Sunday, December 02, 2007

Notes on the Process

Where did the week go? I don't know. Nor do I know why I kept forgetting to write a blog post until I was too tired, but... it went. And I forgot.

Last Thursday a storm blew in, the first in a long time. It rained in the morning and again in the evening. I enjoyed that -- I always enjoy the rain -- and I also had a bit of a breakthrough in my writing process. In the days before I'd set myself to get to work, using the timer and, eschewing perfectionism, determined that I would write out a sketch of the notes I'd come up with for a scene. I did it and was quite pleased with myself. What I wrote was bad, just as I'd said it could be.

So then the next day, Thursday, I got myself behind the computer at 9:30am (my new tentative time to get there - Flylady's routines are working splendidly) but instead of pressing on, I was just dismayed and confused, upset, hamstrung. The scenes I had written the day before weren't right. And I just had to get them right. I had to do that right then, on Thursday. But every time I looked at the work, my thoughts would snarl and I would run away.

So I went back and reviewed earlier entries and recalled -- duh! -- I was taking BABY steps. When I wrote that draft, I was letting it be completely bad. Of course it would be flawed and grossly imperfect now. Nor was there time to let the perfectionism take over, either. Baby steps needed to be applied on subsequent drafts just as much as on the first draft. Every day, in every project, it seems. Just like I'm not going to get the house decluttered or completely cleaned in one day, so I'm not going to get the chapter, or even the scene right in one day. In fact, it almost never works that way. Whatever I do today, the work is better, clearer, closer to what it will be when it's done.

So I decided to set a specific, concrete goal for the day: I would go through the material I'd written paragraph by paragraph and note briefly what was there and any thoughts that occurred as I did so. When I began to do the work, though, I suddenly became aware of the awful negative, mocking tone of my thoughts as I analyzed. When I noted something illogical or out of the blue, my approach with myself was critical, dismissive and mocking. "What an idiotic development!" my inner voice would say. "WHY in the world would THAT happen?!" And so on. Since Flylady has addressed this aspect of the whole perfectionism syndrome -- be aware of the negative voices in your head and shut them down -- I think I was better able to be aware of them. And being aware of them helped me to tone them down.

Instead of heated denunciations, I was able to ask myself why such and such might have happened, or what could be the result of something that I'd written as occurring. I think that was very helpful, not least because you don't give yourself such a feeling that it's all horrible and there's absolutely no hope. The very language you use with yourself reminds you it's a process, a series of steps and adjustments and it's not all going to get done today.

Having done the analysis, I did a summary of it and discovered what the problems were: contradictions and/or nullifications in the dialog, no stakes, no goals, no consequences for any of the supposed threats and no specifics. Seeing all that was great because now I knew what I needed to do. Lay out the contradictions and decide which way I wanted to go. Set up some goals and stakes and consequences. And work on being specific.

Best of all, I did all that in 3 hours.

Have a great week!