The 30-minute musings are helping me flex my writing muscles, both physical and mental, in preparation for the 2018 Nanowrimo experience. I am new to writing, having only just really committed to it at the start of last year’s Nanowrimo. I write essays in the form of blog posts for work and for dance and have for years, though that doesn’t feel like “writing” to me in the same way. Making fiction happen seems to use a totally different space in my brain, and that’s a good thing.
When I write fiction, I get to create on paper like how I create on the dance-floor. I’m listening to subtle cues to get me from point A to point B, and am pulling inspiration from wherever I can find it. These musings also give me a space to try new things out – emotional quality, voice, characterization, format – everything is fair game and presents the opportunity for growth and improvement.
Making the act of practice public is both awesome and terrifying. A good friend introduced me to the idea of “Do the Scary Thing” and it has had a significant impact on me. I am public in my dance process – filming practice sessions and the like – and have chosen to be public in my writing process. Austin Kleon talks about the importance of showing your work (in his book titled, well, “Show Your Work“) and I have taken that to heart. Polished products are nice, too, and I look forward to the time when I can stand on a rooftop and shout about my first published novel. In the meantime, I will continue to write and use this form as a show-and-tell of sorts.
I started doing my 30-minute musings on September 22, 2017. I sit down on my couch with my trusty laptop and set a timer on my phone for 30 minutes. Then I write. I don’t plan or prepare. Whatever story comes out of me is what I get for my 30 minutes. The only rule is that I need to write until the timer goes off. I’ve done the same for this post as well, actually. The pressure of the time and wanting to be sure I get to a stopping point in the story when the timer sounds is interesting.
I’m learning a lot about myself in this process. I have, so far, learned that it’s much easier for me to write heavy stories than it is to write happy ones. Dialog is still an emerging skill, both in content and in terms of the grammar rules (where DOES the comma go, and when, for example). I do well with taking one small thought and turning it into a story, and when I do the story rarely has anything to do with what triggered the thought in the first place. I have discovered that I don’t swear easily in my writing and that I prefer to write in first person. I gave second person a try (that one will be published in a week or two) and want to play with that more.
I’ve also learned that 30 minutes is just enough time to get a story started! I set that arbitrary time limit because of Nanowrimo. I over-wrote last year, sometimes typing for 6 hours a day, and managed to give myself a stress injury. I also made double the goal word count and finished my novel at just over 100,000 words. I want to stay more within the limits this year and am planning on limiting myself to a maximum of 3 hours on write-in days and 1 hour on solo days, so the 30 minutes seemed like a reasonable starting point. It’s so short, though! I just get started with the story and the timer is close to the end, so then I need to wrap it up so i have a logical finish. That I’m hungry for more is a good sign. I’m hoping the 60 minutes feels like a huge luxury come November first.
Writing is only one of the creative things I do, and it needs to share time with the others. My daily practices include yoga and bellydance. I also have a weekly drawing practice, as well as a weekly art journaling practice. Being creative every day is an important part of my existence and I’m happy to have writing take its place among the modalities. When I’m being creative it’s as if I can feel my brain tingling and growing. I am aware of myself in a way that doesn’t carry over into my “regular” life. I also relish in the pause that these creative moments bring. When I’m creating, it doesn’t matter what chores await me at home or what big work decision needs to be made. For the 10-120 minutes, I’m absorbed in creating I get to focus on nothing more than the art in front of me. Having those pauses is so important! I am better equipped to do the things that need doing in my regular world because of the pause I take for art. It’s almost like I’m getting to take mini vacations with all the restful benefits. Art does a body good!
I started writing because I missed (still miss) Jen. She was the writer amongst us and had been since we were kids. She was the one who discovered Nanowrimo and did it every year. Or at least I think she did it every year. She kept her writing close to her chest and didn’t make a big to do of it. She has pages and pages of things written and I only ever saw a tiny sliver of the work she’d created. When she died, it seemed like someone had to do nano in her stead, so I did it by way of making a tribute to her. Much like she taught me things about myself that I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) see, I’m still learning about myself through writing. Nanowrimo made a huge impact on my last year, and I’m excited to see what happens this year. My husband has signed up for the first time so we’ll have writing dates on the couch this month which should be interesting. If you haven’t tried it, maybe 2018 is your year! The community that surrounds Nanowrimo is wonderful and inspiring. And, just maybe, writing will change YOUR life.