Sunday, June 03, 2012

The True Secret of Writing

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Wouldn't it be nice to discover the actual, honest to goodness, true secret of writing? Natalie Goldberg even teaches a workshop by that title. I attended it and while I found it extremely helpful, it wasn't a total fix. I'm not sure there is a secret. See, writing is a moving target. Each time I come up with a plan, it works for a while then stops. Today's solution is tomorrow's waste of time.

Right now, it's working if I focus on quantity, not quality. I gave the book about my father and I (working title MEMORIAL) to a literary consultant. She gave it back covered in questions. Three hundred and nine questions to be precise. If I thought about all 309 questions at once, I would scream. Instead, I'm allowing myself to work one question at a time. If I finish three questions in a session, that's huge. And I don't worry about the quality of what I'm writing. It's all about quantity. For now, this is working. When it stops working or when I finish question 309, I'll come up with another strategy.

What's working for you right now? I'd love to hear about it.

10 comments:

Sammi Soutar said...

Nothing's working. I am screaming.

Sammi Soutar said...

Nothing works. I've started to scream...

Nita said...

Dear Sammi:

Breathe. Take a walk. Take a nap. Take a drink if you must, but step away from the page before you damage both of you!!!

Sea Change said...

The only "true secret of writing" that I know is to just do it! I know, I've stolen the Nike slogan--but it's such a good one. :-) Yes, writing can bring on all sorts of fits, but when I'm NOT writing, I'm even more obsessed with it, and a great deal more miserable!

Nita said...

I agree, @Sea Change! And sometimes I have to trick myself into doing just that! JUST WRITE!!

Kat Sheridan said...

I just finished a class by Hillary Hutchinson, offered by LRWA, on overcoming procrastination. Part of it was writing just 15 minutes a day. That allowed me to ease back into it gently (the class also explained a lot about WHY we procrastinate). Then I signed up for CampNano, the summer version of NaNoWriMo. It's helping to have the competition from my "cabin mates". I still think I'm writing garbage, but at least I'm writing. As Hillary said in the class, if you know you need to run a marathon, you don't start out the week before trying to run 14 miles uphill. You start a mile at a time, on level ground, and "build your writing muscles". My keister may be getting broader from puttin my bum in the chair, but at least I'm "working out" my writing muscles!

Joy said...

Walking works. If I'm walking home after a writing session at a coffee shop, all of a sudden a few really good phrases or sentences come to me and I have to stop on the sidewalk, get out my notebook and write it down. But something that does NOT work for me: walking a labrinth. It drives all words completely out of my head.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

What works one time does not necessarily work the next time. If I were given 300 questions regarding one of my pieces I'd run screaming from the room. Are they questions you really want or feel a need to answer about your piece. I'd ask myself lots of questions before tackling them.
I finally got my first book on Kindle, independently. I'm proud of it but I worked on that story for 5+ years. Now I'm on to other stories.
I still don't have a surefire process that I use. I write mostly by the seat of my pants. And again seat of the pants in chair. Best wishes for answering those questions. Let us know how it works out. I'm interested.
Blessings, Barb

Nita said...

B. Whittington - the questions are very helpful, pushing me deeper and requiring me to reveal more of myself in the book. Very emotional though, hence the slow progress. It is, after all, memoir!

Nita said...

Kat - Thanks for the reminder to ease into it. I love your marathon analogy. Perfect!

Joy - Thanks for the reminder NOT to walk a labyrinth if I want to write! It is very useful for peace and harmony, though.