#FirstDraft60 Day 51 — A Writing Confession (and our Weekly Story Bible Check-Up)
As usual, because it’s Wednesday, it’s time to check up on and update your Story Bible. But I’ve written about that at length the last two Wednesdays, so you already know how to do that. So, instead, today’s post is going to be my “confession” about my experience so far with this challenge.
On Monday, I posted this in the comments:
I have been so lazy and procrastinating so much, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m not going to complete this first draft in the next less-than-two weeks. But I really needed that reminder that Neil Gaiman gave in the video about writing even when we’re not feeling motivated or inspired to write. I’m not a poet; I’m a novelist. That means I need to write every day no matter what.
It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas for the story. Yesterday, I emailed myself an idea from my phone while sitting in my recliner in the living room binge watching the 4th season of Grimm rather than pause it, get up and go into the office, and actually write something down in my Story Bible or, heaven forbid, actually start writing the scene. And my main computer is a laptop! I could have easily gone in, picked it up, and started exploring that idea while sitting in my recliner binge watching Grimm. But I didn’t. Because I’m lazy.
And then—AND THEN—even after I went in and got the laptop, instead of writing, I found online a campus map from some school around the same size as my fictional university (James Robertson University) and spent HOURS adapting it and then naming all the buildings—AND THEN figuring out what was in each building—AND THEN figuring out not only what the major college in the university are, but what their major degree programs are, both undergrad and graduate. Hours in which I could have been writing.
And let’s not mention the SEVEN HOURS I spent re-reading the last half of Love Remains and the first half of The Art of Romance on Friday because, so I told myself, I was searching for the names of the few buildings I’d actually mentioned by name in those books. The ones I needed were all within a few pages of each other near the beginning of Art. But did I quickly jot them down and then start writing? NO. Why? BECAUSE I’M LAZY AND PROCRASTINATING.
And now here I am, writing a long comment on my own blog post because I’M PROCRASTINATING AGAIN!!!
After writing this, I knew I had a choice I needed to make. Because I’m not currently writing under any kind of external deadlines (school requirements, contracts, agent expectations, crit partners, etc.), I don’t really have to write. There’s nothing or no one making me do this. I could very easily just pay lip service to this project, keep posting the scheduled blog posts for each day, keep trying to encourage others to do what I’m not doing.
But then there’s also the part of me, of my identity, that’s been lost for the past few years. The part of me that, more than ten years ago, prompted me to complete three full manuscripts during my last two years of undergraduate work—while I was working full time and taking nine hours of senior-level coursework per semester in a traditional, on-campus program. That was the part of me that wanted to write every night when I got home from a stressful day. That was the part of me that carried around a small notebook with me everywhere so in any lull of five or more minutes, I could pull it out and get a little writing done. That was the part of me that used writing, more than twenty years ago, to pull myself out of one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced in my life. (It didn’t work four years ago because the pressure and stress of writing on contract was part of what triggered the depression in the first place.) That was the part of me who could write three to four thousand words a night by sitting in the bed with a laptop and no light but a 40-watt bulb in my bedside lamp and being able to completely lose myself in the flow of words because there were no other distractions (and no WiFi back then to enable any online procrastination).
So Monday night, I made a decision. When it came time to go to bed, I took my laptop into my bedroom with me and made myself sit in bed and start writing. Ugh. It was like trying to suck a banana up through a straw. But I kept at it. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. I was writing stuff I’m pretty sure isn’t going to make it through the first round of revisions. But, I reminded myself, that was okay. Because I was writing. And I can only fix what I put down on paper. If it all stays in my head, it doesn’t do any good to think about how it needs to be fixed.
Within two hours, I’d written more than 2,800 words—words that created the scene I’d emailed myself the idea for on Sunday.
Last night, when it was time to go to bed, I was already thinking about how I’d ended that chapter and what needed to come next. It was late, so I figured I’d just add a few hundred words to the end of Chapter 8 and then call it a night. After all, even if it was just fifteen or twenty minutes of work, I would have still written.
After a couple of paragraphs and another character walking into the scene, I knew I had more than just a padded ending to the existing chapter. So I cut and pasted the new stuff into a new document. And, less than two hours later, I’d written just over 3,400 words—and that didn’t include the 300–400 words I wrote to begin the next chapter, too. (So I didn’t lose my train of thought.)
And as I was setting the now-sleeping laptop on the bedside table and turning off the lamp, the only thought running through my head was: Why couldn’t I have decided to do this three weeks ago? If I could have knocked out that many words every night of this challenge, I’d not only have kept up with where I was supposed to be to hit that word-count goal, I’d be well ahead of it. Possibly even finished, or close to it, by now.
But there’s no point in indulging in why didn’t I regrets at this point. All I need to do is move forward and keep reminding myself how I wrote my first four or five completed manuscripts (including at least one that went on to be published) by sitting in the bed at night with my laptop and banging out word-count. I did it by being in love with the characters and the stories. I did it because I didn’t feel obligated to write; I did it because I had a passion to write.
So even though I won’t complete this manuscript by next Friday, this challenge is starting to do what I really needed it to do: reignite the passion for writing in me. And I can’t ask for more than that.
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