While at my last residency at Queen’s I had this master plan for my post-graduation, trying to build a writing career life.
First I was going to write fifty pages of a novel.
Secondly I was going to go through all the stories in my collection, one by one, however long it took, make them awesome, and submit them around until I got a few in recognized/recognizable magazines.
The third part of the plan, was of course to query agents and work on getting my collection published. And while I was waiting to hear back from them, I would dig out the fifty pages of my novel and complete a first draft.
So the funny thing is, I did not have that much trouble with the first part of my plan. I have a kid, and a job, and a busy, exhausting life, so I set a tiny goal for myself. At first it was only 250 words a day. Practically nothing. It usually took me less than ten minutes to do that. It seemed like such an insignificant amount until I realized that 250 words a day adds up, 0 words a day does not. After awhile I increased the amount to 500 words a day. Then I got to about twenty pages and realized I was bored, and wasn’t connecting with the path I had chosen in the narrative. So I got rid of at least ten pages, and started again. And it was working. Some days I even wrote 750-1000 words. Some days were easy, some days were hard, but I managed to write nearly every day, even through a Disney World vacation, and in the end it took like a month and a half to get to my fifty pages.
Celebration! I bought Neil Gaiman’s new book, read it in two days. Ecstatic. High on words!
Then part two of the plan. Ugh.
It sometimes takes years for me to complete a story, because the whole editing/re-vising thing is hard for me, tedious. I kind of hate it, and have a hard time showing up to get the work done, except in tiny spurts of inspiration. I have not had much luck with part two of my plan.
My thesis reader at Queens, helped diagnose me with writer’s ADD. I get so excited by new ideas, I drop what I working on, leaving it unfinished, and follow the shiny new idea, until I get bored with it, and chase a new one.
I am trying to conentrate on one story at a time. It’s hard to keep my focus. But when I was working on generating writing, it was simple to create a word goal however small. This doesn’t work with re-vising. I don’t know how to create little bite-sized daily goals that will keep me going. I suppose I could do time goals, or goal goals, where I come up with what I specifically want to work on or accomplish that day. I wish those type of goals were as satisfying as creating chunks of whole new text that opens up a world that is starting to bloom in my mind.
Perhaps I just need to find the right way to think about editing and re-vision. I may not be creating, but I am re-shaping, defining. I’m not birthing a baby. Maybe it isn’t as exciting as that, but I am parenting, learning how to raise the story perhaps, how to turn it into the best, most true-to-itself story it can be.
Ugh. Like I said. Tedious. Miserable. Hard. But I always knew this was going to be the most grueling part of my plan. At least the most difficult part I have any control over. But I also have the feeling that once I figure it out, once I really stick to one story and see it through, that it will break something open for me, and the next one will be easier.