In September, I made it to 727 out of my 1000 minutes writing/month goal. I didn’t meet my goal (this time), but here’s what I learned:
- Having a goal to push toward works for me, even if I don’t quite get there. I spent just over 12 hours writing last month, which came out to revisions on 3 stories and about 5 pages’ worth of drafting toward a new story.
- I like goals that let me daydream. Unlike word count goals, which ultimately only count the moments you’re typing, a time goal allowed me to acknowledge the thought I put into my writing and revising. The ticker keeps ticking while I think about the right way to express a thought.
- The flexibility was awesome. Some nights I did 10 minutes. One Sunday I hit 90. Overall, my average comes to a little over 20 minutes a day–not a bad start!
- 1000 seems to be the right goal for me to set. It’s clearly tough, but I can think of a few nights when I probably could have put in another 10 minutes or so, and a weekend day or two when I blew off writing to do other fun things. Next time, if I’m going on a day trip with Andrew, I’ll write in the car in 10-minute bursts.
I’m doing a modified goal this month–500 minutes–in light of the fact that the wedding and honeymoon eat up the latter half of my October. After that, I think I’ll keep shooting for 1000!
The first thing that’s struck me about my literature seminar this fall is how amazingly substantial the books are. That is, they offer something more than an entertaining story, or even a thoughtful one, and instead get at the kind of human truths that transcend their time or place. Oedipus is still current in the way that it raises questions of whether the gods are just, whether and where fairness comes into play regarding crimes and punishment, and how to understand the concept of a good man and a good life.
Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee, is about men and women and sex, and the uses of sex. It’s about animals and obligation and the problems of how to live a life that has to involve giving and receiving a certain amount of cruelty. We’re going to spend hours tonight talking about meaning, not in a “what is the author trying to say” way, but in the “how does this book change our understanding of how we live our lives” way.
Perhaps (just perhaps) it’s unfair for me to compare myself to a Nobel Prize-winning writer, but I’ve always had a tendency to set my personal bar high. I started by getting up early to write, took the next jump to sign up for 750words.com and its monthly writing challenge (I’ve only made it to 750 twice, but I’ve written every day this month and am pushing for the full 750), and I’m gearing up for NaNo. With word count building, my next logical step is to reconsider what it is that I’m writing. Again, I am aware Nobel Prize is a smidge high for a yardstick, but on the other hand, if you fail to reach it, you’re still probably going to be turning out something pretty good.
I’ve got some writing exercises I’ll be trying out in the next few days to find a way to add more of that delicious, meaty, philosophical substance to my writing. I’ll post them here. Stay tuned!
Posted in Art, Books, Goals, Work, Writing
Tagged coetzee, disgrace, goals, nobel prize, oedipus, sometimes goals are hard, substance, writing, writing life
It’s been a whirlwind three months! It’s amazing to think that only a few days after I posted the Quarterly Report, Andrew and I got engaged. I kind of wish I was reporting on progress in wedding planning: we’ve already figured out the guest list, set a date, booked the ceremony and reception sites, picked a pastor to officiate, picked bridesmaids, picked colors (more or less), started our registry, and scheduled tastings with local caterers. We are winning at wedding planning.
But this isn’t a wedding blog (yet ), and I had made myself some goals for the kind of writing work I had wanted to accomplish over the last three months. They were:
Submit 120 pieces
Write and revise 4 pieces
Okay. I have to admit I didn’t complete either of those goals as I had intended to. Here’s what I did do:
- Submitted about 10-12 pieces
- Began heavy revision of one story
- Started several stories that died after the 1st paragraph
- Wrote class material (Experimental Forms) that I ended up submitting to a contest
- Designed 2 completed book projects (Book Design) that definitely involved thoughtful revision
- Started full-time work in publishing
- Subscribed to Poets & Writers and The New Yorker
- Maintained reasonably regular blog postings and updated What I’m Reading and Home pages of my site
So while I didn’t turn into the warrior of submitting that I wanted to be, I haven’t been sitting on my butt for three months, either. What I think I’m doing well:
- With the new job, I’m simultaneously immersing myself in a word-driven atmosphere, improving my editing skills, and freeing up time to write (my commute’s two-thirds shorter now)
- I’m devoting significant time to creative work (design lately, analysis of experimental work and writing experiments of my own before that)
- I’m spending more of my reading time reading material that can help me with my writing
What I think I’m doing badly:
- I’m not actually writing
- I’m not submitting enough
Scheduling writing is a problem for me because, since so many of my day-to-day responsibilities are deadline-driven, anything that can be put off will be if I get into a crunch. I’m still struggling to make writing enough of a routine that I won’t drop it when academics or other deadlines need my immediate attention. I do still read every day, after all, so having that time in my schedule is possible.
Part of me really wants to give myself the same goals for the next three months (10 subs/week, 4 new polished stories gleaming on my desk), but I’m not sure that’s the best way to go. Instead, I’m going to try something tough, but hopefully more doable:
- Write and/or revise fiction at least five days a week, aiming for 500 words a day or 2 revised pages a day
- Submit at least five pieces a week (simultaneous submissions count)
- Keep doing the good things I’m doing (blogging, reading good stuff, working hard in class)
Hopefully I’ll have better luck achieving what I’ve set for myself in the next three months!