Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Support Yourself

Maven Carrie RyanSo, I joined Seventy Days of Sweat and so far I've written... um... nothing. I joined 100x100 (one hundred words a day for one hundred days) last year and um.... it didn't stick. In fact, I think the only writing challenge that's ever worked for me was when on her blog Diana Peterfreund challenged everyone to write -- something, anything -- every day for a month. Her motto was "writers write" and so she said we should all write! This couldn't have come at a more perfect time for me -- I was trying to finish the first draft of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and I was gearing up for a massive trial -- working 80 hour weeks. There were days when the most time I had to write was the 8 minutes it took for my mac 'n' cheese pasta to boil. But I wrote during those 8 minutes because Diana was (and still is) right: writers write.

All of these challenges and all of these goals are very useful and they're great! I'm all for anything that gets people writing (the old motto I learned around the RWA boards: BITHOC -- butt in chair, hands on keyboard). But here's the thing that I have to remind myself: at the end of the day, it's only you and the keyboard. You and that blank piece of paper. At a certain point it can't just be about being accountable to other people -- about sending an email to a loop checking in -- it has to be about being accountable to yourself. In the end, no one else can make you sit down and write except yourself.

Of course I'm not saying to go out and unsubscribe from your loops and disconnect from your support systems. Trust me, I know that at the end of a long day sometimes you just want to steam your face with pasta water rather than sit down and bang out a few paragraphs that you'll end up deleting anyway. And sometimes the only thing that forces you to trudge to your computer is knowing that the next day someone is going to ask you: did you write last night? But I am saying that you also need to find that accountability within yourself. It has to matter to *you* if you wrote or not. You have to answer that question for yourself and be satisfied with the answer.

And here's something that I'm starting to catch a glimpse of now that I have some publisher-set deadlines off in the future. Deadlines don't necessarily force you to write. It may seem reasonable to say "well, once I have a contract and publisher-set deadlines I'll have built in accountability so I won't need to rely on myself any more -- something external will push me to sit down and write." Here's a truth: some published authors miss deadlines (well, except for Nora Roberts). Some published authors misjudge and come close to missing deadlines. My next book is due in roughly six months -- that's at least 10k a month I need to write to get it done (and let's not forget that it took me 4 months to revise the last one). That's over 2k a week. How much did I write this week? Last week? Nothing. See, I have a deadline and it's not making me accountable, because that has to come from me. A contract does not make you write -- the skills, perseverence, dedication, motivation you learned getting to that contract make you write.

I'm all about supporting each other and riding each other to reach farther and write better. Trust me! I love nothing more than celebrating an awesome word count or an awesome chapter or writing The End or submitting -- all of it! And I love it when people celebrate those steps with me (like all the awesome support for my book cover!) At the same time I think that we all have to find that part of ourselves that wants to write -- that needs to write -- and that's what has to drive us. Because in the end, no one else will: it's you and the blank page.

Be sure to drop by tomorrow and visit our Guest Maven, Mave Fave Angie Fox!


Kelly Krysten said...

What a fantastic blog!! Ever considered becoming a motivational speaker?

Marnee Bailey said...

This is a wonderful blog! I agree completely. I know there are definitely days when the words aren't happy to come out of my fingertips. My new motto: What Would Nora Do? LOL!!

Jackie Barbosa said...

Very inspiring, Carrie. And I love the acronym BITHOC. Hilarious. Now, follow you own advice, lol!

Seriously, though I'm not under contract, I have a timeline for delivering three novellas over the next three months (the first of which is due at the end of this month), and I've been having a TERRIBLE time actually DOING the writing thing. I have to write about 5K per week to finish everything on time, which is only 1K or four pages per day. How hard can that be?

Answer: Pretty hard, apparently. But I have to do my best. And in the end, that's all you can do!

Darcy Burke said...

Great post, Carrie. This served me well during February as I pushed to meet my self-imposed deadline. I managed to write 20K between Feb. 27 and March 8 and manage my daughter's Girl Scout troop's cookie sales. We can do almost anything if we just do it.

Carrie Ryan said...

Wow Darcy -- amazing word count!! Especially with everything else going on!!

You're totally right, J -- I need to BITHOC more. I keep using the excuse of doing my copy-edits and then I just *needed* a weekend off (which I did!).

Thanks Marnee for the compliemnt! I love the motto What Would Nora Do -- I think she has tons of good advice.

Kelly - you're so sweet -- I love that you think my post was motivating :)

Diana Peterfreund said...

Wait, Butt In...Tri-legged stool, Hands on... Computer? ;-)

It's so true. You need to have that internal drive as well.

Carrie Ryan said...

Haha! DIana I knew that acronym didn't look right at all and I even went through it several times in my head and eas convinced it was correct!

Ack! My brain melts at night!

Bill Clark said...

So are we meant to BICHOK? Just wanna keep my acronyms straight. :-)

Diana Peterfreund said...

I blame myself. I was very distracting.

Carrie Ryan said...

Yep Bill -- it's BICHOK!

It's all Diana's fault :)

Bill Clark said...

As usual! :-)

(She answered my question about the relationship between lions and unicorns with a whole freakin' chapter of Alice in Wonderland!)

PatriciaW said...

Completing a novel is like weight loss. My two greatest challenges. Because I love writing but find it hard to set aside time. Because I need the weight loss but find it difficult to make it happen.

Both feel a bit, well, elusive at times. Both require discipline and consistency. Both require internal motivation. Both require...me. No one can do it for me, although the cheering helps.

Carrie Ryan said...

Patricia -- I couldn't agree with you more!! Excellent point!!!

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