Most writing advice will tell you to just write every day, no matter what. I don’t always work that way. I go through cycles of immense productivity. There was a night last year where I wrote 12,000 words. That is a lot of words. I’ll plow through whole chapters in a sitting. I finished my novel and got halfway through the second one that way.
Then I burnt out.
Not completely, and not in the sense of never wanting to write again, but it happened. I noticed in the three years that followed that when that would happen, I would go through a period where I wouldn’t even look at my book. I wouldn’t touch other books. I would just slog along. That wasn’t very magical, nor was it productive at all. I then realized that when I started craving words and ingesting them at the rate of two 1,000 page books a week, I was coming up on another spurt. Last year, I had an idea. No matter how I feel, I make myself read.
Reading, you see, fills my tank. It renews my love for writing and wordcraft. It comforts me in the presence of old friends or introduces me to new ones. Lately, I’ve had the itchy fingers all the time. Even when I had a two week hiatus for my wedding and honeymoon, I wanted to write. I thought about writing. I read whenever I had a spare second. The tank was full, but I had no outlet.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve been reading constantly. I bring a book with me wherever I go, in case I have to wait for something. Reading fuels me for writing. This harkens back to Stephen King’s advice to writers: Read a lot, write a lot.
Last night I decided to do a short 20 minute writing sprint before bed. It turned into 40. I took that last bit of my novel that has been bothering me so much, highlighted it, and hit delete. It disappeared, and I sighed a sigh of relief. I started over. I made the story more succinct and a bit darker. I cut through all the useless preamble and got to the meat of things. It’s one part resolution, one part introduction, and another part foreboding — and all parts propel the story to the end much more effectively than they did before I deleted those ten pages. It was a freeing thing.
As novelists, we have to try to produce hundreds of pages of manuscripts. That sentence alone looks rather daunting. It might even make you say eek. The point is not to burn out. The point is to create new stories and characters that contain bits and pieces of your Self and Soul without scraping those two things out of your core and leaving you empty and listless. The point is to not look like this at the end:
Find whatever it is that makes you itch to write. If it’s reading, surround yourself with good books. If you’re like me and a big fantasy/urban fantasy nerd, the Science Fiction Book Club should be your new best friend. Joining gets you a gaggle of books for a dollar, and their membership terms only make you (make, pfffffffffffffft) buy four more books in a year. Even if you’re broke like me, you can handle it. Go you.
If it’s hiking or yodeling, go do those things. If you’re a writer, it’s because something in you says you must write. Don’t fail to listen to that. Fuel up your tank and gear up for the next month, whether you’re going to dive into NaNoWriMo or not.
How about this: a challenge for you, my lovely gentle viewers. My turn to be the gorse bush in your bum. Let’s all of us take the month of November by storm. It can be your birthday present to me that also benefits you! The perfect gift! The challenge is for you to write 1,500 words a day for the month of November. Snap a pic of your word count to show me. Once a week, whichever day you choose, spend an hour or more doing something you love that refills your tank and tell me about it — and send or post a picture (as long as it’s not that kind of picture). I’ll do the same.
We’ve got a week for me to work out the details of this challenge, but I’ll figure out some sort of little prize for winners if you decide to participate. (It will probably have to be little…but who says little can’t also be awesome?)
What do you say? You have a week to mull it over and get your oogly booglies out for the upcoming holiday. You know where to find me.
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