Sunday Reset – The week to come

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with this blog page – whether to make it a focal point for material that inspires (or provokes) me as a writer, a diary account of my writing career, a hub for discussion of speculative fiction topics, or some combination of the three.

Over time I expect to settle into a pattern. In the meantime I hope you’ll forgive a little creative floundering. It’s my core strength, after all.

The Sunday Reset

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve lost a lot of writing momentum. No big deal, it comes and goes. (This month I blame the dire heat wave that has plagued Canberra and most of the rest of Australia during what appears to be yet another record-breaking February).

When I’m at a creative low ebb, I do a lot of thinking about my writing process. It’s a great procrastination channel. I say “thinking”, but fretting is a better word. Did I really do as much as I could have this week? Did I focus on the most important work? Could I have spent less time on Twitter and more on writing?

Like most writers, I can indulge in unproductive self-recrimination at an Olympic level [1]. I can easily write off whole weeks in beating myself up about what I didn’t get done the previous week. The whole thing usually spirals down from there.

In an effort to break out of that kind of loop – and in my case it takes a conscious effort – something that seems to work for me is to establish a new routine. In that spirit, I’ve started dedicating time on Sunday mornings to setting out a plan for the week’s writing: setting priorities, brainstorming ideas and figuring out some targets.

Implicit in the Sunday planning session is that the past week is dead and gone. On Sunday, I draw a line under whatever I did or didn’t get done, and look forward.

What’s feeding my writer-brain?

With questions of creative productivity swirling around my brain like the grimly hilarious Police song I’m listening to as I write this [2], it’s not surprising that essays on the subject have caught my eye. Here are a few of the best ones I read this week:

Kameron Hurley is a writer with a work ethic so far beyond mine that I can’t even aspire to it; I just stare in slack-jawed awe like an bone-wielding ape in Monolith Country.

Here she talks about her technique of writing the end of her story early in the writing process so that she always knows what she’s aiming for. In its current draft, my work in progress falls completely apart at the end. It would have benefited enormously from this approach. It’s one I’ll keep in mind in future:

“In the end, one’s writing process is an endlessly hackable thing. When you get to a place where I’m at where you can’t squeeze out any more hours in the day, you have to figure out how to spend them more efficiently. Making little process changes here and there is the only way I’m going to be able to write at the pace that I’d like.”

Alis Franklin, another prolific writer (and Canberra local) shared her technique for snatching writing time from every possible moment of the day, by writing on a phone synced with a cloud storage option like Dropbox. I’m not sure this is a good option for me at the moment – I actively dislike writing *anything* on my phone and I don’t carry my tablet with me everywhere – but I like Alis’ problem-solving focus:

“Nowadays, I probably do about 60-90% of my novel writing on the iPhone. I won’t lie; it took me a while (a long while) to get good at typing on the teeny tiny screen. But now I can lay down a few thousand words no problem. Because the thing is? All that “dead time”? It really, really adds up.”

Peter M Ball has been on a roll this month, delving into the various preoccupations of the developing writer. This week he got stuck into practical approaches to finishing projects. I found the whole thing to be an essential reality-check, but the following passage could so easily have been lifted directly from my brain that I have started wearing a tinfoil hat [3]:

Here is the thing about creative-types: we have this tendency to take something minor that needs to be done, then subconsciously extrapolate outwards to a point of failure. There’s this circuit in the back of your mind where I should sit down and write becomes I should finish this story which becomes I should submit this somewhere which becomes oh god, the rejections which becomes oh god, I’m a failure which becomes fuck it, I’m going to eat this tub of cookie dough ice-cream and binge-watch shit on netflix.

Uhhh, yeah. That’s me.

 

[1] Somewhere there’s a parallel universe with the most tedious Olympics imaginable. Cross-dimensional adventurers rate it “0/10 would rather go back to Zombie Planet”

[2] Oh yeah, “King of Pain”, you’re the depression-slicked cure to all the world’s ills, aren’t you?

[3] Insert obligatory Weird Al Yankovic link: Foil

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