Making Courage a Habit

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.          ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Because I didn’t write much over the summer, it’s been difficult finding my groove again. That nasty little voice whispers in my ear, calling me delusional as I try to shake off the rust and gain some traction on my project.

I’ve had a few starts and stops, but for the past three days have written 1000 words per day. It’s starting to feel like a habit again although each day there’s a flutter in my chest as I prepare to sit down to work. “What if today I can’t do it?”

But as the wise Mr. Emerson pointed out, courage gets a bit easier each time you face down a particular fear. So right now I’m off to write my 1000 words for the day with the knowledge that I’ve done it before and can surely do it again.

Courage.Cowardly Lion receiving courage

Word Count

                   

I actually have no idea what my word count is right now
because I'm writing in chapter chunks and don't really care
about total word count.

All I know is I'm back in the 1000-words-per-day saddle
and it's the best thing happening for me these days.

I'm a little past the halfway point in this first draft
and I'm going to push on through to the end.
I hope to finish before our fall conference in a month
because then I'll show up there feeling like a champ.

You heard it here first, folks: Tracy is going to feel like a champ.

                                                                          image from morguefile.com
(For those pondering the significance of this image:
I went to morguefile.com and put "champ" into the search engine,
hoping I'd get the image of a boxer such as Muhammad Ali.
Nope. Only boxer dogs)

                           

Ginormous Whiteboard Envy

                                                                        

I’m at just over 200 pages of this first draft.
Wrote 1000 words every day for 71 days.
And am just now thinking I know the story.

Don’t laugh.

But as I wrote notes the last couple days
trying to find my way out of the wilderness
I kept thinking
"I wish I had a huge whiteboard"
one large enough to pace in front of
and step back to look at
in order to see the big picture.

Guess what?
All sorts of kind people have posted
DIY directions for making your own ginormous whiteboard.

I hope to be back soon with photos and helpful links!

                 

Down Off the Ledge

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
It means so much to me (and my mental health)
having this writing community.

Yesterday I shared my panic and angst
and kind writer friends took time to talk me down from the ledge.
Sharing wise truths along the way.
Reminders that I wasn’t delusional.
That I could continue my project in good faith.

I want you to know I just finished my 1000 words for the day
and it was a great session.
I wasn’t nervous or angsty or anything like that.
I was calm.
Deliberate.
Confident that the initial story spark and its ensuing emotions
were still there for me to mine.

Thank you, friends.
Have a wonderful laughter-filled weekend!
                            

Awarding My Effort

As of today, I’m at 39,000 words on my WIP.
That’s Butt In Chair for 39 days straight.

Just sayin’.

(By the way, I discovered that an online search for "trophy" images results in
numerous penis drawings.  Hmmm.  Why do you suppose that is?)

              

The Personality of First Drafts

Writing is like driving at night in the fog.
You can only see as far as your headlights,
but you can make the whole trip that way.

 
                                                 – – – E. L. Doctorow

I’ve always loved this quote.
But I’m sure it’s anathema
to John Irving who believes
if you’re making it up as you go along
you’re not a writer, just a liar.

Each first draft is different for me.
Each process unique.
What I know ahead of time varies.

Yesterday I felt a combination of
fear and exhilaration as I wrote my 1000 words.
Squinting ahead into the fog.

I haven’t written yet today.
I’m worried the story might be headed for a cliff.
But if that’s the case,
I’ll just have to grab the wheel and make a sharp turn.

And hope I don’t run over any liars 
who might be staggering around in the fog.

           

Hard Work

On Saturday I reintroduced the 1000 Words/Day rule
which puts me at 3000 words on my WIP.
I’m also shooting for the 1 Chapter/Day rule on my revisions.
So far, so good.

We all know the writing life can be difficult.
At times we feel as if we’re banging our heads on walls.
Guess what?

This flicker literally bangs his head.  Everyday.  For hours and hours.

And because today is another WINDY day in Colorado, he’s banging his head
in HIGH winds (notice ruffled feathers on head and back)

Now that’s hard work.

         

Cheers and Jeers

  • I’ve written 1000 words per day every day on my WIP and am now up to 46k words!  You might think that means I’ve written every day for 46 days in a row but it’s actually 78 days (because I’m also doing revisions on another project).
  • I’ve formed a good habit!
  • I’ve actually formed a good habit.  Wow.  (I have lots of other less-than-stellar habits so I’m basking in the glow, people.)
  • This morning I finished another round of revisions on my humorous boy book.
  • I’ve had the plague since last Tuesday.
  • Today I’m dressed in real go-out-into-the-world clothes for the first time in days.
  • It should be noted, however, that flannel jammies can be very fashionable; it all depends on the attitude.

Feeling Good

I’ve written every single day for the past 36 days.  And with just a couple exceptions (several days when I tinkered  – over and over – with the final pages of my draft), each day I wrote 1000 words. 

This new disciplined approach to my writing process has been a pleasant surprise. 

It’s easier slipping into the flow.
The words come more easily.
The nasty inner critic’s voice is fading.
I’m not feeling nearly the angst and envy that dogged me this spring and early summer.
My writing muscles are stronger.  Leaner.

I really and truly feel like a writer.

It finally hit me that it’s now or never time.  I’m forty-five, and if I want a career as a writer I need to work at it.  Every day.  I can’t afford to take days off and allow my muscles to atrophy.  I have to keep writing so the stories are fresh in my mind, the characters living and breathing alongside me.  I have to be there for them.  Every day.

As of this morning I have 5000 words of my new project which, when completed, will be my fifth novel.  I like the sound of that: My fifth novel.

I’m a writer and I write novels. 
I’m working on my fifth.

Yes!

         

Getting Closer

I’m in the home stretch on this draft of my WIP.  I’ve written at least 1000 words every day for the past 22 days which makes my heart go pitty-pat.  Or something like that.  Oh drat.  An unintentional rhyme.

Ahem.

Not only do I feel better about myself as Writer but I think Zippy, Wildebeest, and Zebu have a different perspective now, too.  They ask if I’ve done my words for the day and are very respectful of my Writing – Please Do Not Disturb sign on my door.  It’s so much easier for me to write when I do it on a daily basis; the continuity definitely lubricates my brain.  Plus, I make sure to start each session with my figure eights so as to kick-start my left and right brains. 

Apologies if I sound a bit evangelical it’s just that it feels good.  And for far too long, it wasn’t feeling good.

Note: This morning the critic started up in my brain so I rephrased the criticism in R’s raspy voice and LAUGHED.  I swear, R’s given me the best damned gift!

If you haven’t done your writing today, please make the time to get it done.  Set a realistic goal and do it!  You’ll feel good, I promise.

                

Life Update

I’m feeling weird and disconnected from LJ these days but in some ways that feels good because I’ve been much more productive without my internet habit.  I don’t turn on my desktop until I’ve done my writing and as a result, I’ve hit my daily word count goal for 16 days in a row!  Methinks I’m forming a habit!  Finally, a good one! 

R was moved from the hospital into a nursing home last Friday so that he can receive daily physical therapy.  The transition was extremely difficult and I’m still amazed he agreed to go through with it but I guess even he realized how weak he is right now.   He’s frighteningly thin and not eating much at all but when I was there today, the director spoke with him about strategies to get him eating again.  She was patient and understanding with his anxieties and negativity, and her kindness brought me to tears.  For the first time in weeks I feel hopeful about R’s chances for recovery.

And just so you don’t get the idea this is your one-stop shop for maudlin posts: 

R and his friend, S, have an ongoing “discussion” about bringing the horse and buggy back into practice.  S, who is probably 55 or so and a little off in the head, thinks it’s a great idea because it would help “green” our city and give jobs to kids whom he apparently thinks are dying for the chance to scoop poop from the streets.  R finds the idea absolutely ludicrous and lobs his counter-arguments across the room so that pretty soon they’re talking over each other while I try hard not to fall down laughing.   The other day I really, really wanted to whip out my notebook and jot down bits of dialogue but didn’t because I thought it would upset the balance.  But then I inadvertently pressed a button on my cell phone and found out I’d recorded a portion of the conversation which has planted a seed in my brain.  Now I’m dying to record one of those talks from start to finish.  In fact, today they started in on the horses again and I actually fondled my little voice activated recorder in my backpack.  I didn’t turn it on, though.  That feels a little too Bush/Cheney-ish.

Tomorrow I head to Westcliffe with Zebu and Wildebeest to see my parents.  We shall return Saturday.  I’ve vowed not to nag my boys about the excess of junk food my mom will provide.  Maybe I can form another good habit while I’m there.

                            

Random Notes

Last night Zippy and I, the temporarily childless couple, went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to hear Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson play.  The evening was perfect.  Dinner and a bottle of wine on the lawn as we listened to two extremely gifted songwriters pour out their hearts.  I laughed and I cried.  Loudon was coerced into performing The Acid Song (oh happy day!) and Richard sang Walking On a Wire (a song he wrote when he and his former wife/singing partner, Linda Thompson, were splitting up; Linda sang it on their album so I’ve never heard him sing it).  Wow.

Earlier in the week, R’s nurse and I were discussing the frustrations of trying to get R to drink some stuff he needed to drink before having a procedure he’d agreed to have done.  R was in rare form and had dug in his heels.  Big time.  He complained about what he couldn’t do and complained about what he wanted to do but refused to take any action that would alleviate his complaints.  It was infuriating.  The nurse told me she’d worked with him on a previous hospital stay and that R kind of cracked her up.  I told her she had a great attitude but that his contrariness was making me want to bang my head against a wall.  She said, “Don’t do that.  Then you’ll have a headache AND a pain in the ass.”  That really made me laugh (I was tired!) and I felt so much better.  Nurses are the best.

I’ve been disciplined about my writing goals this week and hit my word count five days in a row!  I’m realizing how important it is for me to establish a routine and stick to it.  And yes, I’ve had this realization before and then lost sight of it along the way so I’ll probably be back here in another few months saying, “You know?  It’s really helpful when I set a word count goal and then hold myself accountable to it each and every day!”  Feel free to laugh when that happens.

My other cool writing-related development is that I have a new technique for handling my inner critic.  Lately I’ve really been plagued with negative thinking whispered in my ear by that horrid inner creature.  I guess William Faulkner’s off drinking or having sex or something because he’s not doing a very good job watching my back right now.  But that’s okay because I now have an actual voice to put to that inner critic.  And that voice is………………R’s voice!  That’s right, folks.  Whatever nastiness starts echoing in my head (You know, Tracy, this isn’t very good.  No one’s going to want to read this.), I repeat aloud in R’s rasping whisper.  And then I laugh!  And keep writing!  I totally recommend this method for thwarting your critic.  Not everyone is as fortunate as me in having a near-constant negative person in my life who complains about everything in a very unique voice (his vocal chords were damaged years ago) but I’m sure you could use your father-in-law’s voice or that nosy neighbor’s or the twit at the bank the other day.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Wishing everyone a glorious weekend.