Think Big, Start Small

I broke my writing every day streak over the weekend while I was out of town with my family, which is a bit of a bummer. I find I always struggle to get back in a productive groove if anything, even the slightest interruption, bumps me out of my rhythm. I always get back into writing, but never as quickly as I want.

I’m trying to come up with a method for addressing this issue, because it’s been a staple in my creative life and I don’t really anticipate reaching a point where I don’t have a showdown with my Profound Human Laziness in order to start being productive again. Maybe it’ll happen, and I will be all YAY CELEBRATE FOREVER, but in case it doesn’t, I want a system.

The only step I really have so far is to start small when I’m getting back into writing. This may seem silly, particularly when I’ve only been out of a groove for a few days, but I know from experience that days stretch into weeks that stretch into months if I don’t head off the unproductive bug early.

I always think too big when it comes to writing. I look at the gigantic whole of the process, and it’s just… I get all whiny like, “Noooooooo, it’s so much work. I hate work. I want to sit and eat cookies and watch Netflix and cuddle with puppy FOREVER.” It’s really dumb, guys, but that’s my life.

But this year has been a perspective shift in a lot of ways as I try to improve my attitude toward writing as a career and recover from some pretty damaging experiences. The biggest element of that shift in perspective has been telling myself to take it one step at a time — and meaning it.

The second part of that is the most important, because while I’ve always been one of those people to encourage others by saying, “Oh, it’s just a first draft! Get through the first draft, no matter how bad it is, and go from there! You can’t write a finished book in one sitting!” — and any other number of sentences like that — I’m not sure I’ve ever truly believed that for myself. I get too caught up in the whole big picture and then get freaked out.

So, Perspective Shift Year, Step #1 — Think Big, Start Small.

By Think Big, I’ve meant to have specific goals in mind. For me, this mostly relates to my manuscripts. I’ve been drafting novels for a solid 10 years, but my problem was always that I never had a clear enough concept of the book. I would start with a one or two sentence summary of what I thought the story was, sketch up a few characters, and be off. This inevitably, time and time again, led me to the Pit of No Return (somewhere in the middle of drafting the book) where I realized I didn’t have any idea what was happening.

Now, I know that blank slates work really well for some writers — and I sincerely applaud that. Like, that’s amazing. I don’t get how you can do that. I also really applaud writers who outline their books to the scene and don’t deviate. I don’t get how you can do that, either.

Since I graduated college last year and have been more focused on writing, the biggest thing I’ve tackled beyond crippling self-doubt (it’s kinda haha but kinda serious) is this issue of knowing where I’m going. I’ve tested a dozen different outlining techniques, one of which has stuck (I’ve tweaked it quite a bit for my own purposes, but I did write a post about it). I love to have leeway and freedom to let the story and the characters go wherever they want, but when I set out drafting, I need to at least have an idea of where the story will end. Maybe it will change, but I have to start with that.

So my Think Big is having the entire story in my head, start to finish. But then there’s the starting small, which is about putting my butt in the chair and writing. It can be really painful to me to write when I don’t feel like it, or when the words aren’t coming out the way they are in my head. But the only way this writing thing gets done is by putting word after word down. And those words are the small steps.

Anyway, I’m just rambling. Also procrastinating. Putting words down here instead of on my WIP… a story which has swelled even more. At this point, my rough draft might be 100K. Whyyyyyyyy. I’m also thinking of shifting my novella idea to be an actual prequel set in the same world, because everything is getting jumbled.

OK, I should go write now… right?

~Teresa

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