Saturday, October 17, 2009

The "Flow" & A Short Retrospective on My Writing "Career"

Call it mojo, inspiration, muse, whatever you'd like - I finally got mine back!  I call it my "flow" because that's what it is, literally: words flowing out of my head and down through my fingertips onto the page.  I got over the hurdle of my introduction.  Is it flawless?  Likely not, but once I got it to a satisfactory place, I decided to move on.  I can always go back and revise it later ...

I'm going to spare you a play-by-play of my week's worth of rewriting.  Suffice it to say that I feel like I'm in a good space - I'm happily getting to know my old characters, and a few new ones, all over again, focusing on their subtler mannerisms and ideals this time around.  And guess what, I'm having fun writing once more!

I've decided to take a short stroll down memory lane for today's topic and talk about how I got started "seriously" writing.  Perhaps of more interest is how I'm managing to keep it up on a regular basis after 2 years.  This is the kind of discussion I would have craved 3 years ago, when I would bore anyone who'd sit still long enough with my angst over wanting to be a novelist.  (They would, of course, say, "Well then why don't you just start writing a novel," to which I would reply, "Yes, I plan to do that someday.")

"Someday" came when I got sick of hearing my own voice.  It was Fall of 2007.  I had a good job with reasonable hours, I was engaged to be married, and I had a wealth of wonderful, supportive friends in my life.  My excuse in my 20s for not writing had always been, "I'll do it once my life is in order."  (Whatever that meant!)  It hit me that autumn that this was about as orderly as life was ever going to get.  Plus, I was 6 months shy of turning 31.  (So much for being the next Francoise Sagan!)  I had not time to lose ...

So I decided to take a class - but which one?  Living in NYC, there was no shortage of choice. 
Naturally price was a consideration, but most importantly, I didn't want a course that focused on theory and the blah-blah-blah of great literary works.  I wanted something practical, hands-on ... a workshop.  I soon stumbled upon Gotham Writers Workshop.  There happened to be a class just down the street from where I lived (although, FYI, they also have a very successful online program for any of you in the market.)  The price was extremely reasonable considering that the course was 10 weeks long, 3 hours a week.  In fact, that much time commitment scared me at first ("What if I decide I'm not that serious afterall?" my @#$%^& Inner Demon whispered.)

With a little push from my Guardian Angels, I signed up for Fiction I and was in heaven for the next 10 weeks.  I met some terrific fellow-writers and produced some first class drivel that got torn from limb to limb (in a constructive way!)  The instructor was terrific, and one little comment he made at the end of one class quite possibly changed my life as a writer.  The course focused on short stories, which have never really been my thing, either as a writer or a reader (Having read "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" in Junior year English, my bar was set very high at an early age!)

So back to what the instructor said at the end of class:  He said, "For any of you interested in longer form writing, there's this online contest called National Novel Writing Month. Check it out." 

Now, many of you are already intimately familiar with the madness that is "Nanowrimo" so I won't go into it here.  Let me just say that I rose to the challenge, got up every morning at 5:30 or 6 (I'm a morning person, so that wasn't so difficult), wrote my 1,750 words or whatever, and by the end of the month, could proudly claim to be the author of 50,000 words of ... well, first class drivel.  Half of which promptly went into the garbage, and the other half was developped into After the Rowhouses ... which after being critiqued by my Novel workshop peers at Gotham in the spring, and my 1st set of Brilliant Editors in the summer, also promptly went into the garbage!  (By "garbage," I of course mean a writing graveyard folder on my desktop, with the possibility of "idea-zombie" reemergence someday ...)

I'll stop there, because you get the idea.  Once I got into my "flow" as a bona fide (although unpublished) writer, it was hard to imagine a time when I was ever not this engaged in my writing.  Sounds like a good segue into ...

FIGURING IT OUT AS I GO:  The hardest part about writing, I've found, is getting started.  This was true for my initial push into doing any kind of creative writing, and again when I knew I had to start my novel rewrite.  I guess it all just comes down to the human tendency to procrastinate and dread the unknown.  You know you should "just do it" (Nike, please don't sue!) but sometimes those words aren't motivating enough.  Having community (like a regular workshop or writers' circle) and structure (a class or writing contest) definitely helped me set to the task at hand, and eventually, my own inner-motivators took over.


  1. I'm going to do NaNo this year. I have been procrastinating working on anything new, and I'm hoping it will give me the pust I need.

  2. I tell you, Susan, it's an amazing experience. You will be absolutely EXHAUSTED by the time you're through with it, but you may also be shocked by how fast and furiously you're able to be creative! ;-)

  3. I also resigned from my job in the fall of 07 to write full-time. I didn't know about NaNo at the time but I had a NaNo-like experience that fall, cranking out 60,000 words in six weeks. I was in the flow. And yes, Inner motivation and inspiration is essential for me, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    And, Susan, good luck with NaNo. I hope it's a rich experience for you.