Scheduling passion

Prepare yourself: I’m about to write about writing. How dull can you get, right? You must not have met me if you didn’t already know that. I have two sides: super dull and super fun. And super fun usually requires a bit of alcohol to loosen up the super dull side.

Oh my god, you’re still reading this? Wow, that’s dedication – reading about dullness to get to the dull part. Here’s what I was going to write about writing:

I’ve said before that it is my passion. It is what I want to do as a career. It is something I have naturally done my whole life. I have written short stories, letters, poems, and countless journal entries and blogs (OK, 810 blogs. This thing has a counter, so “countless” doesn’t apply [and we all know that nothing is countless, there just isn’t enough reason to count something so trivial]). I have started novels. I have never finished one. And I’m starting to learn why.

Last year soon after Holden was born I started my novel. I wrote 23 pages pretty rapidly and although it isn’t an any particular order or polished, I really like what I wrote. I was proud of it. And then I thought to myself, Hey, this is as far as I’ve ever gotten on a novel. Let’s finish this! Let’s get this thing written and sent off to some publishers for a lot of rejection but possibly maybe one person somewhere will read it and like it too.

So I did what any goal-oriented and disciplined (and nerdy) person would do and made and Excel spreadsheet. I calculated how many words I should aim for, and how many pages I should write each month. I put in a formula for what percentage of completion I’m at (because what’s an Excel spreadsheet without formulas?)

My mother-in-law had offered to watch my boys each Friday afternoon so I can come home (after stopping at Crane Coffee, of course) and write, uninterrupted. So you’d think if I put out 23 pages last year in a very short time, I would be up to at least sixty or seventy by now, seeing as my kids are older and slightly less maintenance, and I have an afternoon a week to dedicate completely to it. But I’m only at 40 pages. And if I’m being completely honest (which I am), the 17 pages I’ve written this year aren’t as good as last year’s 23 pages.

I’ve wondered at this. I do have some free time, of course. I find time to exercise and read and post blogs. I can’t blame it on time. And every time I do sit down to write, words pour onto the screen, so I can’t blame it on writer’s block (we all know I always have something to say). I know what I will write about next, which direction the story is headed, which characters are important and which are one-dimensional. So what is the problem?

It was only tonight when I realized maybe my ambition took a wrong turn and this passion turned into a project. Maybe the spreadsheet and the scheduled writing times took the passion out of it and turned it into something that much too closely resembles a job. Maybe instead of worrying about when I plan to have it finished and who I should submit it to and what readers would think I should just stop worrying about it altogether.

Maybe I should let the story live on my zip drive and when the urge strikes, I plug it in and write some more. Maybe I should stop critiquing and counting and thinking ahead and just treat my novel the way I do my blog: when I feel it, I write. When I don’t feel it, I pop some popcorn and resume “Vanderpump Rules.” I want to want to write. Maybe to do it right, I need to do it the way I always have rather than forcing it into some schedule or spreadsheet. Time to go back to the basics.

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