Whoa–what a month it’s been. Besides trying to understand what it means to be a writer, I also found myself embarking on a serious self-improvement overhaul. That’s why so many of my thoughts are life-thoughts.
Writing is a life. It’s a lifestyle. It filters into every other aspect of who we are. It’s an identity–it provides a certain perspective on the world around us. Hopefully, it provides a more generous attitude towards others and ourselves; hopefully it keeps us curious and non-judgmental. It definitely keeps us disciplined. It keeps us persistent, a little ambitious, and resilient towards the things that seem to want to try and steal that identity away from us.
I highly recommend these month-long projects, which I’m now just starting to embark upon. Here’s a bit of reflection on the experience:
I tend to make goals for the distant future, but by keeping the month in mind, I found myself more focused on keeping the daily routine. I didn’t work on my novel every day (in fact, I deliberately took Sundays off from it), but by knowing I was in May, and that May was Revise the Novel Month, I had an easier time keeping a clear goal in mind. For me, it was shape the thing up to send to manuscript clearance for the MFA and to send it off to a few friends for the next time I dedicate a month to the novel. I did this, but it was a severely bumpy ride. I had drama to deal with (which is why you got a post about it, of course), I had a lot of self-doubt and days of flat out laziness.
It’s not done. (I didn’t expect it to be.) There are many months of work to come; as many as it will take to see this thing come to a place that feels ready to send off to agents and publishers. I plan to keep on dividing the work into month-long projects. I might spend a near-approaching month on character development, for instance, with short exploratory assignments. I might spend the month writing scenes that may or may not go into the novel. I might then spend another month shaping the first fifty pages, or the first act, or however this project unfolds. My routine is going to change drastically because I won’t have as much time once I start working again in the real world. This scares me, but I think the monthly plan is going to be a huge asset.
If you do the monthly project thing, I highly recommend you start with poems. They don’t have to be good (mine weren’t especially). But they are manageable and they help us to think more deeply about words. And I found myself continuing to write poems, even through revise the novel month. They are, at their most base state, a fantastic verbal exercise for the prose writer.
My next project is to take a bit of a break from the novel in order to work on music. I did this in April, when I focused on poetry and language. I think that the month off definitely helped me in terms of filling the well with energy and willingness to work on the book. By the end of April, I couldn’t wait to hang with my characters again. Hopefully this will be a repeated experience.
My last thought: You can do it. If you’re writing a novel, you have to keep reminding yourself that. It’s hard, but you can do it. You have everything you need to do it well.