Working off Thanksgiving dinner in New York. Thinking burns a ton of calories, you know. Photo credit: Marji Yablon.
As I write this, it is Thanksgiving. It’s also Day 26 of NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. Like many others, I’m grateful for both the family and food I’ve enjoyed today. Like a hefty helping of my fellow writers, I’m also thankful for an opportunity to write (mostly) fiction (almost) every day this month.
I want to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve been doing for the past three-plus weeks. My arrangement is a network binding myself and three other scribes into a daily writing practice. We haven’t pledged to write a novel from whole cloth during this month (though one of us has, indeed, put the final stitches in her book-in-progress. Congratulations, Celeste!) We haven’t even committed to 30 days of fiction. It’s just about writing creatively–for any amount of time–every single day.
What has this meant for me? Let’s see. I’ve written:
- Nine flash fiction stories
- Five zygotes of additional stories
- One pitch for an article (which was accepted!)
- The article (link coming by Hanukkah)
- Another pitch for an article (awaiting review)
- A mysterious file that is blank except for the title “Maybe we thaw and gel”
Great thanks to Celeste, Dottye, and Cheryl for making this happen over daily emails. I’ll miss those one- and two-sentence check-ins. Looking forward to four more days, at the least.
Photo: Paul Reynolds
As a writer and college instructor, I can easily sink into my own world. Yet this past week, I’ve had the chance to see that world from the other side.
The writing sphere usually involves lightly stalking my subjects, asking questions, rejoicing when they respond, then writing and revising. Rinse and repeat.
For teaching, the routine is mostly to come up with activities and explorations that hopefully lead to learning and/or thinking. Rinse. Repeat. The rest of the time I make up assignments and criteria, hope students follow said criteria, and then check assignments and find that they sometimes do and sometimes don’t follow it. The success of that last item determines whether my hair remains intact or not.
So my trip to the point-of-view equivalent of Australia started last week when I discovered a student has quoted me in an article about farmers markets. I loved the experience of sitting in the interviewee chair, and then seeing what the interviewer chose to use. It’s like one of those lolcats suddenly faced with her own reflection.
Zowee! I can haz perspective? Continue reading
Filed under Blog, Teaching
Two stories on two rather different topics appeared in two divergent publications this week. One thing they have in common is that I wrote them. They both, I realized, also carry the theme of making something from thin air. See any other similarities?
Growing something out of nothing: The story of D.C.’s Wangari Gardens, on Grist.org, December 4
The Mad Lib legacy, on DeafEcho.com, December 6
A recent post in ProfHacker, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, caught my eye. In “Writers’ Bootcamp: Organizing Intrusive Thoughts,” Billie Hara discusses ways to address–and dismiss, for the moment–thoughts that could thwart your writing process. Her solution to thought intrusion involves sticky notes, X and Y axes, and The Falling Tree Method.
I have a system similar to this, though lacking the fancy graph and use of newfangled apps mentioned in the comments. At work, I keep a small white board on my desk and render each random thought into a color-coded note (red marker for emails to compose, orange for things I need to do or write). At home, I grab a writing pad to jot down my To Do (Later!) list.
I would like to tell you that I do this because I’m ever so organized. The truth is, whether a distracting thought ends up in a list or forces me to attend to it right away can mean life or death for a writing session. The less I enjoy a writing task, the more dangerous these non sequiturs become and the closer a massacre creeps.
How do you handle distractions?
(Photo by Ian Brown via Flickr/Creative Commons license)
Many people tell me they want to write, that they would find the life of a writer exhilarating. I squint at each one of these people, imagining him or her hunched over a keyboard late at night, a clump of mussed hair in one hand and a flat beer in the other. Then I smile and say, “That’s great! You should do it!”
Maybe these aspiring writers sense my disbelief, because once I say this, they often offer excuses and admissions of insecurity. Concerns about time, talent, inspiration, and financial feasibility roll out. I’m not surprised, because I have had those concerns, too. I try to stay encouraging. Writing is not all that hard, I try to tell them (and myself). It just takes facing a few blocks, I say.
I would like to take a look a few of these obstacles to writing in this blog. Continue reading