05 November 2012

Assessment of writing habits

While I was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area last week visiting my friend Jackie, I took advantage of her coaching skills to talk through something about my routine over the last month that's been bothering me: namely, the dearth of fiction in my writing diet.

It's not new for me to avoid writing fiction, but I had assumed (silly me) that once I was home full-time and at leisure to write whatever I wanted, the fiction would just explode out of me and I would become a fiction-writing machine. Instead, I wrote and published 19 blog posts in October and spent countless hours on Twitter and Facebook. Okay, I did write two prose poems (both of which I self-published on World Citizen because I judged them to be "too weird" for traditional publication in journals or lit mags). But all those ideas for short stories? For a romance novel? For anything, in fact, that I don't intend to publish immediately? Hardly touched.

Hardly touched, despite the fact that I've tried several strategies for working fiction writing into my schedule. I've tried putting it on my to-do list for the day. I've tried blocking out a particular two-hour chunk of time to work on it. I've tried giving myself fiction-writing prompts during #writeclub. I've tried telling myself I can just freewrite--no pressure, so long as I'm freewriting fiction (which is where the two prose poems came from, so this strategy was slightly more successful than the rest.) And yet I've still managed to avoid working on my short stories and novels. Which, frankly, is starting to freak me out, partly because I'm afraid of losing them completely and partly because they're my best bet for making money off my writing. Lord knows I don't get paid to blog.

But come time to write fiction, despite my anxiety about not doing it, I find myself instead checking email and social media accounts until my head feels so full it's fuzzy. I'm looking for interaction and connection. Attention, even. I'm waiting to see who will respond to the blog post I posted earlier that day. Because although I don't have an overly large fan-base (or perhaps any people in my life whom I could consider "fans" aside from my mother), there's always at least one person who comments on a new post via Facebook. And it's satisfying. I know that at least one person out there has read what I've written and cares enough about it to let me know they read it.

Jackie heard all this, and then she suggested that a small group of readers--people who have agreed to read whatever fiction I produce each week--might not only help keep me accountable to writing it but also provide that interaction and connection that keeps me motivated to write. Brilliant.

This process that Jackie helped me go through, by the way, is an example of assessment in practice. I set a goal (to write/finish these fiction pieces), used some strategies to help me achieve this goal, observed what happened (or in this case didn't happen), and reflected on that information. And now I'm making changes in response to that information.

If this newest strategy doesn't work, I'll likely revisit the goal to determine whether it's the right one. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't want to get caught up in a cycle of domination where I'm trying to beat my Muse into submission. Is it that I'm not inspired to write fiction? Or has my addiction to immediate gratification become a stumbling block? Obviously my working hypothesis is that my Muse would love for me to write fiction--after all, I'm not lacking in ideas--but the lack of interaction I associate with writing it makes it less satisfying than other types of writing. But that's what these experiments are helping me discover.

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