Happy Sunday Everyone!
First, I’d like to thanks the folks that came by to hear my reading yesterday at Penguicon. If you weren’t able to make it, you can stop by the Freebies page for an excerpt from the story that I read: “Haven” from the Weird Wild West anthology.
This week I wanted to talk to you about Trust.
Specifically, I’m talking about Trusting yourself.
You’ll sometimes hear folk advising you to get out of your own way when you’re writing. Most of the time, I read this and think about editing while I’m drafting. There are some folks that can do that. I’m not one of them.
Sure, if there’s something that just screams “Wrong,” then I’ll change that. Sometimes, when I return to the work from where I left off, I find that I got close to articulating what I meant the time before, but now I know exactly how I want to say that particular thing. I’ll make that change, but that’s about as far as I can let myself go.
Lately, I’ve come to learn that “Getting out of your own way” is also a matter of Trusting that you know what you’re doing. This might be why second books are so hard. You’ve already gotten one book under your belt, and that first one – for better or worse – sets the bar.
It’s not like I’m sitting there, deliberately comparing what I’m working on now with my first work, but I found myself second guessing what I wrote. Is it good? No, not just good, is it AWESOME!!
That’s not what first drafts are for. You unearth Awesome in the Revision phase.
This is how, in the past few months, I’d finish a morning writing session, and discover I’ve add 29 new words to the project.
That’s not my process. It was discouraging and depressing. It filled me with doubt, and any other “D” word that means “You really don’t know what you’re doing and should probably just stop.”
Now, when I said “Lately” a little bit ago, I’m talking about not even a week ago. I went upstairs to write (I moved my writing room back upstairs…that’ll be another post) at the beginning of the week and, initially, I was dreading it. I didn’t want to keep banging my head against this thing with very little result.
So I made a deal with myself: Go up and write for an hour. Sixty minutes. Try not to think about it (harder than you’d think) and just go.
It wasn’t easy. More than once, I found myself stopping and fretting over what I’d just put down. I had to give myself a mental shake and keep going.
At the end of that hour, I’d knocked out 750 words and some change.
Yes, some of you may be thinking, “And? What the hell is 750 words? There’s folks on Twitter crowing about days where they get three times that much. More than 3 times that much.”
Here’s why 750 words in sixty minutes is significant:
- It was over three times my recent average output. I don’t care what your numbers usually are, if you put out three times that number during a writing session, You’ve rocked out loud.
- This was in an hour. My average speed (according to the pace I set with the first book – remember that one that I kept unconsciously comparing this work to?) was 500 words an hour.
I don’t think that my typing speed has increased. Might be that it has on some level. After all, you can’t sit down and type day after day without developing the nuts-n-bolts mechanical skills. Simply by virtue of repetition, you’re going to see some kind of increase in word output per minute.
I don’t think that this would account the that kind of jump. I think that not stopping as often to wonder “Is that really what I meant to say there?” accounts for more of that increase.
The next day, I hit nearly 8oo words in that hour. the day after that: 650.
All from, I believe, just getting the hell out of the way of myself. Trusting myself that I know what I’m doing and will get there in the end.
Of course, all this sounds like I just, somehow, magically flipped a switch and “Poof” all the self doubt is gone. All the drive to make comparisons between a finished book, and one that is still in the first draft phase, is gone.
It isn’t. It’s still there, and it’s something that I struggle with daily. I wish I could tell you where that mental switch is in your own head. Like standing in a familiar, but utterly dark room, I’ve only got a vague idea where it is in my head. If I tried to tell you where that switch was in your own house, I’d probably walk you right into the coffee table and you’d end up with a nice pair of bruised shins and a pile of spilled books.
What I can tell you is that I believe that once you find that switch, once you know where it is, the next time you go fumbling about for it, it’ll be a little easier to find. Like everything else, it’ll get easier and easier – to a point. I don’t think that it’ll ever be completely effortless, but I do think that it’ll be something that you’ll be able to do reliably if you work at it.
Be safe, Y’All.
Time: 1:54 pm – ish.
Music: Blind Guardian – Carry the Blessed Home