Planting A Dream
Well, most of the winter holidays are over until next year, and we have 360 days to go before we have to wonder where Santa is or if he'll show up, approximately 150 days until bathing suits and skimpy clothing in the States, 208 days until the next RWA conference (next one will be in Atlanta, for those who aren't familiar with Romance Writers of America), 47 days until Valentine's Day, approximately 68-75 days before the Kids will be on spring break, and 107 days in the States to file our taxes.
Is it just me, or are most of our lives really planned around dodging deadlines and anticipating adventures? Whatever happened to NOW? There's a method to my madness, if you'll bear with me.
I have a friend who has never written a novel who is daunted by the thought of creating that many pages. I've told him every December that one page a day would get him through a completed novel and then some. I've tried to persuade him that five pages a day would net him a novel within a fraction of that time. I've suggested books, such as Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, urged him to create a space in which he feels comfortable to write, nagged him to just try writing every day for a month or sporadically as he can, but he's stymied by his own lack of belief that he can do this.
Writing every day isn't for everyone who wishes to produce a book...or even a few sheets of poetry, a short story, or a blog. We do what we can, and it has to enough for us...until we are published, in which case we have editors asking when we'll turn in our next manuscript. I write because of two things...I can't conceive of not writing, and I like the money, such as it is. I enjoy working from my home and deciding when and where I draw the line on how much effort I can give. I like the freedom to express, hit delete, or save, knowing that it's my arse on the line, that I am responsible for at least this, that I control at least this, even if I'm restrained by health or home issues, the weather, death, taxes, and whatever else life throws at me. I control what I say and how I say it. There are writers around the world who don't have that freedom. What they say can get them and their families killed. For that matter, some who read my dreck want to kill me.
My point is that we control how much time we allot to our writing - not what is granted to us after jobs, families, and obligations, but the time we choose to spend doing what we do once we've planted meat to seat. We choose to sit down with or without the tools we need to do the job--grammar, spelling, sentence structure, ideas to germinate then generate. These tools are all free - we only need to decide how well equipped we are before we sit down to write. If we refuse to learn the basics, then we can't expect to graduate to the plane that calls us. It's that simple--that's the way the world works. The muse is free--she just has a high price for some of us to pay in order to follow her rather than just sit and listen to her whisper in our ear.
Some of us write better before we blog, or our blogging is our reward for having done the number of pages we assign ourselves. Others listen to motivational tapes, jog, walk, or do yoga before they sit down. My ideal start to writing would be get out of bed, jump into a warm pool, swim, sit in my robe sipping my favorite coffee and having a bite of toast, then slipping into my clothes, planning my day's schedule, and sitting before the computer. Truth is, I'm lucky if I take five minutes from bed to bathroom, kitchen for coffee, and plant my butt in the chair bleery-eyed and clueless. I'm lucky if I look up before two o'clock and have done more than smoke, drink coffee, and pound keys, much less eat. The diabetic doc isn't happy with me when I do things this way. Neither is my body, which is why I'm trying to wean myself from the bad things and fill in the time with more energy-producing ones. After all, it takes energy to concentrate and write.
I must have had one helluva potty training, because I am anal about my time and how I spend it. I've had to learn by trial and error what works best for me. I am cranky if I don't have the tools in the toolbox or if there's one I don't have but want. I know that I'll either have to give up time writing in order to master that tool, or I'll have to live (write) without it and face the consequences. Or...there's that third option: Learn it while writing. Practice using it. Remember the value in its existence and what I can gain by having it. Make friends with my need rather than be dominated by it.
I lack patience - I generally want about five seconds after I think of something. I don't want to wait. I want it NOW. By letting that need consume me like a sudden fire rather than let it slowly rise from simmer to boil, I cheat myself out of a learning experience or two. And I want to learn in 2006. I have a list of To-Do and Be and Have that would boggle most minds. But I've found over years of making goals that I can't hit a target I don't have, so...I do the resolutions on New Year's...in fact, I do them all year long. When the desire for change hits, that's my New Year's Day. I don't wait for January 1st.
I love the seasons - winter is preparation time for me. I dislike the ice and sometimes even the snow, but I love the germination period, the time when I concentrate best on coming up with ideas for spring planting, summer weeding (and there are always weeds), and autumn harvesting. I'll give you an example or two. Last winter I had a notebook of ideas that expanded to one of manageable goals (we're talking writing here). By spring, I had two of the three books I wanted to write that winter completed. One has been in New York with a major publisher (requested, by the way) since April. The other two sold, one in April, the other in November. I took the ideas I hadn't fleshed out yet and worked on them in the spring, because I'd already prepared the soil, done the homework, done the research, prepared myself. Those two sold as well. Summer hit me hard because I had to put my money where my mouth was with one publisher - I boasted I could have what she wanted within a month, and I hadn't even begun it. August was absolute hell because of it.
Six books total sold in 2005. I was hoping for 7, but...alas. One crop didn't pan out for me. The one that is taking so long, well...that one is in crop rotation, because I can't afford to put all of my energies into the one project. There are other children needing my attention.
No matter the physical season around you, try thinking of your writing as seasonal. When do you do your best research, plotting, observing, writing? Realize that every idea needs careful consideration, from germinating to planting, repotting, tending, and weeding. Know the gardener - his/her habits, requirements/needs, and capabilities for the "soil" on hand. One good friend told me years ago that a book I wanted to write was out of my capabilities to write for that particular time. She was gentle but insistent that I reconsider putting so much effort into that one project when I had so many others that would yield the results I was after. I listened to her. It was one of the six that sold this year, and that was about 10 years ago that she suggested I wait on it to germinate.
I don't worry too much that I'm not producing everything I want to write. I worry when an idea is bigger than I am, when I haven't the tools to execute the damn thing. I have goals for 2006. They're not grandiose, but they're big enough to keep me busy and hoping and dreaming...and humble. And I've made room for the projects I want to grow that are smaller, because they feed my soul and energize me.
What feeds you during winter? Any good books or music or films that make a difference whether you write or not or how well you write?