Elizabeth: A Year of Discovery

Imagination_EinsteinThis week on the blog we’ve been talking about plans for the Yew Year, and for each of us, those plans are as different as our personalities, our writing voices, and our stories. As I mentioned last week, my plan last year was simple: to write. I tried a variety of different ways to remain motivated and get words on the page and by the end of the year I had successfully completed the first draft of my story and made some good progress on my initial revisions. Yay! Kind of. Unfortunately, the price of that success turned out to be the loss of the joy of writing.

Making up stories about the people waiting ahead of me in line or dreaming up an explanation for a painting or a picture used to be fun (and how I made it through many a tedious meeting at work). Somewhere along the line, though, that fun got lost. Probably when I started looking at writing as something that I “should do” in order to finish the book, rather than something I “wanted to” do because I was excited about the story I was uncovering. The deadlines and pressure were all self-inflicted, because I really wanted to Finish the Book, but I feel like there has to be a better way.

So this year, I’m doing something a different. I’m banishing the “should” mindset and focusing on “want to” instead. Like some of the other ladies here, I have a day job that keeps the lights on and the bills paid. Writing is a chance for me to do something purely because I want to. It’s the payoff for having to be a responsible adult all day. Sure, I’m aiming to wind up with something to be published and read by others (seeing my book on Amazon or a bookstore shelf wouldn’t hurt either), but not if the journey leaves me with a sense of loathing or resentment (kind of how I feel about The Book) right now.

Now, I know not every minute of writing is going to be nonstop fun. There is hard work involved, and not just a little bit. But I think it’s possible to approach that hard-work in a way that makes the journey one worth taking. So, in the upcoming months I’ll be attempting to discover just how to do that. My hope is that finding a way to enjoy the journey will lead me to my ultimate goal – Finish the book – while retaining the joy of the process.

Coincidentally, I saw an interesting TED Talk earlier today about “Happy Maps” by Daniele Quercia. (If you have 7 minutes to spare, I recommend giving it a watch). He was talking about GPS mapping apps and how the shortest path is not the only way to get to a destination. Through his research, he and his team created “a cartography weighted for human emotions” for the city of London. Using these maps, it’s possible to see how to get from point A to point B via the happy path or the beautiful path or the quiet path. The trip might take a bit longer, but there is more opportunity to enjoy the journey along the way and gain a different perspective.

So, while the others ladies are off storming the castle to publication via the direct route I’ll be following my own cartography, seeking out the happy and beautiful and quiet paths; writing when I want to, not when I think I should. I’ll let you know how it all works out.

In the meantime, if you want to find me, I’ll be over here, walking barefoot in the sand, discovering the unexpected, finding stories in the clouds, and maybe, just maybe, re-discovering the joy of writing.


Muir Beach, California © Eldridge Photography


16 thoughts on “Elizabeth: A Year of Discovery

  1. My NaNo last year was about giving myself permission to write what I wanted to write, not what I “should” write, and I think that’s a good thing — especially for a first draft. I’ve tried to make the process shorter by trying to write with structure and complete logic in the first draft, but I wind up making it longer when I get stuck. So, I’m going to try the fun way.

    I often wind up thinking about Chaucer. He held a full-time job (I assume), AND he didn’t finish his Tales. But he’s still read a thousand years later. LOL, there’s a lot of chutzpah, comparing myself to Chaucer. But really, writing should be a jolly time. Follow the girls!

  2. One of the big problems for me with “should” writing is that what I produce winds up feeling forced and brittle. One of the people who read my first draft commented that she could tell exactly where the story took off for me and it stopped being work and started being fun again. 90% of my clean-up work has been focused on that first quarter of the book, but the sweat stains are still visible.

    Hoping you find the joy again, because writing without it sucks.

    • Jeanne, you can see in my story just where the writing stopped being fun and started being work. Act 1 took 2 weeks and acts 2-4 took a year. Guess which part was the fun part? Your success at “finding the fun again” is what has me believing that it’s possible to do. Good luck on your cleanup and maintaining your own writing joy.

  3. I got stuck in a ‘should’ writing rut last year. I hated the feeling, and I hated what I wrote. Eventually I decided (doh!) I should write what felt right to me, and if nobody else liked it, tant pis. Once I stopped worrying about what other people might think, and stopped beating myself up over how long it was all taking, I really found my flow.

    Good luck with your plan, and here’s hoping the joy finds you.

    • I didn’t realize it until reading this post, but I suspect this is part of why I’m so stressed/thinking of quitting. I have a lot more fun doing research, discovery, trying to figure out how all the plot pieces fit together jigsaw-puzzle like. It’s a lot less fun for me to try to make every word pop. It seems more clinical, almost, although I can’t argue with the results. I’m so spartan in my first drafts that I really NEED to go back and make sure I’m hitting the five senses, not overloading on dialogue, making sure people are moving physcially on the page, etc. I think I need to change my perspective on the editing process. To what, though, I’m not quite sure yet.

      • Justine – I know what you mean about the fun of doing research and discovery. It feels like play, which makes the actual writing part feel so much more like work in comparison (at least for me). As we learned in class, it’s all a process. Hopefully we’ll all figure out exactly what process works the best for each of us.

    • Thanks Jilly – I hope the joy finds me too 🙂

      Glad I’m not the only one who has experienced the “should” writing rut. In some ways, I think it was easier (more enjoyable) to write when I didn’t know all the “rules” and was just getting the story on the page. Sometimes a little knowledge can be a troublesome thing – at least as far as creativity goes. Glad you were able to find your flow – hope it continues going strong.

  4. Good plan, Elizabeth. Since writing isn’t your day job, it should be something you enjoy doing and not just another job to do. Like Justine, I like the research and discovery part, too. I stopped writing for a while because I didn’t have good conflict lock in every scene before I wrote it. Then I realized that I can fix that later and started writing again. Now I have a deadline so some of the fun might be sucked out of it, but matching my story to Antigone has been interesting. Now I just have to write it. Yikes.

    • Michille – you’re right. My writing should be something I enjoy doing rather than just another job. It was at one point, so I know it’s possible. Your own writing plans for this year sound great, and matching your story to Antigone sounds like something that will keep the interest up. Good luck with that.

  5. Anything that you do frequently, and frequently is hard and troublesome to do, can lose the fun aspect pretty quickly. There’s nothing that says you have to write every day or achieve specified word counts. Particularly if you’re living off a day job, do what you need to do to make the writing fun! The last thing you need is another awful job when you get home.

    • That’s exactly my thought Kay. Writing was supposed to be the reward for working all day, not yet one more thing to struggle through. I’m convinced I’ll figure it all out. May take some time though 🙂

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