Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, November 04, 2009 2 comments
Revision is my thing. I work as an editor, after all. Give me a stack of pages and a pen and I'm happy as a clam. But put me in front of a blank screen? Ai-yi-yi.

As a result of my blank screen dread, I do most of my rough drafting in those el-cheapo spiral notebooks you can get 10 for $1 at a grocery store back-to-school sale. The el-cheapo factor seems to cry for messy lists, half-baked plot ideas, random musings that may or may not end up working their way into usable prose. The downside of this dubious system is that I sometimes spend as much time trying to find a nugget as I spent writing it in the first place. Time stealer=bad news for this working mom trying to squeeze in some writing.

I know I need to get over this blank screen phobia, and pronto. One of my critique group friends recommends a software solution, this program called "Write or Die" that monitors how many words you churn out in a given timeframe. Pause too long, produce too little and it metes out punishments (the user can select the level of severity). This sounds kind of big-guns to me. Punative systems, like praise-averse bosses, tend to make me less productive.

Instead, I figured I'd set up a simple experiment and reward myself with library book time/Netflix with spouse if it worked. I had to write raw for 40 minutes. Raw AND autobiographical, the two things that really make me squirm.

It was a pretty successful experiment. I not only filled two pages, but tapped into a powerful memory from my teen years that will make a decent short story if I keep going with it. Take that, stupid phobia!
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2 comments:

  1. Ah, now that's going about it the opposite way, isn't it? Rewards, instead of punishment. I'm not sure what it says about me that I work better under the threat of dire consequences, but I'll leave the psychoanalyses to others.

    But congratulations on a successful experiment! I'm keen to see the short story that may result. And like I said, I think you write more autobiographically than you let on. (There's a good post on exactly that issue over at The Literary Lab blog today).

    Cheers!

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  2. Well, Simon, our writing styles alone should be enough to show that we're wired very differently. I know I can be the superhero employee for a boss who tells me I'm great, because his/her belief makes me believe. Conversely, I tend to stumble and fail in the face of an authority who only ever points out my shortcomings. You might say I write for my cheerleaders, to confirm all their hopes for me, and I push myself very hard to not let them down.

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