Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How should I write?

Via Sullivan, I read about apps designed to motivate people to write. There's one program that would increment time giving me periodic breaks, presumably so I'm less tempted to go browse reddit in the middle of a paragraph; and another that rewards me for progress by showing you cute animal pictures. The most interesting one, Write or Die, would force me to write by punishing me for not doing so. There are several possible settings: it can give me a reminder in a popup window if I go too long without writing, or play an annoying tone, or start deleting what I've already written. That mode, quite appropriately, is called "kamikaze." Wow.

As intimidating as that is, I'm tempted to use it. Over the past year or so I've tried to get serious about writing for myself for the first time ever*, and it hasn't gone well so far. There's a set of short stories I wrote for college that I think has the potential for novels, and I reorganized and edited the old stuff, but I've actually written literally only one new sentence. I've daydreamed about it beyond that recently, but not actually typed a word. There's also a certain new topic I want to write about, but that's going little better. I've written five pages - double-spaced, FWIW, but still - of a beginning, and eight more pages of abortive attempts or paragraphs that might fit into a narrative eventually but for now I just have them sorted like puzzle pieces in piles based on their dominant colors. That's it.

The biggest problem is setting aside time for it. There have been times now and then I could have spent an hour or more on fiction, but really not all that many over the past month. Life is busy these days, and when it isn't, I want to crash, not focus on a different kind of challenge.

On thinking about it as I'm writing this, though, I really need to just do it. I haven't even bothered trying in the first place when I've had just an hour free at a time, but I should. I think my ideal writing system would be to spend at least half a day at a time on a project, really focusing on what I want in my characters and plot and writing it sentence by sentence, but I'm sure I could do something with a spare hour on a weekend morning or between getting home from work and making dinner, and something is better than nothing.

I have next Monday off and only one thing scheduled for it (so far...), and in August my girlfriend will be away for a week, and if I can't write, say, an average of one page per hour of leisure time** over those periods, then I need to either get Write or Die or some other productivity-enhancing method, or rethink why I want to write in the first place.

* I've written a ton before now, of course. In college I majored in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing and also wrote for the college newspaper. For two and a half years after college I was a reporter. All along I've kept this blog, and I started a second one a while back focused on a certain topic. Well over a million words not even counting false starts and notes never intended for publication, several novels if it had all been one work. But assignments, whether for a professor or employer, aren't the same as writing for myself, and a blog, or at least blogging the way I've been doing it, isn't serious.

** And I need to think hard about that. In one sense, every minute I'm at home and not sleeping, cooking, cleaning, or paying my bills is "leisure time," right? But no one can write constantly like that, definitely not without working up to it. So for now let's predict six hours of "leisure" on Monday - like I said, I have something scheduled for it, and I'll have to work up to my goal - and an average of two hours of leisure per free workday. But I'm prepared to rethink that.

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