Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle

One of my long-time friends and fellow bloggers recently jumped back into the blogosphere after a seven week hiatus.  While I know it was difficult in her situation to take time away from her responsibilities (read: writing dissertation), getting back to your goals and what makes you happy is oftentimes a cathartic moment.
Her blog - called Not-A-Fortune - highlights the fortune cookie inserts she and her friends discover while satisfying those frequent Asian food urges.  Each insert, while not necessarily the best of fortunes, offers some guidance on how to live your life.  The blog both lampoons and validates these fortunes, offering a dose of humor combined with dash of serious life lesson.
The reason I bring up Not-A-Fortune is because her return to blogdom has reminded me of the value of getting back in the saddle.  As many of you know, when I departed my stable high school teaching position, it was for the joy and excitement of writing a novel, yet in the five months since I made that decision, I have only written about thirty-four pages worth of content.  Compare this to the two hundred and fifteen pages I had written in the three months before.
This took up much of my July and August.
Sure, I have been busy with other creative efforts, and my time has been occupied by discovering exactly how to go about this new life I am creating for myself, but ultimately those are excuses, and as I have said before, I should be stronger than my excuses.  So, this week, while I am mostly free of distraction, I dedicated myself to writing 10,000 words, or approximately 40 pages.
Jumping back in was hard.  The last passage I had written during the summer was a cliff hanger of sorts, although that wasn’t the initial intent.  I left the scene assuming I would return the next day, my mind full of ideas of exactly what was going to happen.  When I came back to it months later, I had only minimal notes, and my outlines failed to mention exactly what happened and why.  First, I think it highlights the value of having a very clear and thorough outline before even writing one word of the first draft, and second, I think it provides an excellent example of what happens when you leave yourself hanging.
I immediately experienced frustration.  Unsure of what I was supposed to do next, or even how to overcome the gigantic speed bump I had inadvertently placed in my own way, I stared at the screen.  But then I started typing.  I will freely admit I hated the next twenty pages or so.  I felt like I didn’t know the characters any more, I didn’t understand their motivations or how they were growing.  I felt like I was picking up where some other author left off.  Sure, I had the notes, but the framework was created with the intention of flowing through it, not pausing for months at a time.
Either way, while I struggled with forcing the words out, my efforts to get back at it paid off.  I have finally returned to a place where I feel comfortable with my efforts.  I think part of my relaxed feeling is knowing there will be a second draft.  I will definitely have the opportunity to fix everything I hate this time around.  The importance of a first draft is to just get things down.
I think the message I take from my own mistake is to push through to the end when you have the chance.  In the midst of a project, even putting it down for one day chips away from the work habit you have created.  I think much of my struggle came not just from being unfamiliar with my direction, but being uncomfortable with sitting down and writing for extended periods of time.  Had I not broken off my efforts, even just maintaining my writing in a minimum way, I wouldn’t have had to expend such energy to get restarted.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I have started projects and failed to finish it.  While this isn’t the best way to go about it, getting back has always made me happy.  The exciting part is actually finishing, finding the satisfaction that comes with completion.  And while I am unsure of how long it will take me to finish my first draft, I am back at it and working more diligently than I have in months.  It feels good to be back in the saddle.

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