So I’m freaking out. Like totally. Just because I read something.
What could I have read you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I started reading my old manuscript from NaNoWriMo that has sat untouched and dusty for seven or eight years. It was frightening.
And somewhat intoxicating.
You see, the really scary thing about it was that, amongst the detritus of ideas scattered around, there was some decent writing. It turns out I was not the terrible dolt that I felt like during that one month of furious typing. I was still a dolt, just not a terrible one.
This has lead to some soul searching. The reason I read any of the manuscript at all is because I learned that a colleague at work was a published author with 8 books to her name. We had a nice long conversation about having “the spark” and how hers has been gone for awhile now. It was the same typical reasoning, and aligned identically with mine - work is long, kids are busy, and my ideas seem all washed up.
Which is why I went back to proof myself right, and instead find myself in a terrible conundrum.
The talent is there. It’s raw, underutilized and scared of failure of course. But the potential for a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius exists. So what do I do about it?
The ideas need to be there. This hasn’t ever really been a problem, but I find myself out of practice at looking for them. I used to do this all the time - read compelling articles, watch people’s body language during dinner, try to figure out why the hell people did what they did (impossible of course).. and the complexity and involvement in my own life has simply expelled this from my mind. Time to refocus, which brings me to the biggest thing.
I’m sitting again with a mostly empty pad of paper, looking for the tiny pique in my brain that will compel me to furiously start typing the next scene in a story. It ain’t there yet. This is where the training for that supposed latent talent has to come into play. If it’s there, and if I really want to do this - to become a writer - then I’ve got to practice. I need to do it regularly and with conviction.
I’ve read in multiple places now that the key for every good writer is not quality but quantity. Get a set amount of volume down on paper every damn day. It might be complete shit and it might be prose straight from a higher power.. but just get it out on paper. When the ideas start flowing again, the words will be there and ready.
The most common (and fairly low bar) I’ve seen is 500 words a day. 500 words can be rattled out in 5 or 10 minutes if need be. They’ll be awful words, but at this point on my adventures it’s really more about muscle memory than it is about a complex and perfectly wrought vision forming miraculously on the page.
So here’s some commitment. 500 words. If this is ever going to work, that’s what it will take. 500 words a day, every day. The ideas are there, the shitty first draft is waiting. It just needs time and practice to come out and be ready for editing. Time to get going.
This blog will help I think. I’m at 581 words for today.