|Photo from Flickr by eekim|
What is the ratio of time you've spent writing compared to the time spent preparing to write (for example-- reading, reading about writing, taking classes about writing, talking to people about writing, etc.)? Preparing is great and necessary, but it does not replace the act of doing--similar to many things that get us where we want to go.
Today's Excuse: I want to kick the tires and check under the hood of this writing thing for a good long time, so I can cruise along effortlessly once I get started.
Excuse Edit: You need to get in the driver's seat
No matter how many games of Pole Position you've played, getting behind the wheel of a real car is completely different. The same is true if you have only been in "simulation mode" with your writing, for example, imagining the cover art of the novel you haven't written yet or scribbling ideas for scenes but never fleshing them out. These are virtual acts. Shifting into drive with an actual car adds another layer of responsibility. In a video game, you can crash into the car in front of you or bounce against the wall and still drive on. Before you start the tangible work of your writing, you may imagine your character participating in some truly violent scenes. No real consequences.
However, if you were to drive in a similar fashion down your local highway, you would be dangerous and could be arrested, or worse. Although you learned the idea behind driving from the virtual practice, the rules of reality apply now, and you have to adjust accordingly. You may imagine your character causing all sorts of mayhem, but when you get to the page, his actions will be weighed heavier. On the page, you are faced with the reality of writing. Weaved into your words will be his motivation, his backstory, the impact his actions have on others...and why it matters. The first time you take the wheel on any story may feel like that first time driving-- like you aren't sure that you should be controlling something so much bigger than yourself. The trick is to keep going until it feels like second nature. You'll always have to be mindful, but eventually, you will that you are safe enough to be in the driver's seat.
Have you ever tried to drive to a place you've been to numerous times and not be able to find it? One reason may be that you've never driven there yourself. You may be able to recall a few of the landmarks you witnessed outside the passenger seat window, but not what streets they were on. I love the conversations on road trips; when you are excited about your destination, much of the talk revolves around what you'll be doing once you get there. In the writing world, many of us love discovering our writing culture, our tribe. This is the energy you feel when you go to a writing conference or workshop. Being in the same place with so many like minded people who share similar dreams can create all sorts of ideas about the writing life. This is crucial, and I say, enjoy the ride! But don't take advantage of the tribe's willingness to take you from place to place. There comes a time when you need to become a contributing part of society. Step back from the writing forums, discussion groups, writing blogs. Internalize those writing landmarks and express them in your way, in your work.
Initially, you may find that you have rough sketches of a map to get you to where you are going, but you really are having a tough time "getting there". Part of the writing journey does involve a bit of wandering, but take heart: once you write yourself into and out of enough bumpy roads, you will begin to navigate better. Because you are no longer just along for the ride, you will know how it is supposed to feel when taking that dip in the middle of your novel or when you have to kick it into high gear for a deadline. You will be the one that has to pay attention to the road ahead, even as your fellow riders drive up beside you to say hello.
This week, take a hard look at how much time you are spending tuning up your writing vehicle as opposed to driving it. If you are just starting out, small trips are fine, but realize if you want to get somewhere, you are going to have to spend more time behind the wheel than looking at different maps.
P.S. My own wanderings in the writing and marketing world have found me publishing this blog on Kindle. I got a Kindle for Christmas and I love reading all sorts of things on it, including newspapers and blogs. If you enjoy this blog, I would love if you would write a few words as a review. You can find the link here.
Feel free to share the link to your blog here in the comments--whether you have it on Kindle or not--just as a way to honk your hello! --Tina