Hello everyone, and welcome to my first weekly Ask a Writer column! In it, I’ll be addressing a question submitted by one of my followers on Twitter or other social media platforms and rambling about it at length for your enjoyment. Well, hopefully.
Onto today’s question, from my good friend Kelly Kowalska!
Have you been writing?
Side note: I at first took this as a joke, but then decided that I just had to chose it as my question for this week. All credit to Kelly for rolling with it, coming up with it in the first place, and just being awesome in general. Check out her horror writing! @KellyKowalska
It’s a simple question, with a not so simple answer, which is: yes…and no.
See, I’ve always had this little problem when I’m writing: I can’t write on a schedule. Of course, I’ve written on deadline for years as a professional journalist, and before that as a college student, so I’m no stranger to the method. I’ve just never enjoyed putting it into practice in my personal writing time. I tend to write just as the inspiration comes to me, and when I reach a critical mass of ideas that I know I just have to put down on paper before I lose them, that’s when I sit down to write. And usually I can go for quite a while before stopping again. But the schedule sort of looks something like this: write steadily for about a week, stop for two weeks. Write for a few days, don’t come back for a month. That sort of thing. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, and for the longest time I didn’t even try to make any out of it, thinking that haste makes waste and good writing never comes when you’re pushing yourself. I’ve honestly deleted whole chapters and books of work because I felt like I tried to push them out too fast when I wasn’t ready for them, or “feeling the flow”.
The result of this, of course, was that while I was mostly satisfied with the quality of my writing, the quantity left something to be desired. It took me about six years to finish and publish my very first book, “The Showstopper!”, and then three years to publish “Camp Ferguson” (both are available on Amazon, by the way!). I’m proud of both, but I acknowledge now that if I want to be a writer for any kind of living and maintain a reliable fan base, I need to be more consistent about doing it. But still I resist putting goals out before myself. I see a lot of my fellow writers on Twitter and whatnot constantly talking about “word count” and “writing days” and other measures of success in the creativity department, and I’ve always felt left out because I don’t hold myself to those kinds of standards. I think this has both its advantages and disadvantages, but the deeper question here is, why do I not want to set goals for my writing?
I’d say it’s because I have a busy life, what with a retail job making me work odd hours, a soon-to-start graduate school program, karate classes, hanging out with friends and family, and the other standard stuff that most people do. But that’s only partially true: plenty of other people have much busier lives than me, and they still manage to write on a more consistent basis. Also, I have this built-in fear of writing that I’ve always had, ever since my school days: I mean, I love writing, but I also fear it. Every time I sit down to being a new chapter or pick up where I left off, I wonder if it’s just going to be a pointless exercise where I end up wasting my time and deleting everything I did because I’m not happy with it. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist–okay, a big bit–so that doesn’t help either. Because of this fear, I procrastinate like a pro. I put off and put off and put off my writing with the excuse that I’m just not “feeling it” today, and that I’ll try again tomorrow–which of course rarely happens. You may not be able to put creativity truly on a schedule, and writer’s block is a very real thing, but what I realize when I finally sit down and start writing is that I get over my initial awkwardness and into it pretty quickly. I did this kind of thing all the time in college: I would put off writing a paper until the very last minute, thinking it would be so difficult to do, but once I actually sat down and focused I would usually bang out the assignment in record time and think, “Huh. That wasn’t so bad.” It turns out that the thing I dreaded and put off actually is enjoyable like I seemed to remember it being before! But of course I don’t remember this the next time I feel compelled to sit down and write, and the cycle continues.
As I’ve gotten deeper into the writing community, however, especially on Twitter, more and more people I’ve talked to have been convincing me of the value of writing regularly. Not only do you have a higher chance of publishing more often, but you also feel better about yourself and your writing in general, and it’s consistently easier to get back into the flow of the story you’re working on. This is part of why I decided to set up a Wattpad account for myself recently: on a weekly schedule that I’m holding myself to strongly, I’m posting chapters from my current work in progress (usually half a chapter at a time because my chapters are so long in total) not only to say that I did, but so that people can give me comments and feedback in real time as I develop the book (which is the sequel to my recently-published “Camp Ferguson”). I’m also trying to do more weekly blog postings on this site and share them on social media, such as my “Reviews of the Week” and now “Ask a Writer”. These are not only things I enjoy doing, but writing exercises that help keep me in a creative frame of mind and thinking about the stories I’m developing. Finally, I set myself a goal of getting my WIP, “Jack Ferguson Strikes Back”, published by the end of 2018, meaning I have until then to get it drafted, edited, and finalized. Seeing as I’m currently finishing up Chapter 6 of what will likely be a 17-18 chapter novel in early April, I think I’m on track so far to make this happen. Hopefully? It might not be realistic to finish a book in a year, especially when you’re me, but I’m certainly going to try for it.
Anyway, to answer the original question in a very short and condensed form: why yes, I have been writing! In a way, that is. Thanks for asking!
So I hope you enjoyed this week’s writing ramble, and that I might have offered a little insight and guidance, or just entertainment, for my fellow creatives out there. If you have a question you’d like to ask me of a writing-related nature, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wattpad, or wherever you can find me, and I’d love to talk about what you want to know.
Happy writing everyone!