Monday, January 6, 2014

How I found my Holy Grail

I have little to no training in the writing field.   My educational background is in the realm of biosciences, not the creative arts.   My only writing credentials are an imagination, a keyboard, and a desire to write.  While that is truly all that is needed, I knew I could be more effective by adopting some best practices.

Over the past couple years I have spent hours, days, weeks even, scouring internet publications, forums, blogs, and the like with the intent of learning more about writing.  I have learned quite a bit that has helped me develop as a writer but I still felt like I was blindly mucking through things (sometimes I still do).  I mainly looked for an answer on how to effectively discipline myself as a writer.  Many people offered their $.02 but ultimately everyone mentioned doing 'whatever works for you.'  That was the universally accepted system-- "whatever works for you."  The Holy Grail.   

But how to find it?  

Here is my story:

Since I have made the decision to truly try my hand at this writing endeavor, I have been coming up with more ideas than I can ever manage.  Not wanting to waste any moment of inspiration, I would write them in notebooks, on post-it's, napkins, my hands, other people's hands etc.   I have a slew of emails I have sent to myself with ideas, character names, cool lines, etc. that are just waiting to turn into a project.  Wanting to give them ALL attention I tried starting multiple things at once, and that just led to failure.  So I tried a new approach where I gave all my attention to one work in process ignoring any other idea, hoping that a focused approach would help me get at least one thing finished.  This approach worked for about a week until I ran into a difficult part in my novel, so instead of battling through it, I stopped writing altogether.  Not surprisingly, I discovered that not writing at all isn't exactly an effective way to become a writer.

Then around September I started writing again, I tried to not overthink it-- just write.  I started a new project and it took off.  I didn't want to commit exclusively and risk the previous failure, so I kept doing little bits of other projects at the same time.  Never more than two at a time.  Miraculously it has worked.  I have finished some really small projects and managed to complete 50 percent of the novel I started in September.  Most importantly I have been a consistent, and somewhat disciplined writer.  I think I have found that Holy Grail of "whatever works for you" that so many other writers mentioned.  

The gist of the system:
-  Let the ideas come, don't censor them because I have too much on my plate 
-  Keep one project going will full momentum, commit as much as I can
-  When ideas come for other things, I spend chunks of time on them to get them to a sustainable level
-  Keep addressing these little ideas, but don't lose momentum on the main project

As I mentioned before my background is in bioscience, so I call my writing method the... Wait for it... The DNA Replication approach.  Yes I am a nerd, but it makes sense to me.  I untwist all my creative thoughts (helicase), work on one major project (leading strand), take the secondary projects (Okazaki fragments) one at a time and give them time (lagging strand) while not losing momentum on the main project.    

So it works... For me.  If you want to try it, go for it.  Perhaps it will work for you.  But, to find your Holy Grail, all you need to do is just keep writing-- it will happen eventually.  

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