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Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Writer's Time

Creativity is a funny thing, because it's such a personal thing. It's hard to peg one book on writing as The Book, the one with all the secrets, the one that illuminates the best way to compose a novel, poem, thesis, blog post, love letter, what-have-you, because what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the next. Another danger of devouring books on writing without ever actually, you know, writing something yourself, is that you get lulled into thinking you're making progress because, look! I'm reading about writing! I'm learning the craft! We all know the best way to learn something is by doing. And then doing it again. And again.

That said, I think I've discovered my favorite writing tome so far: A Writer's Time by Kenneth Atchity. My writing Yoda, this book is. Favorite highlights:

1. It used to be there was a constant war going on between the creative and analytical halves of my brain. The analytical side would be all, "Okay, we've set a goal to finish the draft by the end of the year, which means we need to write a chapter a week to get there. Onetwothree, go!" But the creative side was like (nose in the air), "Neener neener - I'm not talking to you!" It was exhausting. But then A Writer's Time introduced me to yet another side of my brain, called the "Managing Editor." (Imagine that - a whole piece of my brain I never even knew about. I love finding pieces of my brain!) The Managing Editor is the mediator. If the analytical and creative sides were a couple on the brink of divorce, the Managing Editor would be the therapist. They still fight, but it's less noisy inside my head now.

2. Writing anxiety is not only completely normal, it's good! (In which case, I have a whole heap of good going for me.) It's all in how you use it: anxiety can be the Gnome that keeps you from writing, or it can be the pressure that forces you to write in order to alleviate it. If you channel anxiety right, it actually becomes your Muse!

3. Find your ideal amount of writing time, what Atchity calls "compartments." I used to devote 3 or 4-hour blocks to writing on my days off. I'd spend most of this staring at the screen, listening to another shouting match between the halves of my brain. Essentially trying to squeeze blood from a rock. Now I've figured out that 90 minutes is my ideal compartment. If I set that limit for myself, there's no time to sit and stare, because I make myself quit at the end whether I feel like I've accomplished something or not. Then I walk away and let the anxiety build until next time.

4. "[Writing] requires determination more than self-confidence, the commitment of your will to the dream." Indeed, Mr. Atchity. Indeed.

Read this book you must, my young writing Padawans. Find wisdom within its pages, you will.

*Appearing next Monday surprise guest post will be. Greater wisdom than even Master Yoda he will impart.*

11 comments:

jenna said...

channeling anxitey... that is the holy grail of my life. Will I ever learn? Ever learn, will I?

scott.densley said...

Ya said it best. Creativity is personal. I dig the yoda pic.

Ari2525 said...

Determination more than self confidence, this I needed to hear, my self confidence is lousy, I am trying to break free of the chains that bind me but this is ruff, I need this blog, it helps me find myself.

Janiel Miller said...

I'm gonna have to get me that book. I like the Determination, and the find what works for you, and the channel your energy--fangxiety or whatever. Great stuff.

densleybrandis said...

Today sux. I needs me my gnome fix.

densleybrandis said...

Gnonme slayers, I need to have a hint on the guest blogger. Loves me the guest writers part of this blog.

Janiel Miller said...

Ooh! Ooh! I think I know who the guest-poster is. And its going to be FABu!

Robin said...

I love this piece. I read it a few days ago and have just let it percolate for a few so I could see what those bubbles pushed up from the bottom of my psyche. Good stuff came to the surface. Thanks.

Maegan Langer said...

Thanks, Robin! Now you need to go read the book because seriously, he says it all waaaay better than I did ;)

Russo said...

Maegan, your posts just keep getting better and better. Your writing ability amazes me and a lot of the things you wrote about in this post is exactly what I needed. Thank you, girl!

caroline said...

thank you maegan for your book review and recommendation. i wish i could get this book and apply it like you're doing. Good luck with taming the managing editor in you. Good luck to me in finding it. ;)

definitely staying tuned for your blog's guest.