Words of the Year (2010): Persistence/Patience

January 5, 2010

Last year, I posted a “Word of the Year” instead of doing a New Year’s Resolution. I’ve never been much for the latter, but I really enjoyed choosing a WotY. Last year, my word was “Believe.” Mostly, I chose it because I wanted to believe in myself as a writer. And as 2009 came to a close, I could tally 2 upcoming articles accepted and awaiting publication in the coming year, and I’m significantly closer to completing my non-fiction book that I have been working on for about two years. I think and hope that in 2010 I will get it finished!

So, for 2010, I’ve actually selected two words. I couldn’t decide on just one. They are:  PERSISTENCE / PATIENCE.   To me, they have very similar qualities, and I think I’ll need a lot of both to get through this upcoming year – and to successfully meet my goals of completing my book manuscript.

I need PERSISTENCE to keep on writing, to keep believing (building on last year’s word), and to keep going, even when I get tired, discouraged, procrastinate too much, or begin to think that despite the work I’ve already done, that I may never get finished.

I need PATIENCE because by rushing my book to completion, I’ll set myself up for disappointment. In fact, rushing things will be the fastest way to doom myself to failure. Rushing and impatience would make me get sloppy, lackadaisical, and ultimately could self-sabotage the entire effort. I also know I’ll need patience to face some personal challenges and changes I’ll be experiencing at work. Since I’ve decided on patience as one of my Words of the Year, I actually have a lot more peace about the impending changes, some of which start right away.

Last year was the first time I had done a Word of the Year approach, and I really liked it a lot. As I was reflecting on this tonight, I realized that this approach actually is a lot more satisfying and nearly a fail-safe way to approach the new year. A resolution is soon broken. But a WotY stays with you, and can help guide you if you need direction or inspiration. You really can’t mess it up. Just Believe, have Patience, and be Persistent!

© writingreading, 2010

Keeping a Writer’s Log

September 30, 2009

It seems like many of us struggle with the idea of calling ourselves “writers.” I know that’s true for me, and I know many of my writing friends feel that way too. In a writing group I belong to, one of the great sayings is: “A writer is one who writes.”

I love that phrase. It is simple and inspiring. And unarguably matter-of-fact. Even so, sometimes I still doubt.

One method that I have started using which has helped me immensely in any number of ways is to keep a writing log. No, not a journal. It is not a place to write. Rather, it is a way for me to keep track of my writing.

A typical run of entries might look something like this:

9/30/09 Wrote 2 pages.

9/28/09 Edited 7 pages.

9/18/09 Wrote 2 pages.

9/15/09 Read 10 pages, edited 3.

9/12/09 Cut 4 pages.

And so forth. This technique has helped me so much. First, it keeps me accountable, if only to myself. If I choose to share it with friends (as I have elsewhere), it makes me even more accountable. If they are paying attention, they can tell me “hey – I see you haven’t written anything in the past few weeks – everything OK? Need a jump start?  Keep going, you can do it.”  Or, they might notice that I’ve had a good run, and might cheer me on. Even if they don’t respond in any fashion, it still helps me to be accountable to myself, and to a community of writers.

Second, it’s useful for me to see where my time is going. Have I been mostly writing, or mostly editing?  After a few weeks or months of keeping a log like this, I may be able to notice patterns. I might find that I’m more productive at the end of the month. Or that when I am editing, I move much faster than when I am writing. Or that when progress seems slow, that’s OK, because it will be followed by a strong outburst of activity.

Keeping a log like this also helps keep me in a routine. I know that every night I write, I have to “check in” and make a note of my progress. It’s kind of like the ol’ marks on the wall to mark a child’s growth. These are my marks. Sometimes the growth is tiny and incremental; other times it comes in great bursts.

Finally, what I like best about keeping a log like this is when I tally things up at the end of the month. I come up with some amazing and surprising numbers.  For instance, all along, maybe my progress has been “write 2 pages” or “edit 4 pages” for many days.  Well, at the end of the month, it’s not unusual for me to total everything up and be astonished to discover that I’ve written 60 pages – or edited 80!  Yes, folks, those are real numbers. And I am not a full time writer.

It helps me realize that even just a page a day can add up to a whopping 30 pages by the end of the month. That even the smallest work, if done consistently, can add up, and can get me where I want to go. I can now say, with confidence – I am a writer!

© writingreading, 2009

Bipolar writing personality disorder

July 31, 2009

Today, I’m manic. Before 9am (and I am not a “morning person” by any stretch of the imagination) I had spontaneously come up with the first 6-8 scenes in the (imaginary) movie which will be based upon my (still-to-be written) book.

After a hard, long, and exhausting day at work, I came home, and sketched out these scenes and a few others I’d come up with since the morning in a story-board style format. It took me over 2 hours.

This week has been good. I”m working on a contest entry, reviving a piece of “avant-garde” (I guess you would call it) literary criticism from waaaay back – it’s still one of my all-time favorite pieces I’ve ever written – one of those times where the words flowed like liquid chocolate, straight from the Muse.

And I”m thinking about working up a small piece that is almost already written (cut from a longer work) as a magazine article. For the moment, I’ve set aside my book – but that is deliberate, and it just needs some time to sit and “jell”.

But then…well, there was last week, and weeks before that one, where the writing was almost painful. Wailing. Feeling like I would never get done. Like it would never ever ever end. Thinking it would be tempting to give up entirely (although like the California pioneers crossing the Rocky Mountains, I realize I’ve come too far to quit now.)

And a coupla months ago, I avoided writing as much as I could. Oh, I had good intentions, mind you. I really did.  But I would always, every night, find something else to do. TV. Internet. Blogging. Visiting other’s blogs. Go to the bookstore. And go again the next day. Visit with friends. You name it. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

So tonight, because I have had such a wound-up writing-day, despite being so busy and exhausting at work – I realized that I think my Muse must be bipolar.  Now, I mean no disrepect by that comparision. I realize that is a serious illness. But I say that by way of analogy.

But that is the only way I can explain it. My writing is so very much “feast or famine.”  Cyclical. When I’m “on” – I’m really on.  When I’m not – I’m not – and it is easy to believe that I will never get out of that rut when I feel like I’m in it.

This is important for me to realize. That it goes in cycles. That I can have incredibly inspiring and productive days. And that when they seem to disappear entirely – it is extremely important for me to remember that I have been to those great days before – and that they will indeed return, even if they seem to have disappeared entirely for that moment. I just have to keep going. Keep moving, keep creating, reading, writing, or finding other ways to keep my mind and my hands active – sometimes even almost “treading water” literarily speaking. Writing simply for the sake of writing – and who cares what the results are?  Maybe that day, when it all seems so hard, my goal just needs to be “Write. Write anything. It doesn’t matter. And quality doesn’t count. All that matters is getting the words on paper. And keep going. No matter what.”


© writingreading, 2009

St. Francis de Sales Day

January 24, 2009
Francis de Sales

Francis de Sales

Today is St. Francis de Sales Day. He is the patron saint of writers. Therefore, he’s a hero to me, even though I’m not really religious and I certainly know nothing about saints.

He was a soldier, lawyer and theologian. The Catholic website says he “studied theology … while getting into swordfights and going to parties.” I love that! What a guy!

Patience is one of his defining characteristics – and for any writer, that’s a must. He also had great confidence in his mission, when others scoffed. Another asset for any writer, especially if you hope to publish.

Not surprisingly, he was a bit of a subversive. When the Calvinists wouldn’t give him the time of day, he got creative and wrote about his Catholic faith, slipping his writings under the residents’ doors – the first use of religious tracts. He was a very persistent man, and that, too, I think, makes him an excellent example for writers to follow.

Eventually, as his influence grew, he got a lot of fan mail – so much so that he often felt overwhelmed in responding to it. But because of his constant, steady work, day in, day out, he simply did what he could and kept going. I like this attitude of persistant, constant, steady work. I know I certainly need that in my own dedication to writing.

Honor St. Francis de Sales, today. Commit anew to your writing regimen. And if you’re the praying sort, you might want to ask him to be on your side!

© writingreading, 2009

Keeping the momentum going!

October 28, 2008

If you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, well, the good news is: I’ve been writing! Working on my magnum opus, offline. A lot. Which is a good thing.

Today I feel like I finally have some momentum, and I like where my book is going, and most days, I believe it can get there. It’s been quite an uphill climb, lately, until just the past few days when finally it feels like things are beginning to fall in place.

I think right now, for me, it’s a lot like a bike ride uphill. You struggle and pump and pant and feel like you are making almost no progress. And yet you still have to pant and pedal, again with very little forward movement. But then you finally reach the crest of that hill – and wheeeee – it’s a free and easy coast on the down side. You can see the finish line in the distance, the gorgeous view of the countryside spread out before you, and you believe – and finally, know you are going to make it.  The uphill struggle and your aching calves are quickly forgotten, and you ride through the exhilarating breeze, using all of that energy you and your bike gained on the long climb. That’s where I’m at, now.

Oh, sure, I know it will be shortlived, and there are still many more hills and mountains between where I am now, and where this journey will end. But I do know that it is crucially important to not put on the brakes and to keep going with the momentum I’ve got.

For any fellow writers out there – I hope this gives you encouragement if you are struggling on the upside of a hill in your own work, right now.  I know I was on that side of the mountain myself, just last week. Just keep pedaling, and you will get there!

© writingreading, 2008