Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2k a day or the story goes away

I'm a big believer in following the advice that great success stories often share. If you're interested in writing on a level to where every word of yours is consumed or judged as either a story or a part of you, I can't recommend Stephen King's On Writing enough. Being an English major in college who took every creative writing class available, no other How-to book in the field of writing had a more profound impact on my desire and approach to being a writer. He doesn't do it the way a lot of the college-book geeks tell you to do it, but then again the college-book geeks are being referred to as such because the only thing they ever wrote that anyone read was their advice book. Does that seem as silly as it sounds?

My favorite bit, and it's something you'll hear a lot from me, is that King firmly believes in the 2,000 words/day rule. He says come hell or high water, every single day he must get his 2k. Some days it's easy, some days it isn't. If he doesn't visit his characters and his story every day, he says the story 'feels foreign' to him. I've tried to do just that. I keep a calendar above my desk and mark whether I wrote or not and how much I wrote that day. It's a way of keeping yourself in check and forcing yourself to face your own inconsistencies. Trust me, writing a big fat zero on the calendar is a heart breaker after going a couple weeks straight with good numbers.

Well I had to take two days off in a row and writing in on my calendar, in short, blew ass. For the first time since I started this work, I completely understand what King meant when he said his stories feel foreign after taking time off. I had to take Sunday off because I had promises to keep (and something about miles to go and blah blah), but Sunday became such a shit show (think slumped Cory on the curb arguing with passing dogs) that Monday got absolutely ruined. Try as I might I couldn't peck a word out on Monday, which is the first time that's happened in a month.

Despite my unproductivity, I felt good because when I realized my brain was simply too starved for sleep, I indulged and closed my eyes. Instead of sleep, I found my little world. I saw one strand, the one I need to write today, the one I've been avoiding for a week. I saw my characters right they were last I saw them, holding their unlit torches, waiting for a match. Knowing that my mind couldn't possibly handle constructing well-made sentences that moved the plot, I wrote what I saw from afar. A general outline. I plotted my character's fate with the icy chill of a CEO trimming budget in the form of a dozen secretaries and a mail boy. And you know what? It felt great. I woke up today and it all made sense. I sneaked out of work early and got back to my laptop and kept the work alive.

Yes, after two days of inactivity, my invisible friends had become blurry, but they didn't leave. And sometimes even if you can't give them the full treatment of love that you want to every day, a simple stroke here and there can be enough to get you from one day to the next. Or a bunch of strokes combined if you're getting a happy ending. GET IT, STROKE!? Aw whatever. Screw you guys.

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