How do I make “What works for me” work for me?


Why I’d Rather Mow the Lawn than Write

(In which the author raises – rather than answers – a question.)

I’m an extrovert.

Most people hear “extrovert” and think “friendly and outgoing” — let me dissuade you of that notion. Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people.

Extroverts tend to fade when alone. Extroverts tend to think as they speak, and think best while they are communicating the thing they’re thinking about. Ideas just don’t seem real unless they can talk about them; reflecting often isn’t enough. There’s a necessary feedback loop as well: talking to yourself (like masturbation) is a temporary substitute at best and tends to hamper you in the long run, if overused between sessions of the Real Thing. (Now there’s an example I didn’t plan on using today.)

So anyway: extroverts. Extrovert. Me. Feeds on feedback. Got it? Good.

The Problem

I write. I’m a writer. Assembling words in an order best suited to enter the eye or ear and, thence, to stick your brain meat is basically what I get paid to do.

In most examples of this kind of work, the feedback loop is slow. Feedback on commercial work is Pretty Darn Slow. Freelance stuff or writing for Big-P publication varies, but tends to range from Fucking Slow to Publishing Industry Slow, with “Glacially Slow” sitting at what’s generally agreed to be the arithmetic mean.

For someone like me, that’s a pretty hard row to hoe. Usually, I can find a work around that gets me by, but I’m struggling right now.

One of the reasons that I like twitter as much as I do is the immediate feedback. Positive or negative, if I put some energy out there, I’ll probably get some energy back. It may not be the response I’m looking for, but something happened. Same’s generally true for blogging or forums or whatever. Feedback. Energy. I recently wrapped up a contract gig that involved me creating coursework for a company. The work cycle was three days of me making something, one day for feedback, two days for implementing feedback, and repeat. Tight cycle of energy transferral is what I’m saying, even though I was working remotely and never saw the client face to face for the twelve week duration.  In that time, I created 14 polished hours worth of online courses.

Then there’s long-form writing. Months of getting that first draft out. Then maybe two people read it. Then a rewrite. Then maybe six more people read it. Sweet Fancy Moses with Bows On, it’s slow. (It’s likely the reason I’m at my best levels of productivity during NaNoWriMo; even if I’m not sharing the actual stuff I’m writing, there’s a lot of loose energy bouncing around.) Using #amwriting tags on Twitter and dipping into that stream only goes so far, and lacks both immediacy and often a sense of connection — it’s not getting the job done.

It gets to the point where, in the midst of the worst mid-afternoon heat, the pull to go mow the lawn is stronger than the pull of the keyboard, because at least with the lawn, someone will point out I missed a spot. Interaction. Feedback. Energy. I’m a junkie.

So what do I need? I dunno. A writer’s group with weekly deadlines? An MFA program? Fucked if I know — I said at the outset that this isn’t a post with answers, just questions. I welcome your input. In the meantime, this is about all the whiny navel-gazing I budgeted for 2010, so I need to get back to work.

8 Replies to “How do I make “What works for me” work for me?”

  1. I’ve been having the same problem lately. I’m so productive during NaNo, and just after NaNo when I’ve still got all of that extra energy built up in my system. I’ve tried a monthly writing group, but it seems once a month isn’t enough to keep me energized. I’ve tried Twitter (worked great for the first month that I joined, now it makes my eyes glaze over). I’m currently trying Scribbler (not enough feedback for me). I’ve even tried meeting every Weds for a mini-write-in with NaNo people to keep the energy up, but we just make dirty jokes and talk about how much writing we are going to do later.

    Maybe they need to implement Camp NaNoWriMo this year so that we can have write-ins all the time. Or maybe I just need to find a writing group that is a little more serious and meets weekly.

  2. Do writing groups really work? I’m 8K words into a new thing and have a group of friends reading along, no real critiquing going on, just want to get words on the page right now. Writing groups sound like torture to me, since writing is such a selfish thing….how can you possibly be interested in what anyone else is doing while your own story is boiling beneath your skin? :)

  3. I’m notoriously bad at giving critiques to other writers at the best of times (and the few times I have done so, I just made them angry — like “they now pretend I don’t exist” angry, which is FUN).

    So… yeah, I acknowledge that some cousin of a critique group may be the thing I need, but I’m still leery.

    1. Maybe an idea-bouncing group then? There wouldn’t be any critiquing involved, just a bunch of ideas floating around getting bigger and better with all the people involved. It makes you excited to write, because there’s tons of creative energy. I’ve got a separate group from my critiquing group just for bouncing ideas off of and whenever I utilize them it gets me excited to write (it’s a good idea to get people from a bunch of different backgrounds – a scientist is a must for making up psudo-scientific sounding diseases and such). Of course, I haven’t need any ideas bounced around in a while :/

  4. What he said.

    I am going through this bit exactly. To read it summed up so accurately is…validating? I don’t know. But it helps. So thanks.

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