week of writing 3.0

First off, if you haven’t visited the comments on my audiobook post, go! The comments are utterly chockablock with audiobook recommendations. I have such resourceful, generous readers! I can almost guarantee that you will be compelled to follow up your visit to those comments with a visit to your local library website. (And if you haven’t left a comment yet, it’s not too late! I find that people come back and read this particular sort of post long after it’s been published, so please jump on in.)

I had a little anniversary a few days back. It’s been two years since I started this blog. Which I know because every summer, for the past three years, I’ve had a week or two in which each of my kids was enrolled in some camp or another, and I used the time to work on my writing. Having a week of days to oneself is quite a gift, as any of you who are fellow homeschoolers or otherwise busy parents understand. Anyway, during that week two years ago I sorta worked at my writing. Mostly I got this blog up and going. I wrote about it in my second post ever. And then I did it again last year. Hard to believe it’s here once more, my solo week of the summer. I looked forward to this week especially this year, what with all the recent excitement of graduations and world travels. I haven’t been writing much.

Lulu is off at sleep-away camp, and Mr. T at a day camp in the redwoods. And H, well, H is eighteen and hardly around here these days anyway. Sad but true.

So on Monday morning, I sat down at my computer. Inspired by a post from Ysolda, I set myself up with a pot of strong black tea.

fussing over myself

And I spent hours researching the audiobook topic I’d planned to write about.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. I also did some freewriting on my topic. And I made a crazy web of ideas showing the main ideas I hoped to include, and how they connected to each other.

But I didn’t do much writing. By Tuesday night I was feeling dispirited, worrying that I was frittering away my one writing week of the year. Then I listened to this interview with Ann Lamott, one of my favorite writers, on Writers on Writing, one of my favorite podcasts.

At the end of the interview, she tells how she gets her writing done, and how she plans to get started as soon as the interview is finished.

“So I’m going to sit down, and my work’s going to not go all that well, but I’m going to stick with it. And I’m going to budget a certain number of hours. Today I’m going to budget three hours and that means I’ll get about two hours and fifteen minutes done. I usually budget four and that can get about two hours and forty-five minutes. I have a habit. I have a habit of very gently convincing myself to stick to it, until I get closer and closer to what I had in mind all along.”

It was what I needed to hear. The next day I sat down and wrote. And it didn’t go all that well, but I stuck with it. I tried not to get on the internet to look up audiobook sales figures, or previous audiobook articles. I didn’t check my email, or my flickr page, and I definitely didn’t mess around on this blog until I’d written for three hours.

And then I did the same thing on Thursday. And Friday. I’d love to say that I have a whole article written now, but I don’t. I write slowly. I understand that about myself. But I did make progress, and I’m getting closer and closer to what I had in mind all along. And, well, that’s something.

10 comments… add one
  • molly Jul 23, 2010 @ 19:13

    Well, hello there. Stumbled over here, with thanks to Habit, and am just beginning to poke around. Such goodness!! Loved the audiobooks post, love love LOVE Anne Lamott, and am so pleased to know of your fine spot, here. Enjoy your time, writing and otherwise. Cheers, Molly

    • patricia Jul 26, 2010 @ 7:32

      Well, hello to you too, Molly! So nice to have new folks stop by. I poked around your blog too, and I will be back. You have a most charming writing voice–and inspiring recipes to boot. Oh, and my “H” shares the same name as your–I think–middle one. Mine is 18 and doesn’t like me using his real name here. He’s managed to live up to his good, strong name with a good, strong personality…

  • Susan Paulkonis Jul 23, 2010 @ 21:18

    Ha! I’m using the exact same technique at work right now – I’m having to create something, and it’s not going well, but I stick with it, and then stop after 3 hours and do something that isn’t hard. It works!

    • patricia Jul 26, 2010 @ 7:34

      It does work, doesn’t it? Now I just have to make myself sit down and do it on a regular basis. It’s more of a challenge when I don’t have a full day to block out a few hours. That takes even more discipline.

      Keep chugging on that work project!

  • Lori Jul 25, 2010 @ 9:07

    perfect. :^)

    here’s a quote for you:

    I used to have students who bragged to me about how fast they wrote their papers. I would tell them that the great German novelist Thomas Mann said that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. The best writers write much more slowly than everyone else, and the better they are, the slower they write. — William Deresiewicz


    • patricia Jul 26, 2010 @ 7:45

      I have now copied that quote, printed it and hung it beside my desk. Most excellent encouragement!

      I once heard Michael Chabon say in an interview that he belabors every piece of writing, even emails. Somehow that made me feel like I wasn’t nuts.

      It’s such a funny coincidence to hear from you right now. I had your Friday open thread post pulled up on my desktop all weekend. I wanted to respond, but kept thinking that I was doing a too-literal interpretation of the Maclean quote. Because what it really made me think about was authoring a book, and I’m so very curious about how you’re progressing with your project.

  • Kristin Jul 28, 2010 @ 9:26

    Good Morning,

    That sure is a beautiful tea tray you made for yourself.

    I have no doubt that you have the self-discipline it will take to complete your book, but lately it seems that you downplay the relevance/importance of your blog.

    Isn’t it wonderful that blogger-writers auto-publish? And let’s not forget that their words (and images) are discovered and read by people all over the world?

    Congrats on the two-year anniversary of your blog–a writing expression which enables you complete control of content; and one that is documenting a variety of your experiences.

    • patricia Jul 29, 2010 @ 7:05

      Kristin, the blog and I have a fraught relationship. For years and years I worked at my writing–mostly essays–in any time I could find. Then two years ago, along came this blog, eating away at my writing time. It’s sort of like the new boyfriend that suddenly steals you away from the old friends you used to hang out with. I don’t post nearly as often as others, but, as you know, it takes time to write posts, to respond to comments, to leave comments on the blogs of others. It’s time I enjoy, but it’s time away from my other writing.

      And blog writing is a different kind of writing for me. I don’t spend nearly as much time working with the language, revising it, getting feedback from others and reshaping it. I don’t craft it the same way.

      So why do it? Because fraught as we are, I love my blog. Mostly I love the immediate audience the blog offers me. Writing is a lonely pursuit. When I write here, I get immediate feedback from kindred folks, just as you pointed out. I never could have anticipated the connections with others that this blog would bring about. I’ve actually made some new, in-the-flesh friends that are now dear to me–not to mention the far-flung friends whose messages I can’t wait to read. That is just too good to give up. And although the writing here is a different sort of writing–more casual, off-the-cuff–it is writing. Overall, I’m writing much more now than I did before I started blogging. And, often, the ideas I’m playing with here are ideas that work their way into my more formal writing.

      So, thanks for reminding me not to make my blog the ugly stepsister in my writing world. This blog is a great joy in my life. More than anything, because of readers like you.

  • susan Aug 5, 2010 @ 5:41

    The reminder to just get those words on paper every day never gets old. I love your tea tray. I need to make a pot, too, then I won’t *need* to get up from my writing to make a new cup. I have the same complicated relationship with the blog, it certainly takes away from my other writing, but it is so satisfying to finish something and share it.

    • patricia Aug 5, 2010 @ 7:23

      Well, getting up to make a new cup of tea isn’t always a bad thing. I often find that when I get up and move, I get new ideas for my writing. The trick is to sit right back down, without getting distracted!

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