I made a commitment to write over the summer. Every day. I committed to write or revise a chapter of a book that I started a few years ago. Every day.
Here are some of the things that I am learning as I live with this commitment.
- It's hard. I know that doesn't surprise all of you. It reminds me of exercising, though. Some days are easier than others. Some days my knees don't hurt when I walk or it takes less time to work out the kinks in my forehands. Writing is like this, too. Some days it flows and my fingers can hardly keep up with my brain and other days, I hit the delete key more times than I hit the rest of the letters on the keyboard.
- I have not been able to keep up my reading life as much as I had planned. Partially, even in the summer, time is an issue, and I only have so many available hours for my intellectual life. Additionally, I have been reading differently. Instead of reading to engage in the plot and immerse myself into the world of the characters and story, I am studying the craft for how the author has pulled me in. Because of this, I am reading much more slowly, and I haven't been losing myself in books the way I usually do. Yes, a couple books have distracted me away from the craft with the power of the story, but mostly I'm studying the development, pace, voice, conflict...
- Preparing mentally is important. I am much more efficient and effective on the keyboard if I have had time to think, really think, and rehearse, really rehearse, what I'm going to write. This realization is an interesting one when I think about teaching and learning because I don't know how much time we dedicate in classrooms or for homework to thinking, and if we did, how would we ever hold students accountable for this task? Your homework tonight is to think about what you're going to write tomorrow... I want you to take time just thinking and visualizing your story and when you are ready, then start to write... Do we picture this working? Maybe in a very smooth and well oiled writing workshop where students really do think of themselves as writers, which leads me to my next realization...
- Picturing myself, and announcing myself as a writer has helped me to maintain the commitment to write. This summer, I told my friends and family that I am writing a book. I even announced it on this blog. There's a lot of pressure when you announce this. It's sort of like training for a marathon. People ask how it's going and what it's about. Some even ask if they can read it. (I've said yes to only a couple...) I have found that this sort of checking in is really motivating. There's an accountability that I feel and it has helped me stay with my writing, especially when the process has gotten hard or when the delete button has been overused.
- Being a part of a writing community has been essential to my progress. We established a web-based writing community and every Sunday night for the last four weeks, I have met up with Catherine, Julie, and Stacey for an hour via google hangout. In between Sundays, we have all posted our work, opening our writing up to questions, feedback, comments, and compliments in shared google drive documents. We have shared links, contacts, tweets, articles, and opportunities, as well as our expertise as writers and teachers of writing. Just as exercising is easier for me in a group setting works better,--I'd much rather walk with someone than alone or take a fitness class than do individual machines-- writing with this group has helped me keep going. More importantly, writing together has helped me to fix mistakes, address important questions, and engage in meaningful revision.
I finished my first draft two days ago, and have started the hard work of going back through it, seeing where readers lose interest, trying to answer the hard questions that Lisa Cron poses in her book Wired for Story, a book that I recommend for any aspiring writers!