I’m on a roll, and I thought you should know. I had a low day yesterday at 300, but sailed through 1700 hundred today. There’s no finer feeling in this process than organic production, the joy of the flow, the subconscious tying together of threads and layers, the dropping of symbols, the way your brain works when you let it. But (and if you’re a writer, I know you know this), you don’t ever start there. You have to do the grueling, embarrassing, tiring footwork to break into those times you’re writing from what our cousins the athletes call The Zone. You’ve heard of Kevin Garnett “playing out of his mind”? Writing can be just like that when you consciously train it to do subconscious work. The key here is work: just ask Ray Bradbury.
Not long ago I heard a sort of writing koan that went something like this:
“If you read one hundred poets, you’ll sound like one hundred poets. If you read one thousand poets, you’ll sound like yourself.”
In the linked post from a blog called Screenwriting From Iowa, Bradbury talks about writing 1000 words a day for 10 years before finding his voice. Now I’m not saying it will take everyone that long, but the point here is commitment, sweat equity, effort. The point here is to write through the desires not to, to write through to your sweet spot, to write enough crap to know what isn’t.
A huge part of my productivity comes from being forced to look at my work through different eyes via workshops, peer groups, and input from professors and my thesis advisor. Recently, I finally took some oft-quoted, not-heeded advice about writing in general from Ann Hood. Namely, blow it up. For me, blowing it up means messing with structure, order, and my preconceived notions about the book’s main conceits. I’m not saying your epic tales should be written by committee. I am saying that I know my advisor and my peers are right about what’s lacking in the story so far. Addressing those needs s up to me. And so I shall. And so I am.
Rest assured, friends, this novel will be finished by May 1. Do stay tuned.