Many many years ago, I had a terrible, horrible experience.
I read an article about the morning pages from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I didn’t have the book at the time but this seemed to be a wonderful idea. Write freely, without limits, with abandon for three pages first thing in the morning.
It was awful.
I poured a litany of upset and frustration onto the page and was thoroughly unhappy before breakfast. There was nothing creative, nothing freeing, just a list of limits, reasons to abandon all hope.
I lasted three days.
Many years later, I finally read the book. It added a bit of perspective to the morning pages and though wary I gave them another try. That began a habit I continue to this day.
I managed to do some of the artist’s dates and various other exercises. I spent ages putting together a little box of scents and images and inspiration. It was a broader approach toward creativity than some other craft books.
With renewed enthusiasm for writing, I began to work on a novel. I planned it by noting the rises and falls of action, the four act plan, whatever seemed to fit. I planned to write it in a month, but by three months I ran out of steam when I hit a busy patch of work. When I came back to it, several gaping holes were evident and I left it be.
Many of my attempts at writing longer pieces coincide with the Novel Fair hosted by the Irish Writers Centre. It’s a competition that gives 10-12 winners the chance to meet agents and publishers at an event held in the Centre. Previous winners have been published to great success. My particular favourite is Catriona Lally, a school classmate of my sister. whose novel Eggshells later won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.
The novel fair accepts entries of a synopsis and up to 10,000 words of a novel in September each year. So I generally begin novels in about the middle of August.
Needless to say I haven’t made it yet.
I’ve tried Nanowrimo a few times, but similarly I begin planning in the last week in October. If I can remember the main character’s name on day 2 I’m doing well.
I signed up for 1000wordsofsummer, run by Jami Attenberg, several times. It’s a two week pledge to write 1000 words per day, with wonderful encouraging mails from Jami. Last year I actually did it, and then did a week-long one in August, missed one in October and did the most recent one in February too. I may have found the trick, just 1000 words, just repeat 80 times or 90 times or 100 times…
Since fully acknowledging that writing is something to do for fun, to relax, I’ve actually written more words then I have in years. I just passed 50,000 words in the shitty first draft of a novel. It’s a little early to say any more, but the writing is already further along that any of my past attempts.