The Courage To Start

Today, I made history. For myself at least. Today, I started writing my novel.

I sat down, opened up a new word document, and strung together a scene. I didn’t open up my chapter breakdown grid. I didn’t start trudging away on another lengthy character profile. I didn’t even get on facebook to update my facebook status. I just started with one line of dialogue, followed by a bit of exposition, and then some more dialogue, and then a character description and a short action sequence. The next thing I knew, I had a full page of a first draft completed. And then I had three.

This is a personal victory that I cannot begin to exaggerate.

I tend to be a bit of an over-planner. Actually, I’m a violent over-planner, who usually ends up getting tired of a great idea after planning it for so long that I no longer want to execute it. But not today.

Today I was a doer. I was able to actually accomplish something, even if it was mere 1,600 words.

I was spurred on by chapter I read today in the book Pen On Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about the process of rewriting. She says that “You can learn to appreciate revision, especially if you frame it like this: At least you have pages that need revising, a major accomplishment in itself.”

It then occurred to me how silly it was that, even though I’ve been “working” on my novel idea for several months now, creating chapter outlines and writing character histories and maps and timelines and whatnot, I hadn’t actually written anything.

I’d been held back by fear that it wouldn’t be great, that I’d never do my great idea justice. DeMarco-Barrett says that “fledgling writers mistakenly learn that coming up with great ideas is the most important thing, not rewriting. They also believe they should be able to say exactly what they mean the first time out of the gate. Nothing else in life is like this. Who prepares a fabulous meal the first time they cook? Or plays a piano concerto at will?”

She’s right, dammit. I need to get a first draft out there and then beat the crap out of it before it will start looking like I want it to. How ridiculous of me to sit there planning it for months and months, when the only way I’ll get to really know my characters is by writing them, and then rewriting them. The only way I’ll get to that amazing plot is to write a really shitty one first, with a lot of holes and a bunch of poorly written, one-dimensional characters.

Let’s do this. I’m diving in.

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Why I Am The Non-Writing Writer

Franz Kafka: ‘A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.’

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. It started in elementary school, when I would make “books” by stapling construction paper together and writing in them these outrageous stories about kids who found magical objects in their backyard or ran away from home and built an elaborate tree house to live in. As a teen, I used to write (and I can’t believe I’m admitting this publicly) fan fiction stories for my favorite movies and TV shows and post them online to rave reviews from super-geeks across the country. And in college I studied Creative Writing and wrote articles for the school paper in order to learn more about the art of translating the stories I had in my head and that I recognized all around me into something other people would want to read.

However, these dreams were lost after college, around the time I entered the work force as a wide-eyed 22-year-old. I started in the entertainment industry as an assistant with dreams of being a TV writer. Fate led me to fall into the reality genre, which turned out to be great for me because I do get to tell stories, in a way. But, the drawback is that work in reality completely takes over your life. Right now, I put in between 60 and 80 hours a week for most of the year as a producer on a high-rated network reality competition show. The good news – I love what I do, especially the people I work with and the experiences it allows me. However, between my outrageous work hours, my dating life and the small semblance of a social life I’m barely clinging to, I have very little time to write. Now, I am 3+ years out of school and I’m lucky if I manage to write 4 sentences in my journal every month.

It’s not that I forget about writing completely – quite the opposite, actually. I think about it constantly. I read blogs and books about writing. I subscribe to and read The Writers Digest. I talk to writer friends about writing. I make lists of novel ideas and characters, of places and themes. I write down titles of articles I could write and magazines that might want to buy them. I make schedules for myself that have blocks of time cut out just for writing. Hell, for the novel that I’m “working on” right now, I’ve been outlining the characters, places and chapters and doing outrageous amounts of research for months, and I keep telling myself that I can’t start until I have it 100% planned out.

But somehow, the words never materialize, and they haven’t for years. I’ll get distracted by a relationship issue, or I’ll get swamped at work for a week or two and I’ll forget all about my list of ideas. I’ll snooze my alarm clock instead of waking up early to write, or I’ll agree to go to a bar with friends if I have evening writing planned, thinking that I should be out living my life and enjoying myself and I’ll get to it later, when I have time. Or, I’ll sit down in front of my computer to write and get stuck after a few sentences, so I’ll check my email, my Facebook, or the Huffington Post and soon my allotted time is up and I haven’t actually accomplished anything. And in reality, the fact that I haven’t written any of my novel yet isn’t because I want to fully plan it out before starting it. No – I’m just terrified about actually biting the bullet and sitting down in front of the blank Word doc and writing that first line.

So, enter this blog. I created The Non-Writing Writer so that I can complain about this weird phenomenon that seems to affect a large population of young wannabe writers out there. I want to explore the real reasons that we don’t write – whether it be the fear of taking the first step and putting yourself out there, or worrying that when you actually do produce some writing, it will be shitty and you will discover that you’re not actually a good writer at all. I want to blog about the so-called “writing life” that seems to elude me, about the ways I and others facing a similar block could possibly get motivated to write, and even about the things that I do instead of putting pen to paper.

And who knows, this blog may actually inspire me to be a writer who writes…….though that may mean I’ll have to change the name of it, and that graphic took me effing hours to make.