Saturday, August 13, 2011

Writing Faster by Slowing Down

I write fast. Well, I write fast when I write. It comes from working on deadline as a reporter for several years, an impatient editor sending me increasingly annoyed instant messages while I organized my paragraphs, added quotes, and lastly, wrote a lede. (Yes, that's spelled l-e-d-e. I don't know why.)
My day job now requires a lot of writing and I still write fast, according to my colleagues, but nowhere near as fast as I used to be able to crank out the wordcount. I think it's more of a steady pace, but not nearly at the speed that used to be required of me.
But when it comes to writing that I do for myself, the fiction writing, I am more likely to write in bursts. Part of this is just my schedule. I usually only have time to write on the weekends, so I try and get as much done as I can. If I write during the week, before or after work, it's most likely to be just a couple hundred words -- if I'm lucky.
So this article, How to write faster, was of great interest to me. In particular, I identified with this passage:
One also finds dreadful confirmation of one's worst habits: "Binge writing—hypomanic, euphoric marathon sessions to meet unrealistic deadlines—is generally counterproductive and potentially a source of depression and blocking," sums up the work of Robert Boice.
Well, hell. That pretty much describes my modus operandi. And explains quite a bit about why I have so many half-finished works-in-progress taunting me from my hard drive. I'm at that last stage, depression and blocking, right now. I took a two week vacation and wrote nearly 30,000 words on two different projects. That's a lot of words. Since I returned to work, though, I've written very little.
The solution, as the article points out, is exactly as I feared -- the literary equivalent of "eat less, exercise more":
Alas, the cognitive literature offers no easy solutions. The same formula appears: "Self-regulation through daily writing, brief work sessions, realistic deadlines, and maintaining low emotional arousal." My old enemy, self-regulation. We meet again.
I started to think about what gets me writing. If I leave the house to write, such as taking my laptop to my favorite coffee shop, I will write. If I read my critique partner's work, I usually get inspired to write. When I get back a critiqued chapter, I'm inspired to write.
Since I just submitted my latest critique to my CP, and I have the day to myself, I am feeling inspired. If you need me, I'll be at the coffee shop with my laptop. And in the back of my mind, I will be thinking about developing a daily writing habit.

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