#writingcraft: Productive or Busy

#writingcraft: Productive or Busy

Often the method of writing does not seem to be getting the job done at all. Even if I start out with that blank page of the first draft and begin to pound on the keyboard with gusto. I know that somewhere along the way, I will have to stop to do writing tasks that do not have the slightest appearance of getting the story written.

 

DAYDREAMING

My favorite place to daydream is out on the cement of the car port looking out onto the deserted street. I have a lawn chair out there, I sit in with lazy posture. If the weather will not permit me to be out there, I am doing this activity in the back bedroom sitting on the bed staring out the window. The exercise does not, even remotely, feel like writing to me. Nevertheless, this is one of the key ways I come up with stories, characters, and locations for my tales.

This one I even have trouble calling “busy work”. To me, it is idleness. Still, I do spend time in this mode

RESEARCH

Exploring the elements of the story that must be factual has gotten easier since the use of the internet. I do not have to drive to a library with spiral notebook in hand to collect the data I need. I just open my browser and type in the key words. Presto, a list of possible virtual locations of information are at my disposal.

Still, it does not feel like writing. Sure, many authors had stated the time in research is most definitely part of the writing process. Unless the story is pure fantasy, the locations, items, and other elements must be authentically right. As I scan the pages of the sites I have chosen to plunge into, I cannot help thinking what I am doing is busy work; that I am not getting any writing done. Yet, what I am doing is insuring more writing once I get to the Word document.

OUTLINES

I am not a fan of outlines, never have been. I learned how to do them, of course, but I never did make good use of them. Instead, I have always taken notes, organizing them into categories of sorts. Once again, technology has accommodated me with OneNote, which allows me to color code and catalog notes to my heart’s content. [For those who think they might prefer Evernote, here’s the link.]

I do confess, using OneNote does feel a little productive, but not like the actual writing of the story does. After all, how much should I write about a character before putting the blasted person in the story? Be that as it may, if I have not created a three-dimensional character, in other words, a flat one, how can the story be any good? Some authors let things like this evolved on their own as they write the tale. I have done this myself. However, going back and reading that first draft, the characters and places were undeniably cardboard.

I have recently discovered the note taking, though beneficial, still does not get my mind wrapping around the main character as thoroughly as I think is needed. A blog friend of mine, Sharon Bonin-Pratt [Shari], starts her WiPs by exploring her character in depth. She will write page after page about the person before starting her story. When she told me this, I, at first, thought it was a little much. Still, I knew I was not done with my preliminary study of my character so I went searching for a better worksheet. I came up to the conclusion there was not one out there in cyber space to fit my needs. I make a template for Word [actually Word-like program]. It is a super simple page called Character in Prose. The rest of the page is bland. My only reason for creating this is my craving for organization. I am doing exactly what Shari does.

Although it is not writing the tale, itself, I do feel I am accomplishing something while using the unadorned layout.

 

REVISION

The mere thought of revision puts me in a state of panic. This is probably the reason why I have decided to spend so much time on the preliminary work. My logic is if I spend the time organizing, sorting, and getting to know my main characters inside and out, there is not as much chance of having to literally do major changes, or even worse, rewriting the story after the first draft.

My spelling and grammar are atrocious. It was not always that way, though. Before the stroke, my spelling was fair and my grammar was exceptionally good. Brain injuries can easily put a damper on such skills. I rely heavily on Grammarly. Even with this assistance, I am digging into the style book on occasion.

I have not gotten as far as doing a rewrite yet. To be truthful, it might put me in a state of hysteria. Still, if I want the reader to like what I have written, the step is necessary. It is not busy work. I wish writing coaches and editors were free.

§

I hate busy work. Task lists, outlines of unusable material, and unending sorting drive me bonkers. I know it works for some people, but I am not one of them. The fewer the steps to stay on course, the better.

“Because, as we all know, it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking. And it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.”
John Cleese

 

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11 Replies to “#writingcraft: Productive or Busy”

  1. Good ruminations, Glynis. That sitting and thinking phase–I can’t believe how productive it is. As you say, anyone seeing me would think I was relaxing, but my brain is busy–mulling, connecting dots, lining up the plot pieces. It is almost fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Something I have realized as of late, the daydreaming exercise has had an effect on my mood, making me more receptive of my muse. I wonder why I did not notice this before. :/

      Like

  2. Thank you for the shout-out, Glynis. My strategy works for me, maybe not for anyone else. Unfortunately I come across as over the top to lots of folks and am trying to tone it down. 😀

    As for wasting time – would you let someone examine you who had not gone to medical school for a dozen years and then interned? Some of a doctor’s best calls have to do with her/his intuition and that comes from “daydreaming.”

    If you struggle with spelling and grammar, you are hardly alone (though I am so sorry this is the result of your stroke) but remember that there are editors who do this well and you should hire one.

    As for revision: this is the part of the process of writing a book.

    Here is a wonderful example I unearthed in my attic, from some old hand written pages:

    I gotta be me, I think, or maybe not so much.
    I can’t be Mr. Nice Guy without getting a stroke of bad luck
    Or worry about drowning in a sea of debt and problems
    So why not just fight ‘em off at the pass
    And get rid of all the crap that holds me back?
    I’m done with all that nonsense, I’m not gonna
    Suffer a heart attack in order to get out of this mess.
    And I’m not gonna sleep it off either.
    No, not me, I got bigger dreams.
    Just a little nap here. Pinch me when it’s over.
    Gees, I’m itchy.

    You know whose very early work this is, dontcha?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shari, I do not know what you mean by you coming across as over the top. Although we click as friends, I only know you through written words, so maybe you are ‘over the top’ in some way or form but I do not see it. Maybe you are thorough, but not over the top. I do not use your method quite the same way as you do–that I am sure–but it works well for me so that I can get to know my main characters better. I get more of the head-to-hand-to-page connection using your method than I do just filling out a worksheet form. It helps with the short-term memory problems I have. By writing like this, I can get the concepts to that long-term memory slot in my brain.

      I have more or less, picked out a copy editor to go over the final draft whenever I get to that point. She also does critiques, which will hopefully take care of most of any developmental and flow issues my work has. Until that time comes, I will use Grammarly and the style book to help with these shortcomings I am plagued with.

      Uhmm, that short piece you included, I do not know who wrote it. Sorry. :/

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  3. All of these activities are necessary when writing, although they should take less time than the actual “writing time”, they are still very useful.
    The character development technique from your friend Shari is a good one and I might copy it to develop my main character. I’ve tried templates and quick bullet lists of this character’s main attributes, but I feel it doesn’t work. Maybe if I write pages about him, I will start feeling his real personality. Great tip that one! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Carla, that is exactly why I write those pages. Also, I am hoping I will not have to look back at anything while I am doing the actual writing because hopefully the characters will be ingrained in me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I tend to use research as part of my ruminations, it helps guide my thinking. I also use an exercise book to get ideas out, it is the process of writing it down, it has another level and meaning for me. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Each of your dilemmas sounds familiar to me; I wage those same sorts of mental wars with myself, never knowing when I’ve tipped over the line from productive to busy work. So all i can do is sympathize. Once again, I love the quote. Where do you find the meaningful bits of wisdom you so often finish a post with?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The quotes are usually coming from Goodreads [https://www.goodreads.com/quotes]. They have the largest variety I have come across. Now, after reading your comment, I wonder if this dilemma is common for writers who come from the Rocky Mountain region. Probably is not worth a pot of beans either way, though.

      Liked by 1 person

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