Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#ROW80 - A Seedling Bursts Through

Life has not relented. In fact, I rather suspect that it has decided to press its advantage. We still have the health issues, and then the Day Job decided that they wanted to take this opportunity to shift my position around. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as I welcome the new challenge. Just... change is stressful, and I wasn't really looking for more stress. When it rains, it pours, right?

Since I skipped it last week, let's take a proper look at the goals this week:
  • Lesson Learned - Short Stories are fun to write. May seem like a silly lesson, but I've never been a big short story reader and never anticipated writing them. My brain just works better with novel-sized plots, which may be odd. Still, my current work on the dare has been quite enjoyable. And with the whole Book Revolution, short story popularity has skyrocketed; there is totally a market for these (where there wasn't as much of one before). This was an unanticipated path in my plan, but consider me pleasantly surprised by my feelings.
  • Project Writing - Working on the short story, in the last two weeks I've hammered out 13 pages. I also wrote the first two pages of my next novel (just to get started). Normally, I'm pretty evenly paced in my writing, but the short story has come out in concentrated bursts. With 15 total pages, I blew right by my goal of a page a day with two days off (by 5 pages!). This surprises me because I wasn't really keeping track, just writing when the mood hit me and I had time. On the other hand, I guess it shouldn't because I generally write more when I'm stressed (it's always been a release).
  • Blogging - 6/6 in two weeks on the gaming blog. This'll be 7/6 on here in two weeks. I need to make a personal post, but I've been waiting for the health issues to shake out.
So, really, despite my moaning last week, I've destroyed these goals. Now, generally I expect to meet and exceed the goals each week. That is to say, I didn't make "stretching" goals this round because I recognize my stress is already way up there. When life calms, then I'll try to stretch, but until then, it's just about keeping on keeping on. 

I think the decision to go outside my box and do this short story thing is really the key to my success early on this year. The relaxing thing about short stories is that, well, they're short. That is, it's not expect to have a ton of world-building or back-story or whatever. You don't have time for all that. The focus is on setting up characters, roping in the reader, and finishing off the plot before you get too wordy. It's sort of like paring a novel down to its bare bones, shrinking the plot, and then just writing. This isn't to say I'm "half assing" it or anything, just that, uh, short stories are not as much work as a novel. I guess that's sort of a "no duh" statement, but its been a refreshing realization for me. One that has bumped my output in a time where I would likely struggle to focus on a larger project.

I guess that's a bonus lesson for today: for all you writers out there, if you find yourself in a situation where you're having trouble focusing on larger projects (that you've convinced yourself you need to do), don't be afraid to "take a break" on a smaller project. It can really serve to smooth out the shakes of writing withdrawal.

Before I leave, I want to give to shout outs. First, to fellow ROWer Gene Lempp, for what I thought was a wonderfully written article this Monday. That's exactly how I feel, especially right now. In a way, the short story thing is part of the regenerative process of my creative soil. (Not to be confused with creative soiling, which is a different thing entirely). Poop jokes aside, the point is that this article hit at the perfect time for me, where I'm feeling like a somewhat functional example.

Second, my Aunt Annie has just begun a blog. I wanted to throw her some link love because it's her first blog, and I'd like to think I was at least a little bit inspirational in her starting it. (She's been one of my biggest supports of this whole writing adventure, and writing is something we've discussed at length at many a family gathering). Today she was sharing her latest cooking adventure. She'll also be writing about scrapbooking and does a fair bit of genealogy for our family. If any of that interests you, dear reader, feel encouraged to pop in and say "hi." She's a big reader and wants to hone her writing skills in hopes of someday attempting a book. I think I may try to convince her to join the ROW challenge next, but I'll save that for a future family gathering.

One of my favorite side effects of this whole Internet thing (specifically: how it has impacted writers) is that it seems like more people than ever are braving the world of public writing for the very first time. To me, that's just awesome. Twenty years ago, none of this was possible. None of use would have been online, sharing ideas and encouragement. Support groups and writing in general was a lot harder to get into. We all did it in secret notebooks that we swore we'd never share with anyone, or whatever.

After I completed my first book, my cousin was reading it and her young daughter asked her what she was reading. She explained about the book and who wrote it. Her daughter, in the way of children, immediately decided that she wanted to be a writer someday, too. Just existing, putting our words out there can be an inspiration (even for someone that didn't actually read a word I wrote). What an awesome feeling.

There are a lot of days where I wish someone had told me when I was little that I could be a writer. For so long, writer was firmly ensconced in my mind right next to "penniless vagrant." It wasn't a real job. It was just something I did for fun in secret. There wasn't a real career path, a real future. You couldn't hope to support a family on writing unless you got really really lucky (or knew someone, or were famous already). Pick something with promise, with opportunity, they'd say.

Now, opportunity is knocking. It still takes a lot of work and probably some luck along the way, but I think it's a lot easier to dare to dream the dream. Even if you don't make it a career, even if it is only ever just a side passion, you can find an audience. You can share ideas with complete strangers, and form bonds through words. I'm excited both for myself and for future generations. What a cool time to be a writer!

See what I mean about writing bursts? Sheesh. It's time to end this lengthy check-in. Here's the word count:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 16,048
  • New Fiction: 4,713
  • Round 1 Total: 22,906


Anonymous said...

Sent you a request on Good Reads. Ugg. Change IS stressful, especially when that's the bread and butter. Congrats on such a productive week. I'll be sure to check out your Aunt's blog. Have a great week.

Leigh Ann Hofferth said...

I love you, Matthew! :)

Tia Bach said...

Great wordcounts! Also, you've inspired me to try my hand at short stories. I've done flash fiction to jumpstart my creative juices, but I like the idea of a short story.

And I love what you said about knowing your stress levels and making realistic goals accordingly. I need to work on that!

Best of luck the rest of the week!

Matt said...

@TheKing - Cool. I accepted. I'm Catholic, so change is like a double whammy. (You know, because Catholics are indoctrinated against change and all that :-P.)

@AAnnie - Back at ya, dear Aunt. First lesson of writing: know your audience. :-) I know of several ROWers that I suspect may share your passions. And they're all great people.

@TBach - Thanks, glad to try my hand as a muse, too. On the flip side, I should probably try some flash fiction, but I'm horribly wordy. Call it the curse of the fantasy writer. It's never enough for me to say "There was a cat." The cat must be black and have one ear up and the other down in a rude approximation of the letter "L," the position which it uses to cast its curses on all and sundry. (The striding across one's path afterward is merely a way of rubbing it in.)

Lisa Rose said...

Wow, sounds like you had a big week! I caught the short story bug a few months ago, too and I wrote nothing but for about a month. They are fun. And you're right, there's a huge market for them.

Best of luck!

Nadja Notariani said...

I'm glad the short story is the diversion/satisfying accomplishment you need right now.
...but I must bear some bad news...sorry ;}
Life never relents.
My dad always tells me..."Let it roll off your back like water off a duck." Hope it helps you as much as it does me. I like those short, simple answers that remind me that life really is simple - it's me that complicates it.
Now...come on! Get going so the 'ever-dreaded-day-job' becomes an antiquated dinosaur you no longer need!

Matt said...

Yep. I definitely have to soldier through. There's not really an option.

Sometimes, I wish I were Superduck. Then, when Life isn't just raining, but shooting bullets... those too would roll off like water (but with a far cooler *ping* sound). Even so, I suspect that Life - crafty villain it is - would just dig up some kryptonite and fling that.

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