It’s a new year, all right, but it looks kind of like the old one: cloudy, damp, snow lingering from, what, a month ago? Besides being New Years Day, though, today is the first anniversary of this blog. I wasn’t sure how long I’d stick with it, and there were months when posts were few and far between, but I’m still here. And it doesn’t particularly bother me that only a few people stop by each day. I get a kick when the occasional comment pops up, but it’s okay if everyone else chooses silence. I respect that.
I do resolutions, like most people. I’ll keep most of them private–let’s just say that weight figures prominently on the list again–but one I will share is reading. I resolve to read more this year. Being a little on the obsessive side, I have a database of my books. Whenever I buy one I add it to the database. When I read one, I make a note. So I can tell you exactly how many books I read in 2005: 68. That’s up from 2004, but it still seems like a paltry number. Fewer than 6 books a month, and that’s including literary journals. I need to do better than that.
I’ll also share another one: writing. Lately my discipline has just plain sucked. I can sit at the desk, but little happens after that. It isn’t writers’ block, it’s simply that I’m so easily distracted–by email, by the internet, by the dog, by the mail, by the coffee pot, by the bathroom, by bills, by the stock market, by you name it. I had hoped that my residency at VCCA recently, where distractions were cut to a minimum, would help. And in fact I did work better there. But now that I’m home, I’m worse than I was before. What’s it going to take? Meditation? Music? Drugs? I’m taking today off from writing–I’ll clear the decks of as many other obligations as I can–but tomorrow, January 2, I will come to my desk at 7 AM, ready to concentrate on the story I need to finish, and then in a few days, I’ll start the final push on the novel revisions. My goal: finish the novel by the end of January.
I’m a sucker for new habits, but here’s my new one and it’s working really well for me.
I declare each day a “writing” day or a “revising” day. I don’t keep count of how many are which kind, but I do insist that every day is one kind or the other.
On revising days, I revise. Nuff said.
On writing days, at whatever time I choose, I put a “fresh” CD in the player (or the iPod), I put the ear-canceling earphones on my head, I take up notepad and pen, I fix my gaze on something (anything at all), and I write from the moment the CD starts playing until the moment it ends. The rules are write down everything that comes into my head that I have time to get down. Do not willfully ignore anything. If at any time my pen stops moving, gaze harder at the “object” and write about it. Do not censor.
When it’s over, I am often so revved I continue writing for another hour or more. Sometimes what I write is what I’m working on. Sometimes what I write is unexpected. Sometimes I babble idiotically but eventually fall somewhere, even if it’s for a short while, and the gazing sets me going again if I slacken.
What’s amazing is how the writing from these “gazing” times weaves back or forward into the work at hand, and how these times stimulate everything else.
So nice to hear from you! And thanks for the suggestion. I’ve got some of those fancy earphones, and a CD player at my desk, so maybe I’ll give that a try, with or without the gazing part. Happy 2006 to you too!
>Cliff, Happy New Year! I was happy to find your blog spot and to read some of your stories/comments. I enjoyed reading about poor Walt who had to deal with the dead deer and his dead marriage. My resolution for the year is to figure out this blogging stuff. I’m not off to a good start. I spent quite a bit of time logging in and choosing templates and such. Sent a message even. But that seems to have disappeared. Hmmm. If you have tips on blogging–dos and don’ts, please help.
As for writing, I keep a strict schedule. From 10-2 is writing time. No phones. No e-mail. Nothing save crisis will take me from the screen. That doesn’t mean I’m always creative. I can sit and stare at the screen for a long time without coming up with much. But then if I hadn’t stared at the screen and made the time, I wouldn’t even have that little bit.
Best to you,
>Jana, thanks for stopping by. As for writing time, I clearly have a character flaw that prevents me from focusing as I should. Sigh.
>Happy New Year, Cliff. And happy anniversary. I enjoy coming here to read your posts. BTW, nice pic.