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Inkcouragement: Putting Words On Paper

Author Carmen Rodrigues counsels us through that crucial first step of actually writing something down.

Inkcouragement: Putting Words On Paper

One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.
--Elizabeth Gilbert

Earlier this month, the group shared their writing horror stories.

Revelations were made about ill-fated sequels, point-of-view disasters, and a would-be bestseller that had the misfortune to replicate both the plot and timing of TFIOS. Then, there were the fear-based horrors, which made a strong showing in the comments section. These revelations included no starts, false starts, and energetic starts followed by freezes—all wrapped in thick blankets of procrastination.

I read each comment—laughing, cringing, but mostly, relating. And I knew, then, that you were my people. We, of the bad timing. We, of the negative self-talk. We, of the had a good idea but don’t know how to execute it. We, of the plotting—
but what is plotting?

And so in this writing series, we, the people, will spend time discussing how to solve all of these givens of writing. I italicized givens because it’s a mindful word that reminds us all that all our writing horror stories, as bad as they might be, are to be expected on this journey. 

That doesn’t mean it feels good.  Sometimes it feels a bit like this:

But it is to be expected.
It’s expected that in the beginning of this process, you’ll freeze with fear.
It’s also expected that when you do proceed, you’ll struggle with plot, point-of-view switcheroos, procrastination (always procrastination!), and…. Well, you get the picture.

And while that might make you want to say goodbye to the whole hot mess, remembering that it is a given, might also help. Because that means that it’s okay that it’s happening. In fact, it’s supposed to happen as part of the creative process.

And here’s some good news: if you push through all these givens, you’ll write a manuscript. It’ll probably be a bad manuscript at first, but that’s okay. That, too, is expected before you enter the phenomenal world of revision.

So, I invite you to take the humor with which you shared your horror stories earlier this month and apply it to this whole crazy adventure you’ve selected.  Add to that a healthy dose of compassion for the frustration and doubt you’ll inevitably feel.


Then, remind your creative self that by being here, on this blog, you’re already exactly where you’re supposed to be.  That’s right, you’re on the path, even if you’re standing at the starting line! So start walking. Or, more literally, start writing

 

ASSIGNMENT

For the next two weeks, commit to writing everyday or as much as possible. Write joyfully and without expectation of outcome. Keep this in mind:

If you have never really written your ideas down, start by journaling. Journal at least 10 minutes a day, asking yourself some questions like below. Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers! The answers will come if you keep showing up:

- Who are my characters?
- What is this world they live in?
- What does my plot look like?
- What is the conflict?

If you’re writing but also procrastinating during the process, buy yourself an old-fashioned kitchen timer and then:
At the same set time each day, find yourself a cozy, tidy, distraction-free spot in your house.

Before sitting down:

- Put your silenced mobile phone somewhere ridiculously hard to reach, like the top shelf of your bedroom closet.
- Turn off your Wi-Fi.
- Set that kitchen timer for about 15 minutes.

Then, sit down and write as much as you can.  If you don’t write at all, that’s okay. Just make sure to stay seated and wait out the time.

- Each week that you repeat this process, increase the time limit by a minute or two.
- Note that if you have children or a busy job, you may find that your set time is either very late or very early in the day.  That’s unfortunately another givens of the writing life, but (trust me) you’ll adjust! 

If you’re stuck in the web of research, keep researching, BUT separate your writing time from your research time.

- For this week, set a goal of writing for at least 15-25 minutes a day. If you find that while you’re writing, you run into a research question, place an X in the spot where the answer would go, highlight it, and move on.  Then, address that question in your allotted research time.

Finally, begin each session by saying, “Today, I sit down to create. All that is required of me is that I am present in this moment. I don’t need to be brilliant at this right now or ever; I just need to be here.”

Recommended reading: The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism,  and Writer’s Block ($3.95 on Kindle).

This book helped me through a painful writer’s block last year. While I had already heard much of the craft advice, or developed some of the habits through my own experiences (for ex. kitchen timer, butt-in-seat, no distractions), it was helpful to think about perfectionism and the role it plays in procrastination.

Happy creating!

Don't forget: there's an FYA group dedicated to helping you find your critique partner and dispense of that negative self-talk! In the meantime, how do you feel about this assignment? Are you excited? Scared? Doubtful? What does it mean to try to create without having expectations of yourself? How is it all going for you? Let us know in the comments. 

Carmen Rodrigues's photo About the Author: Carmen Rodrigues lives in Virginia, just four miles shy of the White House. (Invitation pending.) She is the author of 34 Pieces of You; Not Anything; and a third YA novel, The Universal Law of Sally & Marco: A Field Guide (Simon Pulse), expected to be birthed in late 2016. On her off time, she enjoys karaoke bars, Game of Thrones theories, and audiobooks narrated by Irish voice actors.