Today, we’re facing a tough subject head-on. If we’re writers, why is it SO DARN hard to sit our hind-ends in the chair and…you know…write?? Lack of talent? I don’t think so. Laziness? Puhleeze. If so, we’d all be lounging in our PJs eating Godiva chocolates. Fear? Hmm…now we may be getting somewhere. Whatever the reason, we have to get over it because writers write, right? Amy Atwell’s GIAM group also runs a 100×100 loop where writers commit to writing at least 100 words each day (yes, Sundays too) for 100 days. One of my favorite and most inspiring women is the moderator of the 100×100 loop. So please welcome Jo Anne Banker as she talks about making your writing habit a priority!
First, I’d like to thank Kelsey (and Adrienne and Tracey) for Romance University, a wonderful resource for the writing community. I’m honored to be here today and to offer my opinion (and Lord knows I have a few) on the habit of writing.
At lunch after a chapter meeting several years ago, a multi-published author imparted to me the value of writing every day and the wisdom of developing the habit. Consensus is that a habit can be developed in three months. I believe three months forms the groundwork, but how one nurtures that habit is an individual choice. I accepted a personal challenge that day, the 100X100. The ground rules of 100X100 are to write at least 100 new words a day on one’s current WIP for 100 consecutive days. Miss a day and start over at Day One.
This method doesn’t work for everyone. Some folks write in creative bursts, spill their souls and their guts onto the page in word dumps that are beautifully written. Book in a Week, Book in a Month, NaNoWriMo. Push hard enough and fast enough for your internal editor to shut down and allow your muse the freedom to create. I can only be jealous. My muse is lazy. She likes to work when I’m asleep. So 100X100 works for me. I’m still a slow writer, but now I’m steady writer, too.
When I first began my writing journey, I heard one catch phrase over and over again regarding any future success as a writer. “Keep your butt in the chair.” But, that’s what we do, right? We park our buns, hands on keyboard, and produce exciting and moving prose. Except it’s not always easy. As I traveled the writing path, I found out a few things: how much I didn’t know about story and craft, how subjective agent and editor opinions are, and how many excellent writers never sell a book. I got rejections, lost confidence, second guessed my work, and discovered that making a decent living writing fiction was tough.
Words don’t flow onto the page for me. I have to think, “grok” my characters and feel what they feel. Black moments are opening a vein, bleeding into the computer. In the process, I leave some private part of myself there for the world to judge. It became harder and harder to ‘keep my butt in the chair.’ This was serious stuff. I needed time to focus on story, connect with my characters and my muse. So I searched for three and four hour blocks of time to write. It rarely happened. I’d write a chapter one weekend, but not write again for weeks. Life happened. I got a divorce, cared for my mother, ran a business, had surgeries, enjoyed my family, and had a social life. My writing continually got shuffled to the end of the line. Does any part of this sound familiar?
Hence the 100X100 challenge. Sounds easy enough. It wasn’t (for me anyway), until I made writing a priority. It came ahead of emails, phone conversations with friends, and a long list of other time sucks I could easily place in my path. I’ve started the challenge several times, finished it some of those times, but I’ve also missed a day and started over. In the process, I learned valuable lessons.
I learned that morning writing works for me. Partially because I have a bookkeeping service in my home, and after 9:00 AM five days a week, two employees show up, the phone rings, and delivery folks traipse in and out. And partially because my muse is active while I sleep, so when I awaken, there exists within me a wonderful transformation of energy and ideas, ready for the page. Some folks are more creative in the PM. We all have our personal process.
I learned that I could write in fifteen-minute blocks and achieve. I learned that writing everyday kept me in my story, with my characters. They whispered to me about their feelings, and how they wanted to express them on the page. I found that if I committed to 100 words (not much, only about ten lines), I did more. I’d write 200 or 300 or 500. And those words and pages added up. Even if exhausted, I’d take fifteen minutes, write that 100, thinking I’d written tripe. Often, I found the words were not only decent, but I’d also turned a necessary corner in plot or my characters had led me in a new or interesting direction.
A couple of years ago, Amy Atwell, creator of the WritingGIAM loops, asked if I was interested in monitoring a 100X100 loop within her circle of networking groups. I needed to get back to a daily habit, and was happy to participate. Because every private group can develop rules to fit their needs, and because new words are only part of the process, we expanded the basics. We defined our criteria as 100 new words or 30 minutes of editing per day on a “production of work aimed at a contract for sale,” whether for a short story, novella or novel. We included revisions, synopses, queries or submission letters – even research, character studies and plot idea outlines. What doesn’t count for us? Blogging, journaling, critiquing, judging for contests, classes, and meeting exercises.
There is an intrinsic value in a group environment. There’s something special about sharing goals and achievements with other like-minded souls. If a fellow writer makes it through a particularly trying day, it’s nice to give or get an ‘attagirl.’ If life gets in the way – and it does – and you miss a day, it’s nice to have other folks who understand, and can support you and help you get started again.
This is a personal challenge. And Day One is my favorite day. Day One is a day filled with new possibilities, new beginnings and new adventures. And it can be the start of a worthwhile habit.
RU crew, do you maintain a daily writing habit? Why or why not? Jo Anne will pop in on and off today to answer questions so please feel free to ask questions and make comments!
Also – you’ll make Kelsey’s little heart pitter-patter with joy if you come by Friday to chat with her about your favorite writing craft books. She’ll provide a list of the RU faves (a list she wishes she’d have three years ago!) and draw for a book giveaway.
Jo Anne’s Bio:
Jo Anne Banker writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction. When life gets tough, Jo Anne draws strength, escape, encouragement, and entertainment from the stories of others. She hopes to do the same with her stories.
Jo Anne is a member of Romance Writer’s of America, is a former board member of West Houston RWA and Northwest Houston RWA, and is a member of Houston Bay Area RWA. Her stories have won or finaled in several contests, including: 2007 Maggie Winner, SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD; 2008 Launching A Star finalist, THIS CHILD IS MINE; 2009 Orange Rose and Emily finalist, THIS CHILD IS MINE; and 2010 TARA finalist, LOST AND FOUND.
Jo Anne lives in Houston, Texas in the eclectic Montrose area with her two pampered cats. She enjoys the theatre, good books, good friends and family.
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