Things I Learned From My Weekend of Silence

With the exception of a few conversations over the phone with my husband and mother, I didn’t have live interaction with another human being all weekend (chatting with my CPs online doesn’t count).  The only talking I did was to the dogs.  I edited.  Wrote.  Slept a lot.  And I read.   It was fantastic.

I didn’t get as much writing as I’d like, but I’m so not worried about it.  I made it through edits and rewrites on the first half of Devil’s Eye.  This morning I actually woke up thinking about the plot and had an idea of how I could improve it.  It’s a nice change from waking up and thinking “Oh, God, it’s not done yet.”

So I learned (or reconfirmed) a few things over my weekend of relative silence.

  1. I need silence. This is not new.  It’s something I’ve always known about myself.  But it’s something I don’t give as much priority as I should, which means I spend a lot more time on the Crazy Train than I ought.
  2. There is no substitute for dancing in your kitchen to jazz with a glass of wine while cooking dinner–except possibly doing the same with your main squeeze.
  3. I do not have to spend every waking moment of my day doing something productive. This is a hard one for me.  When you have so much on your plate, and you’re constantly multitasking, the idea of just sitting and doing nothing is simply unfathomable.  I was talking to a friend last week about this.  She’s a SAHM of 2 small ones and runs a web business from home in addition to her duties as a pastor’s wife.  Even if nothing actively interrupts her every ten minutes, she winds up interrupting herself.  Oh, time to put the bread in the oven.  Time to start the laundry.  I should fold that load that just came out of the dryer. Yep, I so do these things.  It’s a Sisyphean task to try and keep up with the constant mountain of things that need doing, and letting something slide is really hard to do.  There’s always that niggling “but I should be…”  But sometimes you gotta.
  4. The SFD (Sh*tty First Draft) method relied upon by so many who do NaNo, Fast Draft, or any of these other short time frame writing challenges does not work for me. I have concluded that it’s just NOT for me.  Spewing just to get words on the page for the sake of having words makes no sense if they aren’t the right words and you don’t know what they’re supposed to accomplish.  Having words on a page to edit does not mean you’re any further along if you haven’t thought out the purpose of the scene.  Of the second half spew I did on Devil’s Eye, I am keeping 1, count it, ONE scene out of TEN.  I can’t just edit what’s there because what’s there is wrong.  I am inclined to think this method only works for pantsers who have to write a whole crappy draft to figure out the story and then go back and start over again.

    This has always been a big thing for Pot.  The whole concept of SFD drives her nuts and she rarely ever participates in these short frame writing challenges for that reason.   She’s not into setting a daily word goal or even necessarily daily writing just to write if you don’t know where you’re going.  And that works great for her because when she sits down, she generally DOES  know where she’s going and manages to write out a whole scene in one chunk.  Boom!

    That’s not how it works for me.  I set the daily writing goal for three main reasons: 1) It helps me keep my head in the story, 2) It helps me prevent page fright, and 3) It helps me keep moving forward and building word count since I have limited writing time.  It means I can usually fit something in because 500 words is (mostly) manageable in my life as it stands without my having to blow stuff off.  Plus, 500 words isn’t too much to delete if I’ve gone a bit off track.

  5. So I’m no longer worrying about when Devil’s Eye gets finished and released. It’s a lot more important that it be right, that it be good so that it serves its intended purpose of drawing people into my world and wanting to read more, than it is for it to be out on a specific date.  I’ll keep moving forward at my own pace (not a NaNo pace), and it will be done when it’s done.

11 thoughts on “Things I Learned From My Weekend of Silence

  1. I am a person who needs a small amount of time every day for silence. Whether I write in my journal, read, or take a hot bath it’s how I regenerate. I’m always amazed at how extroverted people need the energy of other people for the same reasons. People take my energy and I need my alone time to build up my reserves so I can give it to them. Nice post.

  2. Sometimes we really do need that day or two of silence. I can’t stand it for much longer than that, though. LOL

    I use NaNo for two reasons. It motivates me to stop the laziness, and it makes me feel like a part of something fun. But as far as just throwing down crap on paper, I don’t like that concept at all. That’s why I write a chapter at a time, and then I usually go back and fix things in that chapter. Later, during the first big edit, I look for the plot holes and discrepancies. But I try to get it as close to the way I want it as possible the first time around. I usually write about the same amount of words in one sitting whether I’m doing NaNo or not. The difference is that I try to do it every day when I’m doing NaNo.

    1. Laziness isn’t an issue for me. The writing is (usually) the GOOD part of my day. I almost always write SOMETHING. It’s finding the time and fitting it in, and keeping my head in the story amid so many other major life distractions that’s my problem.

  3. Totally agree about the silence thing. It’s so important in order to be able to hear yourself think, you know? And also to be able to unclench a little. (I suffer from a lot of the same obsessive oh-god-I-should-be-doing-THIS-right-now stuff as you do.)

    Congratulations on getting to a better place re: DE. I’m so glad you had this weekend to give your brain a break and recharge. 🙂

  4. This NaNo thing is a test for me. I’m still plugging away at my SFD. I know my first manuscript was a SFD which I wrote by the seat of my pants. I believe it was more a SFD because I didn’t know anything about writing, rather than the fact I just wanted to get it on paper.

    When all is said and done, I’ll have to see if this NaNo SFD really works for me. One thing I do like is it’s gotten me to get the words down on paper. That’s something I hadn’t been doing for a while now. Rather than pantseating, I plotted every single scene, thinking I’d need outline if I wanted to win NaNo. Otherwise, I was sure writer’s block would hit me part way through.

    I’m pretty sure most of the scenes I’ve written will stay though, unless the story line changes. I’ve been skipping scenes which don’t interest me. And I doubt I’ll go back to finish them. In my mind, if the scene can’t keep me interested, I doubt there’s any hope of keeping the reader interested in them.

    I can imagine you and Susan are tough critique partners. 🙂 Hush Money was a pretty tight read… no room for fluff scenes. I’m glad you’re not sacrificing quality just because it’s an easy way out.

  5. I wondered where you got to, Mississippi 🙂

    Good for you. I applaud your effort. It’s so important to unplug everyday. Live people are a reminder that we need to do that. Cuz, ya know, they make noise and stuff if you don’t.

    I think being a parent helps you (forces) you to do that. Legos must be made, dolls must be dressed, baths of little bodies must be given. Little people don’t wait quiety, patiently, til the draft is done.

    Enjoy the practice…

    1. Yeah it’s not the internet I needed to unplug from. It’s the real life humanity. Because everyone, it seems, WANTS SOMETHING from me. That would be one of the reasons I don’t have kids yet. Not ready for that 24/7.

  6. I agree on the silence thing – I definitely enjoy time apart from everyone else to recharge and do my work my way. Including dancing as I clean [g]
    But I could never get along without an SFD! I write so much better, faster, if I’m writing as the words come and using lots of square brackets to mark what needs fixing or researching. If I stopped to change words and edit with every sentence, I’d go crazy and the story would never come.

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