Day 365 – That’s a wrap

Day three hundred sixty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

That’s right – Day 365.

Here I am where I began one year ago. When I think about it over the span of 365 days, I realize how far I have come. How different a writer I am at Day 365 compared to Day 1. I owe much of my growth to this project, which was a challenge since the first day. As I have found in other areas of my life, most challenges are worthwhile. This was no exception.

I knew from the outset that a blog devoted to a year-long writing project would be bland or at the very least lacking excitement. It was never about some gimmick to attract an audience or get attention. It was always about my development as a writer and forming life-long writing habits I know are essential to reaching my goals.

It was difficult to put myself out there while doing something that was so important to me. Each blog post was published in a swirl of mixed feelings about sharing my journey publicly. But I knew I needed some accountability to keep focused. Whether or not they were aware of it, my followers kept me on track and I’m grateful for that.

I’m thrilled to say I’ve accomplished what I had hoped for, and beyond. Writing used to be something I did once in a while. It passed through my thoughts as, “Maybe I’ll write about that someday.” But since I developed the discipline to write almost every day over the last year, my daily thoughts about writing are, “I’m going to write about that.” And then I do. Sometimes I write at that moment and other times within a matter of hours. But I write. I learned to take notes every day. I learned to outline ideas. I learned that I don’t have to actually be writing a chapter of my book to be working on and improving my writing. I can write a paragraph, a sentence, a list. As long as my creativity is being exercised, that is all I need to be doing.

Above all else, I learned over the last 365 days that I am a creative soul. I’m not sure I really knew that before. So while this year-long project has come to an end, I’ll still be writing and learning. Most importantly, I’ll be letting my creativity soar.

Writing. It is what I love to do.

Day 363 – Almost one year

Day three hundred sixty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Wow, I cannot believe I am two days away from one year since this project began. I just returned from vacation – a lovely break from reality, work and family obligations and everyday stresses – during which time I did very little writing. I thought about it a lot, but having afforded myself the opportunity to let go for the first time in many years, I decided to Really. Let. Go. And it was bliss.

Now that I am back I am ready to jump into writing again. I’m quite excited about it, especially since the timing of the end of this project is serendipitous. It is now time to expand my blogging horizons. I am ready to devote this blog to nothing in particular, and everything in theory. With the 365 Day Writing Project about to end, I feel inspired to have the freedom to just write what I want to write. And so I will. Soon.

Day 343 – The importance of the “where” in writing a story

Day three hundred forty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I have been working on my second book (fiction) for a couple of months now and while I am certain about the “who,” the “when” and the “what” in the story, I am completely undecided about the “where.” This is ridiculous to me, since the “who” and the “what” aspects are typically more complex. The “where” should be the easy part. For whatever reason, I keep changing my mind. So far, I have flip-flopped between three different states. And maybe starting in one state and ending in another. Or maybe three or more different states. See what I mean?

My indecision – while in the middle of writing the book – has led me to the profound understanding of how important the “where” actually is. Where the story occurs not only dictates scene background, it also dictates the voices of characters, cultural characteristics, experiences of characters, weather events, climate in general and countless nuances along the entire spectrum of details. As is the case in life, in a piece of writing the “where” touches everything.

To be undecided about location puts the writer in a position of writing sections she knows will need to be changed. Some of the writing thus becomes a string of contingencies. If happening in location A, it will be this. If happening in location B, it will be that. For instance, I wrote a colorful memory from my main character’s childhood that involved sweet grass. In the location I was imagining at that time, it worked. But if I change the location, it will have to be omitted if sweet grass is not indigenous there. This would be a minor change. However, major changes throughout the story might also have to be made.

For instance, a key thread in the plot centers around the protagonist’s ongoing efforts to flee the political and religious views of her upbringing. They are conservative, hard-core Christian views. This works very well in a location such as Alabama, but not as much in a place like Vermont. If a change in location means changing or omitting this thread in the story, well, then I’m changing my whole outline and likely resigned to writing a very different book.

The longer a writer remains in static indecision the more muddled her creative process becomes. Choose the location of your story at the same time you outline the “who,” “when” and “what.” And do your best to stick to it or you’ll end up changing far more than you anticipated.

Trust me, the “where” touches everything.

Day 336 – Take your moments as they come

Day three hundred thirty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Some nights I barely have enough energy to brush my teeth after I count the minutes to a socially acceptable time to go to bed (not that anyone other than my husband and kids would ever know when I turn in). Other days I battle through a project – be it painting a room, writing a good story or working – until the wee hours of the morning, hardly aware of the hours passing by. This ability to hinge on opposite ends of the nighttime-energy-spectrum (NES) is what I call, “evenings in the 40’s.” If you’re in your 40’s, you can bet on your evening productivity like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

I take my writing moments as they come. If involving the NES, I wallow and soak up those moments whilst making the most of the creative energy that might evaporate in a second’s notice. When I have time to write during the day or in the morning: Whoa. Watch out.

I was able to write for an hour yesterday morning while in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. I not only didn’t have to worry about being plagued by fatigue, I was devoid of the distractions of home. I experienced a lovely combination of energetic creativity and uninterrupted focus. Where and when can you find that, especially during the NES? On a wing and a prayer, that’s when, and who has time to wait for that? Not this writer.

I take my moments as they come. Whenever they may be.

Day 304 – The chase of the writer

Day three hundred four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

The art of writing is a wily beast. Inasmuch as it can be simple, it can be extraordinarily difficult. The art of writing is always a step ahead of the writer. You see, writers are chasers. We chase our imaginations, we chase words to bring color to our stories, and we chase the notion that we can artfully depict our stories to share a little piece of our minds, to leave something behind of ourselves that will prove that we existed once. That we were something special because we had something to say worth reading. But no matter how much we chase, we never reach the level we hold as our standard in our minds.

Wily, elusive, seductively ambivalent. The art of writing is all of these things, which is why writers are chasers. We may eventually capture our imaginations and generate the story we wish to tell, but for a time we hold it sheltered deep within ourselves like hyper-protective, helicopter parents. During that time we live with it pinging around the corners of our minds in sheer madness until we are ready to put it down on paper. As we write we try to blossom the story into what we envisioned, and we hope what is left on the page truly reflects what we enjoyed (lived) in our minds. We do all of this knowing full well that it will always fall short. Always.

I love the way Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner and And the Mountains Echoed) describes it in an interview with Joe Fassler:

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen—it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

Writers experience this every day, in every piece of writing, and sometimes even in every sentence we write. Madness? Maybe. Art? Definitely.

So, we chase. It’s what we do.

Day 266 – First chapter, new adventure

Day two hundred sixty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

So far, writing the new book has been a delicious experience. I can’t get enough. When that is the case, writing every day comes as naturally as brushing my teeth. But oh, so much better. I am letting my creativity flow without limitation, without hesitation. It’s so freeing and lovely, it makes me smile to think about it. I’m getting close to finishing the first chapter and I’m as happy as a bee in clover.

It’s a new adventure, for sure. And it is quite different from the other book about which I have blogged. This is a story of human experience. It isn’t a thriller and it isn’t related to the law. It is about the female. She. Her. Woman. Girl. And where she fits into the world. And what the world does to her. The biggest difference from a writer’s perspective is that I am writing this story in the first person. It’s more creatively and emotionally driven than I expected. I like it.

It is good to be in a more positive, creative mode again. I aim to keep it going as long as I can. I am a happier person when I can write freely. That is my sole purpose in writing this book. Nothing else; I just want to write it.

Day 230 – Back into the rewrite

Day two hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m back. Back into the rewrite. I did some other writing for a bit, but began to again feel that niggling urge to get up to my elbows in revising my first draft. And I must say, it feels good to get back at it.

I’m revisiting the second half of Chapter 3 with purpose in mind to make changes to the plot. So far, so good. It’s even a little exciting. I have discovered that plot changes have that effect on me. With renewed creative energy, I look forward to working on it some more tomorrow.

Day 208 – Plot changes in the rewrite

Day two hundred eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

It happened to me again. I was in the shower this morning when I had an idea about the plot. An idea that will result in several significant changes to the story, actually. I haven’t totally vetted the details but I have taken a lot of notes, and I plan to break it all down into an outline over the next day or two. I think the changes could make the story stronger. They will also require me to develop certain character interactions differently. I don’t know how I feel about all of this yet, but I should once I have the outline figured out. And then there will be a lot to look forward to writing.

This is not the first time a big idea has come to me in the shower. I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m stuck. Maybe if I just hop in the shower it will get my creativity flowing. Whatever works, right?

Day 154 – 7 benefits of writing while standing

Day one hundred fifty-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,000

Writing late at night is tough. Staying awake is probably the biggest challenge, but the best way to attack the sleepy spells is to stand up to them. Literally. I have written standing up the past two nights and I have decided: it’s my new thing.

Last night I kept nodding off while writing, fingers on the keyboard, head bobbing. I got up off the couch, set my laptop on the kitchen island and proceeded to write the rest of my session standing. It was great. Now that I have done this two nights in a row, I have figured out some instant benefits from writing while standing:

  1. It kills the sleepy spells. It’s hard to fall asleep standing up. It’s also funny how much more writing one gets done when one is awake. And alert.
  2. It is hard not to be alert standing on one’s feet. Different ideas – good ideas, come quicker. The creative juices flow more easily while writing standing up. Why? Maybe it has something to do with unblocking chakras. Beats me.
  3. It is more comfortable to type. I lose feeling in my fingers, hands and wrists when I’m typing at my laptop for extended periods of time. Sitting with my laptop in my…well, lap, really exacerbates this. Typing from a standing position alleviates this problem considerably by creating a better positional relationship between the writer and the keyboard.
  4. It promotes faster writing. Again possibly something to do with chakras, but I write more in less time therefore getting to bed at an earlier hour. Now this cycle is one I can get behind.
  5. It is better for one’s posture. When writing from a sitting position it is easy to slouch something terrible over a laptop. Standing up? Slouching is much harder to do. I found myself actually holding in my core while I was standing at my laptop. Hmmm…exercise while writing…
  6. It’s less distracting. Writing while standing in the kitchen took me away from common distractions such as the TV, my cozy, snoozing dog on the couch, the mesmerizing flicker of the fireplace. What is going to distract me in here? The toaster?
  7. Location, location, location. A change in scenery or location for writing can do wonders. Just moving into a different room and standing instead of sitting incited me to do some good writing the past two days. If floundering, change it up.

Day 86 – From a power nap came a great idea

Day eighty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 500

While I was writing tonight (okay, I had only written one paragraph and was kind of stuck) I nodded off for a bit. Maybe ten minutes. When I woke, I suddenly had a great idea for the story. Just like that, I was off like a shot and steadily wrote another 450 words. I probably could have continued to write more but I really need to get some sleep. And I’m pleased with what I got done.

I once read somewhere that great ideas come about when the mind is at rest. Sleep can spark creativity. It certainly seemed true for me tonight, even if it was a short power nap and a short session of writing. I think I’ll try it more often.