Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let It Snow

Scott D. Parker

I don't know about you but sometimes when I hear the term "writer's block," I literally picture a large cube made out of stone, usually granite. The sides are smooth and shiny, machined to perfection. When you get up close, you can almost hear the solidness of it, a mute amount of laughter. And, in your had, is a small chisel.

"Now," says the message, "create something."

There are times in my writing life when the feat is so daunting that I don't even start. I think some folks consider writer's block to be the absence of ideas. What about the plethora of ideas, but that they are so many and varied that you get nothing accomplished?

A problem I deal with is one of starting. I know plenty of folks who start books and get a third of the way in and then lay it aside. The block I sometimes face is the one that prevents me from even starting. I have ideas and I germinate them in my brain. I'm working on a new Calvin Carter story and it's exciting. But I haven't put pen to paper. Why? The fear of starting.

Weird, huh?

We just finished November and the NaNoWriMo challenge. I did not participate but now, I'm wondering if I should have. The biggest benefit of doing NaNoWroMo is the exercise the writing muscle gets. With 50,000 words to create in 30 days, that works out to 1,667 words a day. And therein lies that giant stone cube, aka the oppressive Word Count.

Word count can, in my mind, act as a kind of writer's block. If you were to sit down at your computer each day during November and you *have* to write 1,667 words, it can be daunting. And, frankly, you will probably end up writing crap to to get to the word count. On the other hand, you're exercising the writing muscle.

Still, the word count can be like that great granite cube. It's just sitting there, staring at you. But you have that chisel and you take a whack at it. And, lo and behold, a sliver of granite flies off the cube. It's a first step to breaking down that granite cube.

That's why I tend to like the snowflake method of writing. It's not that website that has you start with a main idea and the expand on it. I'm talking about snowflake in terms of word count. I would like to be able to bust out 1,667 words a day or more, but sometimes, I can only manage 500. But I've written 500 new words and I'm moving forward.

Yes, I know this isn't rocket science and y'all've heard this kind of thing a thousand times, but it's hit home with me in recent days. I get so fixated on writing a thousand words a day or some such random number when what I should actually be focused on isn't the word count but the tale. I've come to realize that if I just work on the story, the word count will take care of itself. I want the blizzard to whoosh down and dump two feet of snow on me (or thousands of word). Maybe, perhaps, I'm the gentle snowfall kind of guy. Five hundred words here, 200 there, a 1,000 somewhere down the line. All these numbers add up, I need to keep reminding myself. The end will come when it's there. Just keep the snow falling. Or that chisel in your hand.

Song of the Week: "River" by Robert Downey, Jr. Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas music is out at our house. I have a set routine: I always listen to Chicago's 2003 What's It Going To Be Santa CD first, from front to back. After that, everything can come out of the box. I love spinning my Brian Setzer CDs and chilling to Chris Botti's holiday CD. But one song I always long to hear is this Joni Mitchell-penned tune as sung by Downey when he was on the TV show "Ally McBeal." That season was the best and it was the first time I truly saw how gifted Downey was as an actor. This tune has a special, melancholic vibe to it that is perfect for the adult that I am in this time of year. While I can grin from ear to ear while listening to Chicago or Setzer, it's "River" that tugs the heartstrings. And not just one in particular. The longing expressed in these lyrics is for Christmases past. I don't pine for them and wish I were young. I'm an eternal optimist and I see each day and each year as the best one I've ever lived. But a loving tenderness for all that I've seen and experienced seeps through me as I listen to this song. Another one that speaks directly to this longing is Faith Hill's "Where Are You Christmas?" Is there a song like that for you?

Tweet of the Week I:

Sometimes, as men, it's nice to just sit around and talk about our hair.

-- Nathan Fillion

Tweet of the Week II:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

-- C. S. Lewis


pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes the 500 are gold because they've solved a problem--gotten you past a bad point. And sometimes the 1600 are awful, they've created a problem. So I think the main thing is to move forward in some way every day. Even if it's deleting what you wrote yesterday and getting it back on course.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I agree with Patti. While I try to shoot for 1000 words a day, I believe the most important thing is keeping the story moving step by step, day by day. If I skip a day, I find that it is harder to pick up the story the next day. So I write each day even if it is only 200 words to keep the story moving in my mind.