Sunday, November 13, 2011

Measured Steps

This week I thought a lot about measured steps, progress, forward motion. Most likely because it’s November and oodles of my online friends (and several real life friends) are NaNo-ing. (I am not.) With so many people focusing an entire month on meeting word counts each day, it got me thinking of production output. For some, the NaNoWriMo challenge sparks creativity. For me it does the opposite. I get to feeling like a machine – spitting out a set number of words in a day, a week, a month, but losing the enjoyment of it in the process.

I am a slow writer. Ideas need to simmer in my subconscious before I can work them out on the page. If we’re measuring, maybe that means less rewrites later on, or maybe not. Who knows? In any case, that’s the way my brain works.

I’m all for setting goals, but for me, what works are goals that exist in the background. They keep me motivated to stretch myself and see what I’m capable of, but they aren’t burdensome.

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos.

I spoke a few months ago about a book I was reading called The Art of Possibility, in which the authors propose that our focus doesn’t have to be on measured steps. It can be about embracing the fact that we are active participants – in life, in writing, in whatever.
I love this quote from the book: “The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate. Enrollment is that life force at work, lighting sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions. Sometimes the sparks ignite a blaze; sometimes they pass quietly, magically, almost imperceptibly, from one to another to another.”

Whether you find that spark through NaNoWriMo this month, through the friends you connect with via blogging, or any of a million other possible ways, I hope you find that passionate energy that keeps you going.                              

What is the spark that motivates you?


  1. I think I really do prosper when there's a deadline. So I do well with NaNo.

  2. My spark is the thought that in this lifetime, I can do something in words and stories for a little someone who needs encouragements to be a little braver and stronger in believing him/herself. (Of course, there's the dream of a bookshop by the sea ... and the inevitable vanity of becoming someone with enough accomplishments to show family and friends. This last one sounds bad, I know. But I can't help it.)

  3. I am all for goals, but at this time in my life the pressure of NaNo goals is not possible. I could plan to do it, but then something comes up and I feel like I failed because I didn't accomplish the goal. For example I joined the writers champagne and then wound up being at a hospital for 25 days of it. Then I felt like I let everyone down by not participating like I wanted to.

    Pamela Jo

  4. For me that spark comes from the story itself, not NaNo or anything else. I never thought I could do NaNo because I used to take about a year to finish writing a novel. But this summer, I got an idea that literally sent fireworks of inspiration through me. I wrote the entire draft in 13 days and it was my best work ever. Every story is different. Some need to be written slowly. Others pour out of you and you just try to keep up.

  5. Even though I say I'm doing NaNoReMo to revise, I have actually found that slowing down and relaxing is improving my writing. I'm even writing long hand because it frees me from the tyranny of the words already on the page and the inherent tidiness of writing with a keyboard.

    At this point in my writing journey, I need to dig deeper and write with more emotion. That can be exhausting. Sometimes, I can only do a little at a time, and sometimes it flows and I get more done.

  6. NaNo was more than I could handle this year, but I'm doing PiBoIdMo and having a great time in the community of picture book writers! :)

  7. Like you, Ruth, I'm a slow writer. I am blessed that I have a writing life -- it is integrated in the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, mothering, walking, etc. I feel called to write and share and that's what keeps me at it. There is joy. Vijaya

  8. I'm with you as to being a slow percolator of ideas. I often just start with a list of words on paper, then sleep on whatever those words have generated in the way of character, setting, plot. When I'm in this mode, I sometimes think I'll never get a story started, but then something happens and I'm off and writing.

    Thanks for helping with the passionate energy!

  9. I normally work well when there's a deadline looming but the NaNo workload was just too much for me to contemplate this year. I thought about doing it but I'm now quite relieved that I didn't.

  10. I'm strange. Deadlines work well for me. This nano has been hard because of outside priorities, but I'm still trying!

  11. Reading inspirational things motivates me . . . whether it's a quote, or a well-written book, or a piece of music. It makes me want to create something as beautiful. :)

  12. I did NaNo one year. This year I decided to do PiBoIdMo. It is loads of fun coming up with all these ideas. I don't likey deadlines. They tend to make me nervous. And I'm a slow writer too. I have to let things fester. This was a fabulous post!

  13. Some day, when the world is re-born, we'll all stop thinking about word counts altogether. Because, literarily speaking, stories are not a word count contest.
    Slow, steady and bottom-line good does it.

    Until then, I find that I do sometimes think about how to makes it longer, how to makes it shorter etc. I don’t like this word count business, but I am aware of it, and give myself challenges that take industry parameters into account.
    But this never the magical writing that sometimes descends.

  14. NaNo is more than I can handle write now. I write PB. Maybe some day. I love it when an idea finally comes together and I sit up late at night writing, because I'm inspired and can't stop.

  15. I wasn't sure about doing NaNo this year because while I have finished before I have never produced any quality writing. I did it this year because I am working with Martha Alderson, "the plot whisperer" & author of the book, The Plot Whisperer. I think she can help me turn my words this year into something more than I have written the other times I participated.

    And deadlines tend to give me the kick in the pants I need.

  16. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that you need to do what works for you. There's no right or wrong when it comes to writing, and you need to do what you need to do to enjoy it!

  17. Great post! I am doing Nano, largely because I like the challenge of it, and I like hanging out and writing with my local Nano group. But I am also a slower writer, like you, and I think that what matters more than word count is words that count. It doesn't do much good to write fast but be unable to use what you wrote for anything.

    And thanks for stopping by my blog today. If you try Story Dam, let me know what you think of it!

  18. I'm right there with you Ruth! I need a slower pace to create. Since I'm currently writing about Islands, I'm listening to a lot of Island inspiring music! Lol! Even though I'm a little chilled right now, I'm dreaming of warm sand, sun and surf! ; )

  19. This is a WONDERFUL post! I love it. And the pictures you used are so beautiful. I get inspired just by "living life." And whenever I read a really good book, I automatically want to get back to work on mine!

  20. Trisha - The fact that the process is different for all of us keeps it interesting ;) Glad you're enjoying NaNo!

    Claudine - That's an admirable spark: wanting to help others. (We all have a little bit of the vanity, as well.) Hope you get the bookshop by the sea someday!

    Pamela Jo - Glad you're out of the hospital. Hope you're feeling better. Life happens. There's always the next campaign.

    Kelly - Who needs Nano when you can draft an entire novel in thirteen days? Whew! I can't even comprehend that.

    Stephanie - I understand that. I find the deeper, more emotional stuff exhausting as well. Sometimes I only eek out a sentence or two before I have to leave the keyboard and take a break.

    Susanna - PiBoldMo sounds interesting. I'll have to look into that. Glad you're enjoying it!

    Vijaya - Finding joy in the process is a must!

    C.Lee - Glad to hear from so many other "slow" writers. I often feel like things are never really going to gel - and then the magic happens and I'm so relieved that it hasn't all been for nothing.

    Rosalind - There are definately deadlines I can work with but Nano isn't one of them.

    Lisa - Best of luck with it!

    Janet - Yes, music is a big motivator for me too.

    Robyn - Oooo another PiBoldMo mention. I really need to check this out.

    Mirka - Great attitude. This is something I constantly have to remind myself.

    Patricia - Oh, I love those nights too. I'm due for another.

    Melissa - Wow! Working with Martha Alderson must be amazing. She's such a great teacher. Her YouTube series really helped me with my current WIP.

    Talli - Thanks for stopping by. It's interesting to hear what does and doesn't work for others, but you're right, in the end we only have to focus on what works for us.

    Chipper Muse - That would make a great slogan: What matters more than word count is words that count." I like it =D

    Sheri - Island inspiring music - that sounds relaxing. Sounds like a great project to get you through the long winter.

  21. Abby - I'm glad you like the pictures. I always enjoy picking them out =D

  22. That sounds like a fantastic book. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I'm a "slow" writer as well. I do need to time for things to percolate in my brain but once it's done, I can write up a storm. :)

  23. What a nice post :) You know, I find sparks in different things at different times. In books. In nature. In the shower. In NaNo. In writing sprints with my friends. Retreats. Late nights. Caffeine...

  24. I used to be a fast writer, and that speed yielded many drawer manuscripts. I enjoy being a slow writer nowadays. But once those ideas are ready, I'm raring to go.

    I find sparks in so many places. Right now I'm motivated by ROW80. I love posting my updates once or twice a week on my blog, which makes me eager to share my progress on the next post.

  25. I'm a slow writer too and seeing so many doing Nano has made me feel quite inadequate. This helped. Thank you.

  26. I find that real life sparks my work. My stories have started from a snippet of an experience that I've expanded in words, and my blog posts are all inspired by photos I take in my everyday travels. Life is the best muse :)

  27. I'm also a slow writer who would freeze up or churn out nothing but tripe if I entered the race that is NaNo. I'm glad it works for a lot of people, but I'm not them. :)

  28. Hi Ruth, Thanks so much for stopping by my blog space this morning. Like you, I'm not Nano'ing, and quite frankly it intimidates me like crazy. I tend to let things "stew" like you, but I'm cheering on my friends who are cranking out the word count. (And secretly I'm a tinge jealous.) :)

  29. Hey Ruth :) I thrive on deadlines (I was a journalist for years). I am doing NaNo this year. I spent a few months preparing beforehand. I had a detailed outline, research, and character worksheets. I'm in love with my characters and the story. The words are flowing out of me, and I'm projected to "finish" my 50k words by next week. Does that mean it's ready? Of course not. Will I spend months revising? You bet. But I'll have the ideas on the page :)

    The thing I love most about writing is there is no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone's process is different, and what works for one person may not work for the next.

    Great post, and great pictures!

  30. Awesome photos...great blog background.



  31. Karen - While things are percolating I can get impatient. It's always a relief when the words begin to flow.

    Sara - How lovely to find your spark in so many things!

    Medeia - Sometimes we have to try everything at least once before finding what works best for us.

    Jen - Glad you found it helpful. It's always hard if we fall into the comparison trap.

    Joanne - Thanks for stopping by. you have a lovely blog. Very inspiring.

    Marcia - I'm with you!

    Sarah - Thanks for dropping by.

    Courtney - So glad you're enjoying NaNo. I have a good friend who is absolutely energized by the challenge of it, and it obviously works for a lot of people.

    Elizabeth - Thanks for stopping by.