This morning I checked in with myself to see if I was still working on any of the goals I set for 2010. Yes. Some more than others.

Writing hasn’t been at the top of my list. Journal entries are down, blog posts are way down, and I have written one short story and half a poem since January. It’s pretty bad.

My one comfort comes from looking back to this time last year, the first year for which I have any consistent record of when I wrote. I slumped in the first quarter of 2009, too (if you check the archives, you may notice a lack of February). I guess that’s not much comfort, really, but it is a pattern. It’s news I can use: I slump in late winter. Now I can decide if I want to tackle that as a problem, or schedule ten weeks off and have a few posts in my file to put up while I’m hibernating.

The half poem was left unfinished in early January. The short story was March 22, about the third sunny day of the season. So, should I do cloudy day writing drills? I’m picturing this: if the sun disappears, I sit down with my laptop for fifteen minutes. It could help me form a new habit, or at least break the one I have. Or maybe spring and summer marathons would be more productive: if I’m feeling charged, rev up the word count and build a stockpile against snow days. Then I could leave the hibernation time alone and not worry about it.

March is over, and I have a lot of ground to make up. A warm season sprint is the default option for 2010. This deserves some more thought before next year, though. Maybe setting my “writing year” to begin April 1st would give me the chance to meet all goals by Christmas, and take anything I get from under the snow as a bonus. That might feel better than playing catch-up for nine months, like I’ll be doing now.

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Teaching Friends

January 20, 2010

A friend of mine is taking a creative writing class, and she asked if I would look over her work before she hands it in. Sure. I’ve had a few other incidents of friends asking about stuff I know how to do in the past week, and although I enjoy feeling helpful, I’m starting to think about setting up formal classes with fees.

I’m also amazed by how much there is in creative writing that can be taught. My friend’s assignment required just one paragraph in her protagonist’s voice. There were some creative riffs in that paragraph I would never have thought of, but also a mound of technical aspects that I could comment on (ending sentences with prepositions was not one them):

Use of adverbs, interjections, and multiple adjectives. Varying sentence length. Consonance. Formal versus informal language. I didn’t touch on the cool stuff she came up with except to compliment the coolest part (which involved an aardvark). If she hadn’t rocked it, I might also have critiqued her use of imagery and metaphor.

All of which made me want to read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I’ve started it twice, but never got farther than the end of the first chapter. Opening the book at random just earned me some information about poetic rhythm within a sentence. Scansion marks everywhere; very exciting.

Mr. Gardner knows how to teach. Despite my recent helpfulness and visions of teaching profits, I still have a long way to go. I suppose I could start by deciding which side of this preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence issue I really want to come down on.

Hmm.

Calm Writer, Someday

January 15, 2010

I’m working on this. Uninvoked made a good point on Tuesday. I’m doing the set-goals, work-really-hard, stress-out-about-it thing, and in addition to being stressful, it’s not entirely necessary. At least, not every day.

Part of me knows this, and another part argues that daily attempts on goal is a good way to score points and get stuff done. It’s January and I’m into resolutions and goal-setting. Guess which part is winning.

If you’re like me, try this site.

Fiction for Beginners

January 12, 2010

Last week was the week I was supposed to get right down to it: writing a novel. Most days I feel like I’m pretty good at this writing thing. I got a really nice compliment on it the other day. I can crack open a file and find evidence that I have gotten college credit for being good at it in the past. Once or twice, I even got published. I have more than five linear feet of desk space devoted to books about the craft and trade of writing.

I still have to drag myself to the keyboard.

My fiction writing student got a rejection letter last week. It was an email from an editor, and it had those magic words: “try me again”! This is a big deal. I was thrilled and I told him so. I am, apparently, also good at teaching beginning fiction.

And yet… I am such a noob. I wanna be like Dave Barry and the rest of the “we don’t get writer’s block” set. Or like Steven King, and everyone else who knows how to sit down in a chair, at the same time every day, no matter what.

So, 2:00 PM is the new Novel Writing Time. Jerry Cleaver suggests that people with my problem try just sitting there for five minutes, thinking, “This is novel time,” for the first week. I don’t think I’m doing quite that badly, but I guess I’ll find out for sure tomorrow. My cell phone has this nifty alarm feature; that should help.

Eighteen Months

January 7, 2010

My plan was to move from accounting to paid writerhood in 18 months or less. It’s been 18 months. I have a free blog, a writing coach job that pays a little, and a marriage. My life has improved over that time, but I’m not a paid writer. I decided months ago that I was okay with not working as a commercial freelance writer, which was my original goal. That goal was ambitious and specific, and I wonder if what I have now measures up.

I have several goals for 2010, including writing a novel, but although that is fairly ambitious, that goal and the others still don’t seem to have the same cohesion. Even my overall goal for the year, 200,000 words, doesn’t really satisfy. It’s output, and I know I can do that, but what am I really aiming for, here?

{At this point, I saved my draft, played backgammon with my husband, and slept on it.}

I am aiming for a life with ample room for writing. I don’t yet know if I’d most like to be a novelist, a professional blogger, or some other kind of writer. I do know that I want writing to be as important in my day-to-day life as it is in the one I imagine.

Last year, I took a dry run at goal setting. I learned what I needed to learn, and this year I’m making full use of my new skill. Today I have a blog. By this time next year, I’ll have a blog, a novel, twelve essays, and a record of my experiences, both cranky and content. Plus, maybe, a poem. That will be a good time to leaf through my files, pick a direction, and go.

It’s Early Yet

January 5, 2010

This early in the year, I have no business being hopeful. I am anyway. I have journaled, blogged (twice now!) begun a poem, and even written a little fiction. It’s hasn’t even been a week, but I have written something every day for five days in a row, and it feels great.

Tomorrow is the deadline for beginning work on my novel. My plan is to audition a few time slots to see if any particular time works best for writing fiction. First thing in the morning? After lunch? It may take a few days or weeks to figure out if there is such a thing as the “right” time for me to do it. Meanwhile, I’ll be getting plenty of work done.

That’s life in early January: busy, productive, and fun. I’m set up to do this all year… and I’m hopeful.

Happy New Year

January 2, 2010

…and I mean that literally. I had a great holiday season and went to a couple of fun parties on the 31st, so I was in a happy mood anyway, and now I’m really excited about 2010.

This will be my second year of setting clear goals for my writing (and other things), and I’m hopeful that I learned enough about it in ’09 to finish an important project or two this year. I plan to keep LinneaWrites rolling with at least two posts per week, and I’m considering starting a second blog.

Also, I have the outline for my unfinished 2009 NaNoWriMo attempt on my hard drive. My most ambitious goal for 2010 is finishing a 60,000 word novel. I know NaNo is 50K in 30 days, but I also know that 50K is considered short for a novel, and that I’ll be taking more than a month to write it. 60K may also be too short-I’ll know when I get there.

Nonfiction, journal writing and maybe a little poetry are also in the 2010 mix. It’s going to be a great year.