Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing Copioussssly

by Laurel Corona

I have had three novels and one non-fiction book published in three years, and people often ask me how I have managed to be so prolific. Actually, if you count the YA (young adult) non-fiction I wrote between 1999 and 2004, I’ve published 23 books in 12 years, so I guess those are pretty good credentials to call myself an expert on keeping going as a writer.

I love words, of course, so I can’t help but notice that so many of the observations and advice I have on this subject can be summarized in words that start with the letter “S.” Here are sixteen of them:

Sitzfleisch—A Yiddish term for—well, you figure it out. It’s the ability to stay put in your chair for long periods of time without jumping up to see what’s in the fridge, or who’s sent you e-mail. I’m still working on this one!

Structure—A calendar with specific goals and deadlines (self-imposed are fine), and a work schedule (including quitting time) are really essential to keep from working too much. That’s a bigger problem for me than working too little, but I think it would work equally well in the opposite situation.

Stamina—Staying fit is crucial. I make time for exercise every day (well almost) since my overall health governs everything else.

Sanitation—Get out of the jammies and into the shower. Wash your hair, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss. Sssserioussssly!

Stretch–This is the opposite of sitzfleish but is also very important. Amazingly, even getting up and walking around for one minute to think through a phrasing or a plot detail can have amazing results.

Side interests—Sudoku? Step class? Shopping? Calling on different parts of your body and brain is restorative. I find I can’t read for pleasure when I’m working on a book--my brain and eyes are too tired--so I have come up with the solution of audiobooks, which I listen to while I’m out running. Very good motivation to exercise too!

Sunscreen—Take time out, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Find a pool to jump in or a patch of grass to sit on. Think “vacuoussssss.” Try not to think about what you’re writing, but even if you do, it will still feel like a change of pace.

Skin—As in “Superthick.” Learn to laugh at your reviews. Reading them aloud in a whiny voice helps.

Self-Confidence—writing well is never easy, but you can do it. Remember, it’s just a draft until it’s published.

Spellbound—This is something you have to be. You have to find your subject enthralling. Your curiosity needs to be boundlesssss.

Seniority—Writing is one of those things where it helps to have some years under your belt. Tell yourself that all that wisdom explains why you need a larger belt.

Say “When”—When you’re agonizing over commas, that’s a good clue you are really ready to launch your work into the world.

Supporters, Sidekicks, Soulmates—Self-explanatory! If you’re lucky, you have a supportive family and friends, like I do. Another source of support is a writing group. I don’t participate in these because I get too wrapped up in my own work to pay quality attention to anyone else’s, but many people find sharing works in progress essential to their productivity.

Sleep–I find that very often I wake up ready to rip with a new idea I must have been processing during the night.

Speak Aloud–-as a change of pace, especially late in the process, it works really well for me to read my work aloud, not to anyone else, but to myself.

And finally, perhaps my best piece of advice of all.

Shitty First Drafts!–Thanks to Anne Lamott for this one. Perfectionism is the biggest enemy of many writers. Give yourself permission to write badly when that’s the best you can do. I can always manage to write a preliminary version of something, because I know that the purpose of a first draft is just to get something on the page. You have to have something to work with. You will improve it again and again, but not today.

Fellow writerssss out there in the blogossssphere–got more?


Kathi Diamant said...

Splendid, Laurel! I would only add "Small doses of Single-malt Scotch," which helped me finish my book!

Laurel Corona said...

Love it, Kathi! And maybe a few Mimossssssas," although perhaps they aren't strong enough?

Caitlin Rother said...

Great advice, Laurel, and I love your sense of humor! I find that an approaching deadline and a cappuccino makes my fingers fly. I've learned not to panic because years of meeting daily deadlines has trained me to always finish on time, but some fear of falling short of my own standards does keep me focused.
Cheers, Caitlin Rother

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