I love Chuck Wendig. I’m just sayin’. He’s raw and refreshing (and yes, his use of excessive and totally creative profanity makes me laugh a great deal, a fact which I’m sure would horrify my mother–but seriously, I’d like to pit him against some of the Bard’s most creative Elizabethan insults). And so often he’s just SPOT ON with the things he writes about writing and writers.
In a post earlier this week, he answered someone’s question about how fast he writes and how one goes about improving and getting faster. And this wind up totally resonated with me.
Ah, but here’s the trick: where some stories are fast and others come slow, one thing I believe to be true: thewriter needs time to age. Authors need time and experience to reach fruition — and so you must have the patience to develop a voice, to train your skill and hone your talent, to practice the craft of writing and foster the art of storytelling (for that’s how I see them: writing is the craft, storytelling the art).
Give yourself that time. Because that’s how you get better. And, sometimes, how you get faster.
Worry less about how long it should take to write a story.
Worry more about how long it takes to become a storyteller.
Yes, YES. Because people are typically obsessed with writing fast. There’s all this pressure to produce quickly and certainly a LOT of writers totally miss the part about the storyteller maturing and growing (i.e. there’s a lot of fast written stuff out there that’s better suited as garden fertilizer than actual prose).
This doesn’t mean I don’t devote a lot of time to trying to push myself and improve my numbers. I AM obsessed with efficiency since I only have limited time to write. But I believe 100% in making myself a better writer so that what I’m writing is a lot closer to final than it used to be. Sometimes I get lost in that, too focused on productivity to think about the important things which are, in the end, always about the book.
It’s another one of those “eyes on your own paper!” kind of things. The people who are out there writing 2k as a minimum MOSTLY do not have day jobs, and those that do don’t have more than one. Prior to the massive life interruptions of the spring and early summer, I’d hit a comfortable 1k a day which I’m VERY happy with, considering everything on my plate. Now to just get BACK to that. That’s the kicker.
I have such a hard time when things INTERRUPT ME, get me out of routine. And I definitely go through cycles at the Evil Day Job where I’m sufficiently stressed that I can’t turn it off to write when I get home. That’s where I’ve been the last week or two. So I’m doing a lot of the research reading I need to get done for DOTH, firmly rooting myself in the Celtic mythology that is the inspiration for the whole thing. And, of course, I’m blueprinting the plot bunny. I’m a big believer in productive procrastination.
I’m getting there. I started off the year with a little over 12k in January. A whopping 20.6k in February (I’d love for that to be the norm). A little over 15k in March. Nearly 5.7k in April after Daisy’s FCE. 10k in May. Almost 14k in June. I seem to be consistently writing 15 days out of each month, and averaging 765 words a day on those days (just above my 750 minimum pre-FCE). So when I’m writing, I’m performing well. I just need to write on more days. I’m shooting for 20 days this month, which means I need to actually, you know, get going, as it’s the 6th and I’ve only got 1 day to my name so far.
I’m trying NOT to worry about my productivity beyond a butt in chair, hands on keyboard level. Trying NOT to think about deadlines or getting another book or novella finished this year. Whatever gets done will be done. The focus is on DOTH, making it the best it can be, and then I’ll move on to the next thing, whatever that may be. As long as I am doing the work, slow and steady, I’m satisfied. Because I’m giving myself that time to age and learn, to get better.
Although my situation is much different than yours, Kait, when I realized that slow and steady consistently takes me where I want to be with my writing, both life and writing improved. It is hard not to focus on the numbers or the final product but I am learning not to be so attached to outcome, although it is an ongoing lesson, truly one of aging as you say.
And the thing I’m noticing: As good as it is to have solid goals to work toward… having a scary number in your head incites its own inertia. Or… I’ll write my words as a blog post instead. Or a marketing piece. Or anything but the book you’re trying to finish for the deadline you created. It’s funny the mindgames we play with ourselves, for sure.
Improving as a writer is always important, so yeah. I think it’s a good thing to focus on. 😀
Hi, Kait. Wonderful Post.
You are not alone. And it sounds like your attitude is wonderful. The key, of course is not to get faster, but to get more productive. That may mean more words on paper and more storytelling, but mostly it means getting rid of bad habits (one of which is not getting your butt in the chair, for sure, but many people have problems with distractions and looping and turning off the editing mind). I wish you great success as you continue to reach for your goals.
Well, that quote definitely helps me feel better about the fact that one of my WIPs has taken more than a decade, and I’m still crafting it. It’s not taking a long time; it’s just aging like a fine wine!
And a line of your own reflects a mantra I’ve been trying to use myself, too: “Whatever gets done will be done.” Specifics can be good…to a point. And to another point, the numbers seem arbitrary. As long as things are getting done, they usually get done at their own bloody pace, thank you very much. When it comes to a river, we can just go with the flow, or we can try to change its course…I’m much more for the former than the latter, and the best of luck to you as you plug along, get stuff done, and let it age.