Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ignore the voice that says Ew

For my birthday present this year, Pete gave me something truly fantastic: five full days of writing time.  (handknit socks were worn for the duration.)

Cashmere sock glamour shot

This was huge, especially considering how much work we both have to do right now on everyday stuff plus two renovations plus packing to move out. The only way to pull this off was for me to decline all social contact - I had to miss two parties, which was awful - and for Pete to take over everything I do for us.  Except laundry, which is a great background activity while working out how a story is going, and the occasional renovation decision because that kind of has to be me.

We catered the break with delicious foods from my favourite posh grocery store (Summerhill Market - even the name makes me feel more relaxed) and I spent all five days sleeping when my brain got too tired, eating when I was hungry, and cleaning up the kitchen counter when I was stuck.  The rest of the time, I was typing.

With handknit socks on, of course, as I mentioned earlier.   Because it is really, really hard to think creatively when your toes are tiny ice cubes.  I know because of Day One, when a single pair wasn't enough.

Digression: did anybody else spend any part of last weekend watching Carly Rae Jepsen's video for 'I Really Like You' for the sole purpose of watching Tom Hanks be Tom Hanks, something that is guaranteed to make you feel that all is right with the world?

And if so, did you notice that the title of the book on his bedside table at the beginning is 'The Manly Art of Knitting'?

(warning: if you are a Justin Bieber non-fan, it is essential to focus exclusively on Tom Hanks and maybe half of Carly Rae, on Tom's side, during the big finale. trust me.)

I watched a lot of music videos on my writing break, and did a ton of reading about Burt Bacharach's life and music.  These so-called distractions were very helpful and I wrote not-awful first draft content at record speed.

Because we planned this a few weeks ahead of time, I was able to read a lot of writers' websites and their advice to other writers before I started. Every single one of them said some variation of the thing I know is true and hear often and struggle with every time anyway:

Ignore the voice that says Ew.

Every writer hears this voice and writers are not the only ones by a long shot.  You have heard this voice, sometimes even when you're knitting, which I think is a serious invasion of privacy don't you?

This is the voice that says Ew, you're not going to try to call this effort an accomplishment, are you?  It's terrible.  Nobody wants or needs this.  You should just give up.

This is the voice you must ignore.

After the first day of writing, the voice was so loud in my head I had to play music to drown it out, and when it got louder still I had to turn up the volume on my computer as high as it would go.  I put a sign up beside my screen that says "DON'T LISTEN.  Just keep writing!"

On the second day, I realized I had left something out that needed to go between two sections I'd written the day before.  And that meant I had to read the terrible writing the voice especially hated.  I so, so did not want to do this, but I looked at the sign I'd put up... and I thought of how much work Pete had taken on to clear this time for me... and I went for it.

And what I'd written was really good - or, at least, exactly what I'd been aiming for.

And discovering that still didn't silence the voice.

I don't think anything silences the voice, even not trying to accomplish anything, because it's still there, just quieter, muttering that you're right to do nothing with your time or your life because you're so unexceptional the effort is just a waste of other people's energy.

So: when you hear it?  Ignore it.  Ignore the voice that says Ew.  Feed your mind with positive images and keep on moving.

And go have a great day!

(ps if you want to know how the writing time went, you should know first that most writers feel lucky to keep 500 words a day, and keeping 1000 is something to celebrate.  I started with a 9,000 word manuscript and after five days of editing that and writing new and editing more and writing more and editing again, I am keeping 34,000 words.  I'll let you do the math.  best birthday gift EVER.)

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