Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 255 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis





Not so long ago, I had an on-line discussion with someone in another forum. The topic was word quotas. We were involved in one of those loosely defined fiction writing projects where the only hard and fast criterion was the production of five hundred words a day. This person eventually dropped out, trashing the one real rule for being too constricting and unfair to those who wrote when inspired, instead of when directed.
I felt like Lawrence Fishburn, as Morpheus, in THE MATRIX. You know, "Really? Hmmm." If you've read much of what I've written here, you already know that I am a voracious reader and WRITER. One of my deep beliefs is that you don't sit around waiting on the Muse to tap you with her magic cattle prod. You squat down in the middle of the literary autobahn, your keyboard in your lap, fingers tapping away, in hopes you can flag her down when she roars by in her souped up inspiration muscle car. You pick a regular time and place where you can do this, at least six days a week, striving to entice the little minx to slow down and whisper in your ear, or, at the least, toss a clue out the window. It is this kind of discipline that turns the occasional writer into the incidental author. 
The only key is to set a number of words, or pages, minimum that you MUST put on the paper before you can stop - and stick to it. But do yourself a favor and be realistic with this goal. If you only have an hour or two when you can be assured of the privacy and concentration to work uninterrupted and with focus, then I'd suggest that twenty-five hundred words will feel like climbing Mount Everest, carrying an anvil, without oxygen. You'll be ready to chuck it in long before you're able to meet such a goal.
Quite frequently, at first, you will find yourself going through the motions. Nothing significant seems to come to you. You work on notes, lists, descriptive paragraphs, snippets of disjointed dialogue, or one of Ann Lamott's famous, "Shitty First Drafts". But you are where you need to be, doing what you need to do. So keep your target in proportion, say five hundred to a thousand words, or two to four pages. This will lift some of the pressure and allow you the space to think about what you're writing instead of going through the panic an unrealistic objective will cause.
Keep track of your daily progress. Seriously! Get a ledger or notebook and record each days word count. Some days will be above average, and some will be below, but the key is the average. Also, if you miss a day or two you will have a visual reminder prodding you to pick up the pace the next time you sit down.
Before you get too wound around the axle with the daily aspect of the record, remember this, it is the weekly totals that are the most important! That way you can make adjustments as you proceed and learn to take in account those foreseeable periods when you may have other commitments that take away from your writing time. As these become something you recognize, you can plan how best to adjust for them. Maybe a little more before an anticipated break, or a greater measure of this many words or pages after one.
As this daily routine becomes more and more a part of your regimen, you will begin to notice that the inspired moments seem more frequent. This is partly because you are working with consistency, and because you are opening those channels in your imagination where the juicy stuff hides. The Muse just may decide to spend longer and longer periods with you and, as you become better attuned to that siren's whisper, you will be right there, waiting when it happens.
If you achieve the kind of success we all hope for, you can begin to increase your quotas. Maybe you reach that place where you can chuck the day job and write full time? Quotas are still the key. Maybe it's only five or ten pages a day. Maybe it's an entire chapter. Whatever your goal, by sticking to the regimen you remain focused and less likely to give in to the distractions that stop so many others. Like the say, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! - But if you don't take regular bites, you end up with a lot of green and fuzzy left over elephant."
Just a helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write! Until it hurts so good, Mein Liebling.
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Dane F. Baylis

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