I’ve finally wrapped up a tough work contract that absorbed all my time for the past ten weeks, with no more than a single day off in the past six. I knew going into the job that I would lose writing time, but I decided that the opportunity was worth the sacrifice given that the job was not expected to carry on for more than four or five weeks. Well, surprise—the work extended to more than double the expected duration.
Interesting thing about this particular film job: the period setting was identical to my novel-in-progress (England and the Colonies in the mid 18th century). The only difference was that the scripted colonial location took place in Virginia, whereas my novel unfolds in New York and Philadelphia. As an art director, I spent many hours neck-deep in research since part of my job is to match the look of the period. But while I took advantage of swimming in my own novel’s setting, I did not have the time to delve into my story.
How does one get back into a big story after such a long and intense break from the material? I always find the best way to get back into a project is to re-read the manuscript. The characters come to life and the story fills the mind again in a way that feels like getting into a freshly made bed. I’ve started tackling the 83,000 words I’ve put on the page to date. I’m enjoying the read, which is a good sign—and also see clearly where I need to do some re-structuring. Reading with fresh eyes is one unexpected advantage of having to take a break from a manuscript.
The timing of the end of my work contract lined up perfectly for taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I would have signed up if I were ready to start a new novel. However, I’m still working on an unfinished gap in the middle of the novel from last year. Instead, I’m doing “unofficial” NaNoWriMo. I’m writing every day, working to a word-count goal, and aiming to finish the middle of the book by the end of the month.
I’m finding it a challenge and suffering from immense blank page syndrome, but I’m glad to get back on the horse.
I’d be interested to hear how others deal with major interruptions in their work flow. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
The most common writer’s advice out there seems to be “Write. Write every day. Write about anything.”
Despite this being January, my latest resolve comes not as a New Year’s joke on myself but as a result of demanding an hour of writing every day via my calendar’s task list. Of course, because I am lazy and forgetful, I don’t always look at my task list. Or worse, I skip the part about writing for an hour because it scares me. What if I fail to write anything? What if I succeed? My writing task ranks first on my list of things to do—right at the top where I can easily ignore it every day.
Only lately I haven’t been ignoring it.
The practice of writing every day has crept up on me without my being conscious of it—not because I’ve embraced working on a manuscript every day or added to my writing blog, but because more often than not I have something to write about somewhere. I am learning that writing every day is not only possible but actually enjoyable. I post regularly to my photo journal. I finished a fifth draft of my romance novel and handed it off to a writer friend to read and an editing friend to do a quick review. It feels great to have something that’s ready to share and to get some serious feedback. Another friend’s recommendation to submit to a local magazine contest inspired me to pull a story I liked from a travel journal of mine and give it a fresh spin. A year ago I started a dream journal, partly due to curiosity about what the tag cloud would reveal of my subconscious. The biggest theme tag word so far? Danger.
My writing blog meanwhile, meant to reflect my experiences on the path to publication (no one can accuse being of not being optimistic), remains untouched for the past eighteen months. I can blame the lack of contributions on the pressures of life, but part of the blame must go to the apathy of disappointment: I never heard back from the agent; my writer’s group disbanded; I resigned from Torontoist (reluctantly) due to the constraints of studying at the time; my sweet short story suffered rejection at the hands of an activist rag. I stopped actively trying to publish. I stopped writing about trying to publish. I stopped writing.
Recently, two sources of inspiration reignited the desire to return to my writing blog. The first happened when I meandered through the projects folder on my laptop and rediscovered my “blog ideas” folder. I had intended at one time to develop different blogs, each dedicated to their own themes like “Subway Stories” or “Things I Can’t Have.” I pondered whether or not WordPress limited the number of blogs instead of asking a better question: Am I spreading myself too thin? The answer of course is yes. It’s one of my biggest problems. The second source of inspiration came from the discovery of Flash Fiction. Flash Fiction has been around for years, but being introduced to the challenge of crafting a complete and tight story in very short form has been liberating, especially when those stories can embrace any genre of fiction and erupt from so many varieties of brilliant prompts.
I have resolved to incorporate all my writing blog ideas into one writing blog. I may write about seeking a more appropriate avenue for my travel story. I may write a piece of short fiction. Or I may write about Helper Monkeys. But I will write. And if anyone is actually reading this, feel free to add your comments of encouragement.