Countdown to Writing
By Carol Harblin
Just like New Year’s resolutions we all have a game plan to get started. Many writers devise outlines and guidelines that will ignite their process, but outlines aren’t always successful. It’s all good in theory, but it doesn’t actually get the flow going.
In December, people talk about going to the gym and create a work-out schedule during the week for their gym visits, but by January eighth, people haven’t even driven into the parking lot yet let alone stepped on a treadmill and at that moment they realize the plan didn’t have a good execution. So then how do we follow-through with our plans?
Here is a good equation to remember:
Spontaneity + Attempt = Action
Some writers don’t have outlines or guidelines; those writers are called, pantsers, which refers to people who fly by the seat of their pants without any planning. Writers that are pantsers are in the moment and express their thoughts and ideas within the moment they are writing. They allow their characters to be adventurous and choose what they want to do that’s right for them. It is a carefree form of writing.
Any kind of action requires an attempt. Nothing is ever successful the first time out, so we need to practice that attempt more than once. Open up a blank Word Document and just let the fingers begin to tap the keys. Write anything at first. Observe your feelings. Is it cold in the room? Is there anyone else in the room with you? Describe the people in the room. There is always something to start with and then as one paragraph flows into the next we see multiple pages.
Action requires bravery also. We get so caught up in our own moment and within our own heads that we become paralyzed. The bravest people are those who are fighting cancer because they are faced with mortality. When we see an expiration date in our own lives nothing else in the world seems scary.
“Action is the foundational key to all success,” Judy Garland.
That equation is revised as such,
Bravery + Leap of Faith * Attempt – Fear = ACTION
Sometimes it takes those devastating cancer cells to remove fear from our action equation. Other people find that liquid confidence, in the form of alcohol, breaks down the fear.
Let’s give this a forensic analysis. When we have cancer or get drunk what is it we aren’t doing much of? Overthinking. There isn’t time overthink and worry when we have a terminal illness. With excess alcohol consumption it seems that any of our thoughts and worries are suspended by the alcohol.
Overthinking is one of the biggest setbacks in a writer’s life. Overthinking is the occupational hazard of being a writer. Writers are inundated by words, thoughts, and ideas which spirals in all frenetic directions that plagues us into a state of worry. When we overthink we begin to block our way. We criticize ourselves and second guess our actions. If we get over that setback then we will begin to find ourselves writing with more ease. Would it help if we begin to see our lives with an expiration date? Life itself is incredible fragile. How much longer can we leave for tomorrow?
For every step we take we need faith to carry us – or kick us from behind. That is crazy mystery of life is that we don’t know anything until we take those first steps toward that byproduct.
Here’s the homework assignment for right now:
Open up that story that you stopped writing because you didn’t know how to proceed. Don’t worry about whether it is a bad choice or the wrong thing. Last time I checked we have erasers on our pencils and a Backspace button on our laptops. It will be okay! No more stalling, just type or handwrite SOMETHING. Make your character do something that is completely out of character. Maybe the character is in a rut, too, and needs to get out of their way. If you don’t like what you write, delete it – nobody will know!
Start writing in medias res: Click that Enter button a couple times and begin a whole new paragraph about something entirely different from where you got stuck. Think about what the character wants to do and what the mission is again. Sometimes we forget the character’s purpose.
Live life now not later, and right now, JUST WRITE! Your life depends on it.