Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts on Process

I need to learn how to outwit myself. I mean, I already know how to outwit myself a little, which might call my sanity into question because it sort of implies I'm smarter than I am while being dumber than I am at the same time, which is probably true, which is weird.... We all sort of outwit ourselves anyway when we do things like act on our impulses WHILE we second-guess ourselves, thus doing things when we're still thinking through whether we want to do them, thus acting on something other than thought, thus we are tricked by ourselves, thus the statement "I surprised myself." We do things like that when we maybe kiss a crush or jump out of an airplane or perform well when we're too nervous to be capable of performing that well. It can be done somehow, this outwitting of oneself. It's a strange phenomenon. I've seen a lot of people do it.

I'm trying to learn to do it strategically, though, in long-term ways. I've noticed that there are some writing habits I have that feel, while I'm doing them, like they're necessary to my process. Such as typing three or four pages, and stopping for the rest of the day because I'm somewhat tired and I've learned from experience that if I sit down to write soon while I'm feeling creatively tired then I tend to write in the wrong direction and get myself all tangled up and confused, then I get stuck, then it takes me longerer to progress than it might have if I had continued to take a break for the rest of the day. The system has worked in the past. It keeps me sane and cheerful and I produce writing that pleases me with limited frustration.

There's a big drawback, though: It makes me work slowly in the long run. Month-to-month, given the days when I can't do any writing at all, or the days I'm not too creative, or the days I decide to take a break, I work more slowly than I'd like. If I could manage a discipline of three pages a day, every single day, that's ninety pages, or two thousand five hundred words, per month. My current incomplete novel draft is already fifty thousand words. That's twenty fucking months work and it's not even close to done, first draft. The process is too slow.

If I wish to speed the process, it becomes a puzzle in problem diagnosis. The immediately obvious solution to the problem, "I'm writing slower than I'd like," is, "write more." However, I've already learned that just writing more gets me screwy and makes more work than it ought to make. Therefore, the problem isn't that I'm writing slower than I'd like. It logically isn't that problem because when I do sit and write I'll often write around seventy or ninety words a minute without typographical errors and with words and phrases and character moments that are getting close to what I want to really say in the story. Therefore the speed of my actual writing isn't in question. The problem is the frequency that I sit to write. However, I find that it's difficult to sit and write more than three or four or six pages in a day.

Thus, I need to outsmart myself somehow. If I lose focus--which is what I do--after three pages of prose in a day, what I need to do is trick myself into having focus for either longer, or at frequenter intervals.

And there are ways to do that. Like outlining, or changing the medium that I'm using to do stuff--just going off with a pen and paper instead of typing helps a lot, or if I sketch something. I'm not sure if I have a conclusion except to say that I'm finished outsmarting my lazy ass so that now I'm in a mood to go write some of the paper that's due in class tomorrow. I didn't have the focus to write it. Now I'm in essay mode.

No comments: