I’ve been doing a lot of reading on writing lately. A lot of reading – not writing.
As I read, the one thing that keeps playing in my head over and over is to be a writer, you MUST WRITE and I don’t write enough.
I’m a procrastinator. Whether it’s out of laziness or just plain fear, I don’t know. But it’s definitely there. My fear of writing and sounding stupid – even to myself.
I started keeping a handwritten notebook with some general ideas, brainstorming, character thoughts, plot ideas for a book – a book that I’d want to read which definitely falls into the “commercial genre fiction” category and not the “literary work of fiction” category.
I’m already stalling. Thinking that I don’t have enough plot ideas or material to start. Not really knowing WHERE to start or HOW to start. I don’t know where to start because simply put… I don’t write enough.
I came across yet another writing blog this morning (I am becoming a writing blog addict) but this one was different. This one actually got me to… gasp…WRITE.
Cathy Day is a college professor who is documenting her college writing class online through her writing blog. She is not putting her entire class up with notes, etc. But it appears she is putting the general gist of her class’s activities and what they focus on week to week. It’s interesting.
I haven’t read through all the weeks yet. But when I read her class’s first week assignment, I immediately decided to try it out this morning. Why did her blog exercise get me to write this morning? Not really sure. I guess I just wanted to know how many words I could write in 10 minutes. But it sure scared me.
The exercise was to read the short poem by Robert Haas and then do the writing assignment.
Write a dramatized scene (with dialogue) of the first time the young composer meets the Japanese artist. Don’t worry about how sloppy or messy the scene is. It won’t be turned in. Just write as fast as you can. You have ten minutes to write a 2-page double spaced scene. Go!
Panic. I can’t do this.
I read the line again “Don’t worry about how sloppy or messy the scene is. It won’t be turned in. Just write as fast as you can. “. Okay. I can try this.
I opened up my word processor and set my font to Courier New and double spaced. (Why courier? I just love the old typewriter look.) I set the timer on my iPad for 10 minutes. I re-read the poem one more time. Then I started writing.
I wasn’t intending to do anything with the writing except see how many words I could get and what I could come up in 10 minutes. Even that scared me. No one was going to read it. I could be stupid. I needed to give myself permission to be stupid and sound silly. Just write.
When the timer went off at 10 minutes, I was typing the last sentence. “She died that fall.” I didn’t self-edit as I wrote. I didn’t correct misspellings. And… I wrote ONE VERY HORRIBLE sentence. I knew it was horrid when I wrote it.
She hid her body behind the door as she opened it to peek out narrowly.
That’s a first draft SHIT sentence if I ever wrote one.
But in that quick draft frenzy, I knew I couldn’t get that sentence to correctly express what my head was telling me I wanted to say. So I marked it instead. I added to peek out narrowly at the end as a message to myself. If I ever rewrote this piece, I wanted this part to heavily contrast the poem. She was now severely on guard with him after freely blurting out her mastectomy in the poem. She was opening the door (and her life) only a little to him in this moment and he saw a NARROW SLIVER of who this woman was.
But I didn’t stop and edit. I moved on and just kept writing.
I have to admit that this exercise – although it scared the hell of out me at first because I had no clue what I was going to write – was incredibly EYE OPENING for me.
Eye Opener #1
I finished the 10 minutes with 416 words.
416 words translates to about 2500 words in an hour. Eye opening.
I want to do NanoWrimo this month. I have been “planning” since Oct 10th or so that I was going to write this month. But it’s already the 4th and I haven’t started. Zero words.
Can I really rough draft that fast? After doing this, maybe I can still write 50k this month.
Eye Opener #2
When I started writing, the only thought I started with was using the poem as the beginning – meaning the bowl of dead bees would come before what I was about to write. I wasn’t writing the story in the poem but after the poem. I also knew that I was going to have him go back to see her and apologize. That’s it. That’s all I had. I didn’t over-think this at all and I’m starting to realize that I over-think things WAY TOO MUCH and it causes paralysis for me.
So I started with him going back to see her… and the words flowed into something actually coherent. The mini story came full circle into something I feel that I could actually EDIT and make stronger – and even wrap a theme around.
Maybe I can do this.
Eye Opener #3
I love getting lost in my thoughts when I write. I get wrapped up into what I’m writing and feel like I’m somewhere else. Even this blog post which is up to 851 words in the first draft.
I can be creative and write something worth editing.
Now I’m going to do something that scares me even more. I’m going to post my FIRST DRAFT of what I wrote in 10 minutes – unedited accept for the 3 misspelling corrections. It’ll be out here for all to see and gawk at in it’s UN-COMPLETED, UN-EDITED, UN-REVISED and UN-CRAPPIFIED state.
This blog post = about 1000 words not including the 416 below.
The Dead Bees
He stared down at the bowl of dead bees.
What is it that mesmerizes him about this woman? She is 60 – almost 40 years older than he is. That’s his grandmother. Yet… the beauty of her art; the way her hand moved across the canvas. He loved her. Yet… maybe it wasn’t a physical love. He didn’t know. But he had to find out. He had to see her one more time.
She hid her body behind the door as she opened it to peek out narrowly.
“I’m sorry”, he said.
“So am I”, she replied.
“Can I come in?”
She opened the door further revealing a small dark room. It was filled with canvases and papers; paint and brushes; taped on the walls, thrown haphazardly on the floor.
“You have a collection of work here.”, he said.
“It’s my life.”
As he stepped into the house, he nearly tripped over the pieces laid out before him on the floor. Dark colors. Violent streaks of paint. Nothing like what he saw her paint when she was sitting outside in the light. These were disturbing.
“When did you paint these?” he asked.
“After we spoke this afternoon.”
“They are dark; not like your others. Why no colors?”
“They are death.”
“I am sorry about this afternoon.” he said stupidly.
“I know. So am I. I shouldn’t have blurted that out.” she answered.
He touched her hand and she turned and looked up into his eyes.
“No, I really am sorry.”
“I am dying” she said.
She dropped his hand as quickly as he had grabbed hers.
He walked further into the room and began to study the artwork on the walls.
“You have a beautiful collection of work here. People should see it. No. Not people. I would like to see it. I’d like to see it all.”
In the course of the afternoon, they went through her works. Her artistic genius shown through canvas to canvas. The story of her life was painted for all to see. Her moods; her loves; her disappoints; her triumphs; her laughter; her story; her life.
It was the most glorious afternoon she had spent in a long time. Reminiscing over her past. Sharing her life with someone else. They laughed. They cried. They embraced.
It was nothing sexual. Just human.
He left the room after spending the day with her.
She died that fall.
WORD COUNT: 416 in 10 minutes.
416/10 = 41.6 words per minute.
2000/41.6 = 48 minutes