July 8, 2013

I just finished the first week of my July Writing Challenge. The last time I was this excited about being a quarter of the way through something, I was on a near-vertical, rocky hiking trail.

I did a little June preparatory work. First of all, my workshop group meets first and third Mondays of every month. Monday July 1st was my turn to get feedback. This is actually what planted the seed of this writing challenge in my mind: after the last meeting about my work, I came home and wrote nonstop for a few days. Then I got sick, life got up in my business, and I couldn’t end the story. But then it was my turn to share again, so I had to finish that story. So I’m starting off on two good feet, really: I just spent a bunch of time talking about writing and I have just finished a draft. I also clipped my nails and scored a free external keyboard.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, possible impending tendonitis!

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, possible impending tendonitis!

I have made a list of projects I know aren’t in their “final phase” yet: a bunch of unfinished work and a couple of first drafts with commentary waiting. This is going to be my master list. I should finish this stuff, or anything on my list of ideas for this blog (except writing about the July Writing Challenge doesn’t count), and if all else fails, do a writing exercise.

I’m going to read some books about writing, too. I mean, I always do that, but I’ve got On Writing by Stephen King, On Writing by Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O’Connor, and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg in my reading queue. I also have inspiration books about writing out the wazoo.

List of projects + writer hair = srs bsns

List of projects + writer hair = srs bsns

Even with this prep work in place, I had a tough week. I would be lying if I said this challenge didn’t kind of feel like a chore, especially as I waited for my long Independence Day weekend. I got in a car accident this weekend and while I’m physically fine, I lost the temperamental car I’ve been driving since I was fifteen. So that was pretty jarring. I still wrote, I’ve just been having a hard time focusing on one project since that happened.

All in all, I wrote one complete and several fragments of blog articles, continued to work on a dormant fiction draft, wrote some journal entries, did an exercise, and wrote a two-thousand word rough draft of an essay-cum-eulogy about said destroyed car. I tried to read my work out loud to myself, which helped me uncover mistakes, but discouraged me because the story wasn’t strong. I tried to just write what I felt compelled to write, even if it was a just a brain-dump into a journal entry. Doing that really did make me feel better, but didn’t help me be productive on my cobwebby projects.

Getting ready to nail this challenge.

This next week, I really want to work more on finishing unfinished projects. If I can’t be more disciplined, I’m making a calendar for week 3.

July 15, 2013

The second week really didn’t go  how I pictured it would. I expected to ramp up. Instead, I got stuck almost daily. I spent last week being exhausted because my life ramped up instead of my writing. I’d tried to use this month for more time to write and due to a series of events—some of which I had no control over—I had less. I had to physically be in more places, and not having a car for the moment means I have to spend more time commuting. Theoretically, I could use THIS time for writing, but I’m so exhausted at the beginning and end of the day there’s no point. Plus, writing on a moving vehicle is hard.

I will say a couple of positive things.

1.) Hand-writing has served me well. My wrists have been getting sore recently, and I’ve been resting them to push back against developing tendonitis/carpal tunnel/badness. When I have a document in front of me and a cursor blinking expectantly, my brain seems to go, “Derp.” But if I’m writing in a tiny notebook there’s less expectation somehow. I’m going to keep handwriting; it seems like a better way to go right now.

2.) I think it’s been good to devote any time to writing, no matter how small a span of time. Before this challenge, I had countless nights where my story would occur to me just before I fell asleep. Inevitably, these moments went as follows: “Well I really think my next plot point should be zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” This made me feel bad about myself, and although I’m not proud that sometimes I spent only fifteen minutes wracking my brain on an outline before giving up, it keeps the story in the background of my mind. After wrestling for days with a series of outlines that all ended with “WHAT AM I TRYING TO SAY???????” I simply put pen to paper and some form of an answer came spilling out. I say “some form” because it was rather backwards, like something a workshop participant would say about the “big idea” driving the story. But hey. Something’s better than nothing, right?

I’m still posting on the forum every day. Let’s hope the second half of this challenge takes shape more like I thought it would.

Are you doing your own writing challenge this month? Check in with us on the forum. The more the merrier!