I’ve been writing slowly, but consistently, over the last year. I don’t manage to write every night, and too often a whole week goes by when I haven’t sat down with Scrivener and put fingers to keyboard for pleasure. And yet, it has become a good habit. I sit down, I write words. I close the app and go to bed knowing that I have made some infinitesimal progress on the novel.
It started out as work. My good friend Max gave me one piece of advice when I started on my novel – write every day. Like I’ve said, I don’t exactly write every day, and yet, over the many days I have written, I think I am beginning to understand the spirit of Max’s advice. Make writing a habit.
It wasn’t pleasant at first. I would sit down, and no words would come out. I started forcing words to come out, and they were bad. I wrote things like “And then he did this and it was awesome” just as shorthand to fill in with actual prose, later. Some nights, I spent my half hour / hour deleting what I’d written the previous night. Some nights I would be tired and write complete gibberish, little bits of my subconscious brain on the edge of sleep.
It got better. I am still surprised by how, writing at the smallest scale possible, one character, one word, one sentence, one scene at a time, I started seeing bigger patterns in my novel. Plot threads that I had agonized over resolving fell into place naturally. Now, when I sit down to write, I know that I am going to make progress, even if the total word count goes down (or, alternatively, even if what I add ends up being unusable at the end of the day). Writing in pieces has led to an emergent process of understanding my novel as a whole, of seeing the world that I am building – a world not altogether different from ours, and yet fundamentally new (again, I have to cf a great post by Max, on world-building).
Today something great happened – I am sitting on a train, kinda bored, and I realize I want to write. Writing is a fun thing that I want to do, right now. I am not struck by inspiration, I am not going to madly pen down the idea for some new project – I just want to get some words on screen. I realize, now, that secretly I’ve been a little scared of writing, because I’ve been scared of failing. What if I open up Scrivener, and then I have no idea what to do? What if I look at the page and all my ideas are terrible? Well, I think I’ve come to peace with that. I will write lots of terrible things down. I will write some good things down. And then I will rewrite the terrible ones to make them better, and so on, until I have a novel-sized chunk of pieces that I am satisfied with. And then comes the next step, which is still far away, but not quite so impossible-seeming anymore 🙂