I’m killing off the chapter-a-month challenge. Right here, right now. Line right up and get photos while the guillotine comes down.
I decided to put the project out of its misery, rather than count off the months that had passed while I did not write a chapter a month.
It was a noble little project, it was. Write a draft of a chapter for my book each month. Sounds good, sounds proactive, sounds, maybe, doable. And I was sure that making the project public here would make me diligent.
Nope. Not even for you, my faithful readers, could I crank out a chapter a month.
A few words in my defense: I have been writing. I have! Except during June, when vacation excused me. But other than that, I’ve been busy. Just not writing chapters. Oh, I’d set out to write chapters. But then suddenly my words would drift off into unexpected directions, leaving the park confines, calling back to taunt me. Silly writer lady! You thought you’d write about audiobooks. Ha HA! We lines here are gathering amongst ourselves and striking out for new territory! This paragraph here is running off with that paragraph there, and they’re secretly spawning an entirely new chapter, maybe two! Just you try to corral us by the end of the month for your little project!
“But something happened when I actually started to write. The book took on a life of its own and told me how it wanted to be written…I didn’t fight the current. On the contrary, the writing of the book proved one of its central points: that we write to find out what we know and what we want to say. I thought of how often as a writer I had made clear to myself some subject I had previously known nothing about by just putting once sentence after another–by reasoning my way in sequential steps to its meaning. I thought of how often the act of writing even the simplest document–a letter for instance–had clarified my half-formed ideas. Writing and thinking and learning were the same process.”
William Zinsser, Writing to Learn
It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in having my writing mutiny against me. I’ve decided to take Zinsser’s advice and not fight the current.
I know I’ve used this analogy before, but I like it so much that I’m hoping you’ll indulge my repetition: The trouble with this writing thing is that writers don’t have a medium to work with, as other artists do. Not, at least, until we get some words down. A sculptor can take out a block of clay and start shaping it; she can work her hands in the clay and hear the clay tell her what it wants to be. But a writer has nothing until she sits down and writes and makes that clay. Then, after all that work the shaping starts, and the words start whispering what they really want to be.
I think I’m still in my clay-making phase. I could start up a lump-of-clay-a-month challenge! But somehow that doesn’t have the right ring.
The good news is that last month, while I dutifully tried to write a chapter, my writing gave me a new idea. A new model, really. It has to do with Zinnser’s notions above, with the idea that you learn as you write, that half-formed ideas are clarified as you try to explain your thoughts. It also has to do with you, fine readers, and your feedback. It’s all part of that little secret I alluded to in my last post, that I’ll be starting up here in September. But that’s all I’m saying for now.
So goodbye, chapter-a-month challenge. You were an admirable idea, but you just didn’t work for me. Off with your head!
(What? I hear you saying. No photos? Nope, I couldn’t think of a visual to accompany the post, short of showing my notebook and a big set of shears. But there’s always something new and visual happening on my flickr page. You can get there via that little flickr widget on the right…)