Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. I try to limit my granddaughter stories to one per conversation. Otherwise I would be even more insufferable than I am now. But, I mean, seriously, it does not get cooler than this in my world. (Even with the kitchen reno still in progress around us.)
Maeryn is writing a chapter book for her parents for Christmas as part of our homeschooling for writing in M&N Studio (Maeryn and Nanny). With the story board done, she writes a chapter or two in each session and is now up to 1100 words, an achievement of which she is understandably proud. My new favorite question coming out of her mouth: Do you want to hear what I have so far? That usually means going all the way back to the beginning every time, but who am I to argue with that?
The project has evolved. It started off as a short story, and the more she added to the story board, the more it became apparent that that container wasn't big enough to hold everything. When I asked her if she wanted to give a chapter book a go, she was all over it. She wanted to see what it felt like to write a book.
So far, it seems to feel pretty good. ADHD makes some forms of concentration a challenge, but when Maeryn is plugged into writing this piece of fiction, she can sit for 30 to 40 minutes, typing, re-reading, editing and, of course, sharing with me. When she really gets into it, she starts abandoning articles of clothing and changing position so she can keep going. I act like I'm also working on my novel beside her, when in truth I'm simply basking. Bask. Ing.
My nine-year-old granddaughter is sticking with her project by experiencing what it feels like to write something she loves. It feels good, satisfying, confidence-building, so she wants to do it some more. She reflects what I have come to know as a truth: if we allow ourselves to do something that makes us feel positive and fulfilled, we'll want to repeat that experience. It won't feel like self-discipline to clean the house if the end result is some pretty smug satisfaction. It won't require an act of will to practice yoga or Pilates if you come out of a session feeling energized. Who needs accountability to stay on a healthy eating plan when those jeans you couldn't squeeze into last winter now zip up without your having to hyperventilate in the process? We do what brings us into the zone that feels most like us, in our True Nature.
The same applies to "finding time to write." If we're "making ourselves" sit in front of the computer and write 500 words before we're allowed to get up for a coffee, we're not going to stay with that regimen for very long, as we talked about in a previous post. But what if it felt GOOD to create a scene? What if finding just the right word or image made you grin, earring to earring? What if putting in 90 minutes without interruption was right up there with savoring a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream? Actually, if that isn't the feeling we get, why are we writing in the first place?
I've shared with you that I was fooling myself into thinking I was writing when in truth I was sort of afraid to. So I tried an experiment. What if I did just turn off my phone, close down the email, fix myself the perfect cup of tea and luxuriate in writing a chapter of my novel? How would I feel? That involved shedding the Donald-Maass voice in my head -- the wails of fellow writers about the market -- the tape that turns on and says, Isn't it a little late to be starting down a new writing path? It involved composing at the keyboard for the sheer joy of it. I gave me permission to stop if I started to feel anxious -- if I began questioning my work, my abilities -- basically if it ceased to be a joy.
I never had to. Because the better I felt about my creative session, the more delicious the experience turned out to be, the more I wanted to do it. I'm not suggesting that writing is always sheer Nirvana. It's called a WORK of literature for a reason. But I'm thinking that if we always dread it -- if we find ourselves grinding our teeth in front of the screen -- if we can't wait for it to be over so we can, oh, I don't know, go clean the toilet -- we need to ask ourselves if this is really how we want to spend our time.
I'm betting that giving up completely and getting into origami or something isn't an option for you, or you wouldn't be here. So, let's try an experiment, yes? Here's your challenge:
* Name your favorite part of the writing experience. Maybe it's tapping out a first draft with abandon (like Emii). Could be it's doing the research or journaling with the characters. Very possibly you like coming up with great dialogue or precise images or writing fight scenes.
* Set aside time and space -- at least an hour -- and do THAT part of writing. Even if that's not where you are with your current project, you can adapt or focus on a new work. Savor. Make it delicious. Do it like you're already a published author in demand and have nothing to worry about from editors or agents. Let. It. Be. FUN.
* Share with us how that felt. Tell us if you want to do it again. And again and again and again. Can you just do that part of writing all the time? Um, no. But if you have a positive experience in front of that laptop or with that legal pad in this one area, that will translate into the rest of the process. It's that good, satisfied feeling that keeps us going -- not stick-to-it-ive-ness -- not grit -- not guilt.
I'm here to tell ya, if you feel great while you write, someone holding your book in her hand at some future time is going to feel great while she reads. I have it on the best authority.
Can't wait to hear from you -- ALL of you. Even if you've been lurking in the shadows, come into the light and for Pete's sake have some FUN!