Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Support Yourself

This is x-posted from the Manuscript Mavens --

So, I joined Seventy Days of Sweat and so far I've written... um... nothing. I joined 100x100 (one hundred words a day for one hundred days) last year and um.... it didn't stick. In fact, I think the only writing challenge that's ever worked for me was when on her blog Diana Peterfreund challenged everyone to write -- something, anything -- every day for a month. Her motto was "writers write" and so she said we should all write! This couldn't have come at a more perfect time for me -- I was trying to finish the first draft of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and I was gearing up for a massive trial -- working 80 hour weeks. There were days when the most time I had to write was the 8 minutes it took for my mac 'n' cheese pasta to boil. But I wrote during those 8 minutes because Diana was (and still is) right: writers write.

All of these challenges and all of these goals are very useful and they're great! I'm all for anything that gets people writing (the old motto I learned around the RWA boards: BITHOC -- butt in chair, hands on keyboard). But here's the thing that I have to remind myself: at the end of the day, it's only you and the keyboard. You and that blank piece of paper. At a certain point it can't just be about being accountable to other people -- about sending an email to a loop checking in -- it has to be about being accountable to yourself. In the end, no one else can make you sit down and write except yourself.

Of course I'm not saying to go out and unsubscribe from your loops and disconnect from your support systems. Trust me, I know that at the end of a long day sometimes you just want to steam your face with pasta water rather than sit down and bang out a few paragraphs that you'll end up deleting anyway. And sometimes the only thing that forces you to trudge to your computer is knowing that the next day someone is going to ask you: did you write last night? But I am saying that you also need to find that accountability within yourself. It has to matter to *you* if you wrote or not. You have to answer that question for yourself and be satisfied with the answer.

And here's something that I'm starting to catch a glimpse of now that I have some publisher-set deadlines off in the future. Deadlines don't necessarily force you to write. It may seem reasonable to say "well, once I have a contract and publisher-set deadlines I'll have built in accountability so I won't need to rely on myself any more -- something external will push me to sit down and write." Here's a truth: some published authors miss deadlines (well, except for Nora Roberts). Some published authors misjudge and come close to missing deadlines. My next book is due in roughly six months -- that's at least 10k a month I need to write to get it done (and let's not forget that it took me 4 months to revise the last one). That's over 2k a week. How much did I write this week? Last week? Nothing. See, I have a deadline and it's not making me accountable, because that has to come from me. A contract does not make you write -- the skills, perseverence, dedication, motivation you learned getting to that contract make you write.

I'm all about supporting each other and riding each other to reach farther and write better. Trust me! I love nothing more than celebrating an awesome word count or an awesome chapter or writing The End or submitting -- all of it! And I love it when people celebrate those steps with me (like all the awesome support for my book cover!) At the same time I think that we all have to find that part of ourselves that wants to write -- that needs to write -- and that's what has to drive us. Because in the end, no one else will: it's you and the blank page.

1 comment:

Chris - the middle sister said...

That sounds alot like dieting ;-)