He likes to curl up inside them, get comfortable, maybe play a little while, and only exit said box if provoked. Like I said, we have some things in common.
My box is not made from cardboard; it’s made from routine. I write where I’m used to writing, what I’m used to writing, how I’m used to writing, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discipline or hard work — it’s just that these efforts, thus far, have been focused on one project, and one project only: my novel.
Something has provoked me to poke my head out of the box, and that something — as I mentioned the other day — is Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop. Both because we’re supposed to, and because I want (need) to, I’m setting some goals here. By my calculations, each of these goals has to do with shedding and shredding my cardboard boxes, in one way or another.
Box #1: When I write, I write one thing: my novel.
Boxbuster Goal #1: Work on my ability to switch gears; make quality progress on two projects in the same week. I’m editing the second draft of my novel, and I don’t want to take a fourteen-week hiatus from it. Thing is, though, I’ve been working on this novel for a while now, and have never tried to write anything on the side (other than blog posts). One thing I want to get out of this workshop is the ability to switch gears from one project to the next, which means a) clear focus on each in its time, and b) quality progress made on each.
Box #2: I work on an über-flexible schedule. This is comfortable.
Boxbuster Goal #2: Make a tighter schedule and stick to it. If I’m going to effectively break out of Box #1, this is imperative. Having a flexible schedule works just fine for what I’ve been doing. However, if I’m going to make quality progress on two different projects, I need to be a bit more specific in the way I plan my writing time. This may include earlier wake-up calls or a few midnight-oil-burning sessions — early mornings and late nights are two times of the day I rarely use for writing. It would be good to stretch myself to work in times other than those I’m accustomed to. Specific application of this goal looks like making a weekly schedule on Sundays, with specific goals for each block of writing time. Then, obviously, try to follow it.
Box #3: I don’t write short stories.
Boxbuster Goal #3: Learn how to write them and turn out some good ones. So, it’s not that I don’t like short stories, or think I can’t write them — it’s just that I’ve never focused any energy on learning about them, or trying to write them. I’m in that writing-my-novel box, not the come-up-with-several-shorter-things-that-are-fresh-and-totally-unrelated-to-your-novel box, and frankly? The idea of the second box sounds kind of scary. That said, I’m excited about crawling inside, because it sounds like a worthy (and fun) challenge.
Box #4: Coming up with fresh ideas has never been my strong suit.
Boxbuster Goal #4: Write interesting things, from fresh ideas, that mean something. I can come up with fresh ideas for stories, but a lot of times, they either take forever to occur to me, or just don’t feel special enough. I want to train myself to think out of the box when it comes to writing fresh ideas. This includes everything from the plot itself, to the characters, to descriptions, to settings, to scenes: I want to make something special, something that cannot be labeled cliché. I want to write not my first idea, but maybe the fifth.
The key to this goal is the phrase “train myself” — I want to devote time to working on ideas, to be more intentionally observant in everyday life, and to think away from paper. What I mean by that is, I’ve noticed it’s hard for me to think through ideas while jogging on the treadmill, for example, or while doing anything where I can’t physically write/type my thoughts out.
Box #5: I like to make general goals instead of specific ones. General ones aren’t as painful to fail.
Boxbuster #5: The first four goals were pretty all-encompassing, so I’d better include some specific goals that pertain to the writing itself. I tend to write about generally non-controversial issues; it would be a challenge for me to write something outside this comfort zone. My current WIP stars a young male; I’d like to write about a young female (I’m thinking anywhere from five to thirty-five). I want to write at least one piece that’s been inspired by song lyrics, and at least one piece that takes something extremely clichéed and puts a fresh twist on it. I want to write something inspired by my experiences in Shanghai. And, I shall give myself the freedom to make these inspirations manifest themselves as either an invisible top-layer of lacquer, or as the more in-your-face splash of red paint.
So, there you go. This is going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited about it. Also, just so you know, part of the workshop includes writing updates about our progress. We’re to post every Sunday, so expect that here.
Other participants from around here include Linda Cassidy Lewis, Melissa, Cassie Hart, Chibi Doucet, Amber Dawn Weaver, Ashley Nava, and (of course) Merrilee Faber — I’ve linked to their blogs from their names, if you want to check out their goals (which should be up soon, if they’re not up yet) or their progress along the way.
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