Since I’m 30 full days into my blog writing challenge, I thought I’d go deeper into why I’m doing this and where I hope to land after 365 days. I started because I felt I had become stagnate as a writer. I’m hoping to be a sharper, funnier writer at the end of the effort.
My copywriting and freelance career has actually been cooking along fairly well lately, but the type of thing I really like to do, short memoirist pop culture referencing humor pieces (AKA blogging), has fallen along the wayside for several years. Some people turn their noses up to the concept of blogging, but I actually love it as an art and a practice. It’s immediate, rewards consistency, and doesn’t require anything except good writing to work. Hell, some people make a living at it with some fairly poor writing.
The downside to blogging, especially with this frequency, is that it’s not always going to be good and it’s not always going to be free of typos or have perfect grammar. That’s ok. The ideas are the most important, followed by voice, followed by technical skill. If you ever get a chance to see the original manuscripts of works you love, take the time to do it. It’s freeing to see how clunky some of the writing can be in great work before a proper editor gets in there to help. No one is perfect, no one makes it through life without writing “they’re” when they mean “their.” It doesn’t matter. Just write.
My style of writing doesn’t have as much in common with literature as it does with an old-fashioned performance called “the speech to entertain.” Some speech & debate clubs still do this, but most people won’t have heard about it. Essentially it’s a short, often comedic, monologue you would present formally at a gathering of friends or colleagues. In the old days, people would work on these things like they were bits and get them perfect. Sometimes you could go around town from evening to evening entertaining folks for free grub. Mark Twain was supposed to be great at this, and some of his shorter humor pieces were actually performed in this way.
I don’t have the desire to be a stand-up, but I do enjoy telling stories and making my friends laugh. Being able to entertain a few cronies while I practice my skills is all I need for this to be a success. It feels good to be doing this practice and I’ve noticed I’ve had a much calmer state of mind this month. I’ve got this theory that it actually doesn’t matter what you do in life, as long as you do it with consistency.
I never experience writer’s block when I’m working on a commercial project, but for over a year, I’d sit down after work to crank out some thought piece for myself, get two sentences in, and quit. It felt like there was a shitty little gnome sitting in my brain taking a mallet to the synapses responsible for creativity and follow through.
In the past I’d had great success using The Artist’s Way to stimulate creativity. A huge part of that book is a writing practice called the morning pages. All you have to do is break out a pen and write three continuous stream of consciousness pages by hand every single morning. It takes me about half an hour to do it. Almost none of it makes sense and my handwriting is so poor, I can’t really go back and clean the writing up for other purposes. I’ve been doing this on and off for years and I’ve noticed doing it always reinvigorates my writing. In fact, every single major breakthrough I’ve had in my career as a writer has occurred during the time I’m doing the morning pages.
The author of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron, holds the position that there is some sort of benevolent force in the universe that works on your behalf when you’re doing the work. I don’t know about that, but I do know that having a daily deadline and a goal gives me focus and shakes the cobwebs and rust from my mind.
I actually had stated the morning pages again over this last Christmas, but they weren’t doing it for me this time. I think I was craving an outside metric (would people read?). If I scribble away in my notebook, no one really knows if I skip. If I miss a day online, there’s a record of my failure in consistency.
So here I am at the 30 day mark. I’ve noticed a few changes in my writing already. I write faster, ideas come quicker, and when I start typing I don’t need as much time to warm up. I’m also really looking forward to the time in the morning and evening when I get to work on my own thing.
I’d really like to take a two week stay-cation and see how much of a novel I could get written. I’ve been thinking about an idea for a story called The Invonvenience that’s about what happens to a famous atheist when he learns his home is haunted by ghosts. Another idea I’ve been kicking around is a full on romance novel set in the world of farmers markets and food cultists.
More than anything it’s good to be doing something creative everyday. I know this isn’t exactly Hemingway level stuff, but if there’s a lesson for you, it’s that it doesn’t have to be great. You just have to do it. Otherwise you’ll go mad.