If My Writer Self Wants Structure, Then Structure She Shall Get
I get paid to be an editor, to take other writers’ words and shape and refine them. No one pays me to write my own words—to post on my blog, scribble in my notebook, or outline and develop my novel. Money is a great motivator, but, as I’ve said, what I really crave is structure. So if my writer self wants structure, then structure she shall get.
I’ve committed to writing more—more posts, more projects, more words with substance. The part of my brain that’s responsible for creative production is a muscle (I’m convinced), and it is prone to bouts of inertia and lethargy when I don’t flex it often. It becomes quite easy for me to dodge my writing work because it doesn’t have a deadline (or come with a paycheck).
I want to post on this blog every Friday, and the fact that I’ve said so, in public, is one step toward building the scaffolding that will give shape to my creative work. (It also introduces a mild panic when I realize, say, on a Thursday afternoon, that I’ve got a few ideas on a scratch pad but nothing solid for an upcoming post. Cheers to deadlines, actual or self-imposed!)
Less talk and more action: I am starting a new blog series called 101 Words, to both add pressure and remove it. If I am at a loss for a full 500-word post of thoughts and writerly feelings, then, as part of the series, the minimum I need to post is 101. Surely I can produce 101 words. And if I really can’t, maybe some writer friends would want to join the party and do a guest post. You can give me 101 words, can’t you?
What I really love about this idea of 101 words is that I’m ready to use this medium as a writing prompt or exercise in flash fiction. Just like those fun character limits on Twitter, if I have a cap on what I’m writing, an endpoint that comes quickly, then I actually feel freer to let the words flow.
I keep revisiting a bit of writing advice I picked up when I was at the Chicago Writers Conference in September 2013. I know I mention the conference all the time—because it was an amazing experience, during which I met some incredible people who are now part of my network and continue to inspire me daily. One author, I believe during a panel on working a full-time job and still squeezing in time to write, said that she asks herself this question:
Do I have five minutes for my story today?
For me, my story can mean my blog, my novel, my journal, or any other avenue I use to force my brain to string words together. And yes, some days I don’t want to give any number of minutes, much less five, and so the end product is a journal entry of whining about not wanting to write. No one needs to read those entries. But the best part is knowing that on a different day, maybe the day after, those five minutes, or my 101 words, just might lead to five more minutes and another 101 words. Sometimes, as a writer, all you need is a bit of progress, to inspire yourself to keep moving forward.by