Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Want me to share study secrets?

So, here’s the thing. When I was in grade school, I was the obnoxious know-it-all. I didn’t need to study that hard to get through with good enough grades to keep mom off my back. There was a slowly declining curve as I progressed through high school, and then college came, and I skimmed by the skin of my teeth, to be honest. First grad school wasn’t intensely difficult because a lot of what I did was about making things — writing words, learning to direct, stage managing, building sets, so on. No academic writing whatsoever.

Takanawadai Elementary school 高輪台小学校24

Takanawadai Elementary school 高輪台小学校24 (Photo credit: scarletgreen)

The reason I say the above is because it means this: I never learned good study habits. Ever. I was a lazy snot and bluffed the rest. Or maybe I didn’t consider some things studying because I enjoyed doing them, and they came easily because I was interested. The point is, now I’m in a boat where I’m very interested in what I’m doing, but it is very very hard and it is kicking my ass. So I’ve had to hoist myself by the bootstraps and get in gear, and I’ve had to cobble methods for making this happen as I go along.

Anyone want to hear how I’m getting that done? I offer this in the hope that something I’ve thrown together may be of benefit to someone else out there. And to hear how others out there get their stuff done. Because this is joyously hard (she says, tearing out a bit of hair a realizing she’s chipped yet another tooth), and sharing is caring and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this boat.


The Agony and the Ecstasy (or, NaNoWriMo)

I first did National Novel Writing Month in 2007. And I succeeded, too. I’m still happy with the overall work, but I have yet to go back and really clean the damn thing up.

And this brings me to the title of this post. Writing is incredibly hard, and often painful, when we’re in the middle of the process. Calling up internal voices means you have to listen to a lot of the things going on inside of you, and one of those things is self-doubt. My self-doubt is huge, actually, and manifests in all kinds of ways. Most often, when putting together a story of any kind, it shows up as an internal editor.

That internal editor questions everything that arises in my mind. It’s like a censor standing at the door to full consciousness, giving a once-over to anything that tries to get my attention. And that censor can never be satisfied. It speaks with an air of authority that makes it very difficult to ignore; it wakes up the fears of looking like a fool, being irrelevant, or being mediocre or incompetent.

It took me a long time to understand that anyone who’s tried to get ideas out of the head and onto paper or phosphor or clay or whatever also has this internal editor, this embodiment of self-doubt gone slightly mad. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing you’re not alone. But this doesn’t answer how to deal with the damn thing.

Long and the short of it? Try everything. But what worked for me was a technique a friend of mine uses for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a heck of a short-circuit around that censor. And it’s a technique I learned while I was getting a degree in playwriting about ten years ago. Simply ignore it. And ignore it like a freight train ignores a compact car on the tracks. Plow right through it. Don’t stop to ponder word choice, don’t worry about typos or capitalization. That’s what revisions are for. For now, you need to vomit out the raw stuff that will make your story. You’re putting out the base granite block that you will later sculpt into a story.

Just plow on through. The best recommendation my friend gave me was to tape a piece of paper to the screen while writing for NaNo, so you can’t go back and re-read or edit or revise or think too hard. The voice of self-doubt gets completely drowned out by the roar of all that idea-y stuff pouring out of your head. And I can tell you that it works. It absolutely does.

For some reason, a lot of us think that creativity is a deeply refined thing, with perfect precious results. And it’s not. Writing is just as messy as painting. Stuff stays in, stuff becomes central, and other things get written over. Quit worrying about the hows and whys and just do.

I’ll be doing, this month, for NaNoWriMo. I’ll even see if I can put up my progress as a widget on the sidebar. Don’t know if it’ll work, as I’m stull learning the ropes here. Anyway, if there’s one thing I’d like to leave you with, it’s that the agony we all feel when we try to put narratives down in any form is something we can choose to ignore. It takes discipline and practice, but it can most certainly be done.

Good luck!


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