In the Zone
Confession time: I admit that I've been procrastinating, and as any writer knows, that's a curse. I've been waiting (im)patiently for my agent to get back to me about my rewrites on my YA novel. And while I know you're supposed to just go full steam ahead to the next project, somehow after writing the first chapter of my new novel, I couldn't go on. I stalled. I found so many excuses, and wasted so much valuable time. The truth is, I'm a writer by day; I write newspaper and magazine articles weekly and I edit about 40 articles written by my freelancers each month for my parenting magazine. In addition, when college is in session, I have numerous papers (articles) to grade each week. So I spend all my time with the written word. And I enjoy it. But it's ever so easy to then tell myself that when I just get over this deadline or just edit these stories, then I'll have time to work on my book.
The problem with that course of action is that, well, the book will never get written because I'll always have more deadlines and work to do (hopefully!). I realized this week that the more time I let slip away, the more I was losing my confidence that I was capable of writing another YA book.
So, I took myself in hand this week and forced myself to ignore all my other work and get beyond chapter one. And a wonderful thing happened. In two days I had written 10,000 words. I now feel like I'm back in the zone, that exhilarating place in which writers find themselves where they can't stop thinking about their characters and plot, when no matter where you are you have to write notes about some new idea that comes to you. For instance, as I watched an eighth grade basketball game today (my daughter is a cheerleader) I imagined my characters playing basketball, as well. And now they will, while I still have the sounds and movements in my head.
And I'm reminded of the joy of writing as well. I prefer not to have an outline, though I know many writers who do. For instance, Walter Dean Myers once told me in an interview that he has a bulletin board above his computer on which he posts photos he's torn from magazines and even birth certificates he creates for his characters. And he's a lot more famous than I, so I wouldn't doubt his methods. But for me, I enjoy not knowing what my characters are going to do next. Yes, I have a basic plotline. But my characters tend to emerge as if from clay, and they shape themselves with my guidance, and truly, they're not obliged to do what I want them to. Sort of like being a parent.
Another thing I do when writing is to start each day by rereading what I wrote the day before. In so doing, I'm always editing, but I'm also getting back in the zone so I can carry on, hopefully seamlessly.
So now that I'm re-addicted to writing my YA novel, I hope my children don't mind my distraction. Fortunately, they're as anxious to see what happens next as I am. So I hope that buys me a few passes to avoid driving them to the mall.