I’ve said more than once I don’t have any trouble writing, in fact if anything I write too many words. What I only say to a select few is… what I write usually (almost always) diverges from what I’m “supposed to” be working on. Therefore in the end it’s more or less unpublishable. Or if it COULD be published, I won’t because I’ll attack it with my perfectionist side, nitpick it to death, decide it needs some masterful finishing touch to make it merely acceptable, then put the last 5% of the work off and leave the piece dormant on my hard drive.
In reading about writing, writer’s block is among the first topics you’ll find writers sounding off about. I’ve never had much of a problem with it, but I imagine that’s primarily because my strategy has been to simply set my wild horse mind free and see what comes out. Sort of doing away with the toxic “supposed to” from the get go. It can take the appeal out of anything; there’s no phrase I associate more with incomplete tasks, unsatisfying endings, and abandoned projects than this one.
In younger days I was a brutal self critic and couldn’t bear what I saw as glaring flaws in my writing (and my voice, hair, looks, you know) well enough to practice it at all. I just read books like crack – for every waking moment I could, one a day for many years. My vague theory when I began consciously devoting myself to writing practice some years ago was that it was more beneficial to write than not, no matter what the output. The more I write, I figured, the more accustomed I’ll be to the mechanics and sensations and the more likely I’ll be to get on the same horse and ride when the time came to put some structure on it, define specific goals, and create some real content. Unsurprisingly, the wild horse mind method hasn’t yet lent itself to producing anything that could be considered a poem, memoir, novel, or that really has any recognizable structure at all. But I know another kind of writing too, and I know I can do it. I wrote a book on the tiny house movement when I worked for TW (which remains unpublished thus far). Now it’s time to put myself back into goal seeking mode and plan, publish, and write a book for me.
Right there is the disheartening place where I run smack into a “supposed to” thicket. If my goal is to write for money and to shorten the time span to that end, the practical choice is to sift through the masses of unpublished tiny house related writings I’ve produced and research I’ve collected over the years, and pull out the best ideas that have some relationship to each other, organize them, write new pieces bridging existing parts and fleshing out others. In theory I could start editing and proofing within a couple months, it would give me more time to work on the layout and editorial aspect to make a better book, and I’d still get it to market much sooner than anything I started from scratch. Even more important, though I have neglected them, I do have an established small audience of fans in this area who may help promote me and spread the word. Right? *imagines crickets*
The problem is every time I sit down to do that I feel discouraged. I think it has to do with the unpublished TW book, just sitting there, aging, aching for my special finishing touch and the addition of the appendices I planned.
What I really want to write is a flood of ideas about how to be the best version of me I possibly can. But how can that do anything beneficial for my family? How can I honestly think I have anything helpful meaningful and compelling enough to write that anyone would buy it? Who would subsidize me while I publish and publicize my own self obsessed journey toward emotional health?
So that’s my big stupid secret. Life has arranged itself – or we have manifested the situation, or whatever – such that I’m ALLOWED to WRITE. There are about 6 solid hours each weekday in which I have relative freedom to write, so I have no excuse not to make something I can publish. It’s true that I do need to eat. And a few minutes spent on my in-boxes each day keeps my email tidy which relieves a little clutter stress. And we have to do at least one load of laundry every day, preferably two, as it just piles up so quickly otherwise. And the washer has this thing it does where I really need to nurse it because the loads always unbalance. The washer is right by the kitchen which is always a mess, so I tend to clean while the washer runs in the morning.
Then I get to my desk and I open certain folders or files and a wave of exhaustion crashes on me, my mind disengages, and next thing I know I’m watching tiny house videos on YouTube – sort of related, but not constructive. It just occurred to me to wonder if this is akin to PTSD? Because up to this point I really can’t make myself browse through those writings and memories. Though now that I notice it I’ll probably have an easier time with it. The fact is, I can make myself do anything I think is really necessary, I just have to recognize the fact that I have to.
I’m just having a great deal of trouble making myself do what’s practical and write a good solid tiny house advice book of some kind. I certainly have a plentiful storehouse of knowledge, I love tiny house people and small house ideals. It’s true there’s a lot more competition on the arena of tiny house content these days, and I wonder if I have what it takes to create great work and attract people to it – or maybe that’s the same old demon of insecurity in a sneaky different form, telling me I’m not good enough to be a writer. Maybe safeguarding and improving my mental health right now is such a great effort that it’s all I really have head space to think about. Probably all of the above.
So here’s the mechanics for you, if you want to know. For the past six weeks I’ve had 30 possible hours per week for writing, and I’ve used probably 50% of them to write about random things including my feelings and experiences, and published about 2% of what I’ve written. I’m going to my mom’s funeral on Wednesday the 21 of January. We’ll be back home and settled in on Thursday or Friday. I’ll give myself the rest of the week and the weekend off to howl at the moon or whatever I’ll need to do and I’m coming back to this desk ready to write on Monday the 26th.
I just wrote this chunk of about 1300 words pretty quickly and freely (for someone in painful confession mode, I hazard) and it took me about 75 minutes. (Then I spent another 30 minutes or so editing, tweaking, proofing). At that rate I’m writing about 960 words per hour. Assuming I diverge into research or planning at least 2 hours of each day, I have 4 solid writing hours, so at high speed I can produce about 3840 words per day, which is about 16 pages. I’ll divide that in half to allow for different rates of flow, and at 8 pages per day, five days a week, I should be able to produce 250 pages in about 6-7 weeks. Then I’ll need to allow time for proofreading and editing, illustrations and layout, etc.
So instead of bothering about what it will be I’m simply setting a goal: whether it’s some kind of personal – eck – memoir (I don’t entirely like that word) or a tiny house how-to, I will have 250 pages of a book written in 8 weeks (from the 26th of January), by Monday the 23rd of March. Stay tuned. And feel free to nag me – I mean politely inquire into my progress – anytime. I need to monitor myself, drive myself, vanquish my fears, and I need to do it openly among my peers and friends so I’m not perpetually getting distracted, shaming myself, isolating myself, then getting depressed. NO MORE!