So it looks like those desperate measures I took while on jury duty are paying off in so many unexpected ways. I brought a cheap spiral-bound notebook to the courthouse in order to get myself back on track with writing after several weeks of zero output, countless false starts, and the record lows in my motivation and confidence.
Something in me snapped, I guess, halfway through my court time, and it looks like that snapping was something I needed all along.
It didn’t take me long to adjust to this method of writing something. Seeing as how I kept freezing up whenever I opened a new file and I had that blank page staring back at me, I figured that maybe switching gears drastically would help. A lot can be said about the efficiency of writing a story the “popular way” (i.e., typing it up on Word with the internet within your grasp for research purposes – or at least one hopes so).
The downside for me is that it’s so easy to be distracted, and even when I disconnect my laptop, there’s something deeply ingrained in me now that still makes me write in painful fits and starts because I can’t seem to focus as much as I need to. It’s probably because my laptop and everything in it is inextricably connected to the rest of the world and to so much information out there. My laptop’s become more of a social network portal as opposed to a private sanctuary where I can be alone with my thoughts. Maybe it’s me, but every time I fire up my laptop, I never feel like I’m alone, and I’m somehow compelled to connect with the online world even if only as a lurker reading blogs or news sites or what.
I’m sure that this comes from years and years of tapping away at the keyboard and mixing that in with emails and Twitter and blogging and so on and so forth. I don’t consider myself addicted to the internet; I just feel as though it never really leaves me when I disconnect and attempt to write.
Writing my newest novel by longhand is a drastic move, and it’s been fantastic so far. I do feel a lot more connected with the story as noted in previous posts about this, and I’m forced to move forward with the rough draft, regardless. At the moment, the material I’ve written has been bare bones stuff with hardly any character or scene descriptions, and that’s what’s been helping me in getting my mojo back after so many weeks of burnout.
When I use my laptop to write, I always – always – start out by going back to the previous chapter I wrote and tweak with it, revising or rewriting passages, before moving on to write new material. It’s a method that’s helped me a lot in the past, but it also tends to slow me down because I tend to think – maybe overthink – what I need to write next. On any given writing day, I drag my feet for a couple of hours, tweaking and checking out the internet or futzing with my notes before falling into a rhythm of writing for only an hour after.
With longhand, my laptop’s shut down, and I just write four pages at a time, regardless of the quality of the dialogue or scene. All I do is write short notes along the margins alerting me to details I need to expand or explore during the revision process. There’s no room for me to go back and tweak with stuff. I can’t just delete and start over. I’m forced to push forward and keep the momentum going, and the smaller word count I aim for (1,000 words per day) is a lot more doable especially when spread out through the week as opposed to three times the number crammed into a couple of writing days.
It’s easy on my wrist, that’s for sure, but I don’t feel pressure or fatigue, which also translates to a more refreshed mind when I open my notebook the next day. For me, writing longhand also makes it a lot easier to write every day and enjoy the process.
And it’s that last part, I think, that’s really helping me get over my burnout.