog (delightfully and dangerously subtitled "Ideas for a world out of balance").

Every day I write down ideas. I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five more. The other day I tried to write 100 alternatives kids can do other than go to college. I wrote down eight, which I wrote about here. I couldn’t come up with anymore. Then the next day I came up with another 40. It definitely stretched my head.... Need ideas for lists of ideas? Come up with 30 separate chapters for an “autobiography”. Try to think of 10 businesses you can start from home (and be realistic how you can execute them)? Give me 10 ideas of directions this blog can go in.  Think of 20 ways Obama can improve the country. List every productive thing you did yesterday (this improves memory also and gives you ideas for today).

The “idea muscle” atrophies within days if you don’t use it. Just like walking. If you don’t use your legs for a week, they atrophy. You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.

p.s. I only post once a week and I only visit blogs for 1/2 hour a day now, because wow!!! the Internet is a great tool for procrastination. TV isn't a temptation, but good books certainly are. I've trimmed back my reading to 2 books a month.  I do have a almost full-time job, and oh yeah five kids to take care of (my stepdaughter is a recent addition - she decided to live with us for a year). But when they are all in bed by 8:30 (or at least contained in their rooms), technically I still have about an hour and half to recover procrastinate WRITE! 



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