Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from my write-a-thon, I’m ready to share the results and what I learned from the experience.  I am so pleased to report that I received $217 in donations to the American Heart Association.  Thank you so much for generosity and support, both moral and financial.  With my matching donation, the total raised came to $434.  Wow!  I am both humbled and thrilled.  I’m going to leave the fundraising page up for another week in case there’s anyone out there who wanted to make sure I’d meet the writing goal before donating. 😉  I will continue to match any donations received.  Once again, THANK YOU!

In addition to the honor of contributing to an organization and a cause I care about deeply, I learned a great deal about my writing habits (or lack thereof).  In two short weeks, I learned more about what I need to do to advance my writing career than I probably would have in six months if left to my own devices.  Here are the top five nuggets of wisdom I gained from the write-a-thon:

  1. Liar, Liar Pants on Fire.  You know the saying about liars – they tell the same lie so often they start to believe it’s true?  Well, that’s how I was about writing.  I think about writing all the time.  I mull over ideas, write verses in my head, debate which publishers/agents I might approach, rehearse my appearance on Oprah (damn her for ending her show right before I hit the big time!).  The only thing missing in all of this was — well, the actual writing.  Now that I know what it feels like to spend multiple hours working on a single manuscript over a period of several days, I realize I was kidding myself about how much actual writing was happening.  I was undermining the #1 rule of writing: Butt in Chair = Writing Done.  The only way to keep myself honest about how much writing I get done in a day/week/month is to keep a log.
  2. Keep Your Oil Can Nearby and Use it Regularly.  Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and the Scarecrow first come across the Tin Woodman?  He’s so stiff he can barely speak and certainly can’t move.  He finally manages to communicate that he needs them to oil his joints, which have rusted and rendered him unable to move. After he’s lubed up, he can dance and sing to his empty chest’s content about getting a heart.  One day, I spent six hours working on three verses of a thirteen-verse story, and at the end of that time, I still didn’t think those verses were up to snuff.  Every form of self-doubt plagued me: ‘You don’t have what it takes. You’re wasting your time.  Great – you’ve quit your job only to discover you have no talent.‘ And so on.  Under pre-write-a-thon circumstances, I would have put that manuscript aside for at least two weeks, maybe a month.  Instead, I picked it up again the next day because I had to, per the write-a-thon and its looming deadline.  Then something miraculous happened.  The pieces started to connect.  I saw what the story needed and found the words.  By the time I finished for the day, I was satisfied with seven of the thirteen verses.  The previous day’s sweat had served to lubricate my rusted brain so the story could break itself loose and dance.  Lesson learned: If you’re stuck, keep writing.  Otherwise those brain cells will rust and grow stiff again.  Writing is your oil can.
  3. If You’re Sick of Running, Go Biking.  Exercising any muscle, including the writing one, requires cross training.  Otherwise you become fatigued and risk injury or burnout or both.  So, before you stab yourself in the eye with your pencil or run your work-in-progress through the shredder, work on something else.  I did exactly that on my last day of the write-a-thon.  I was working on a first draft of a story I’ve told aloud to the kids many times, but it was only going onto the page kicking and screaming.  With three hours left to go before I would reach my goal, I put the petulant manuscript aside and wrote a brand new story.  It’s a sweet poem combining love and nature, and it might be the best piece I’ve written since I started this whole children’s book writing venture.  Switching gears not only kept me productive, it enabled me to end the write-a-thon on a high note.
  4. Jane Yolen Sits on My Shoulder. Not literally, of course (Although wouldn’t that be great?  I can just imagine her smacking me six ways to Sunday whenever I felt the inclination to complain).  I do, however, find myself reflecting often on the 20 Rules of Writing she shared with us at the winter SCBWI conference, and every time I do, I find the motivation to keep going.  That list is Jane’s doppelgänger perched over me ready to pounce if I start feeling sorry for myself.  I hear her at the podium saying, “Butt in Chair=writing done”, “write every day – no excuses,” “writer’s block is all in your mind,” and “have fun writing.”  It’s hard to ignore.  There’s nothing like learning from a master, which leads me to the last lesson:
  5. Misery Loves Company.  Community is important.  Writing is mostly a solitary expedition, so it is important to reach out – to experts in the field, to other writers both in and outside your genre, and most importantly, to friends and family.  For me, the blog is a way to connect, and the write-a-thon solidified that for me.  I got support from the full spectrum –  writers I’d never met, friends old and new, and family (hi, Mom!).  I was also buoyed in this endeavor by all that I learned at the SCBWI conference. I am not a new writer, but I am new to the field of children’s literature.  Spending a whole weekend soaking up hard-earned wisdom from the literati elite was potent medicine for a writer seeking knowledge, inspiration and fellowship.  Now I’m looking for critique groups.  The only way to gain perspective and stay sane is to share our stories – in writing and in life.
  6. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jleveque/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

One change I will implement beginning next week is to keep a tally of the hours I write each week.  I’ll put the ticker on the sidebar of the blog for anyone who cares to track my progress.  My initial goal is to complete 10 hours of writing every week.  Same rules as the write-a-thon.  The only writing that counts is that which is directly related to my works-in-progress.

If you are a writer, what kind of goals do you set for yourself and how do you enforce them?

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Family, Friendship, Publishing, SCBWI, Volunteer/Community, Works in Progress, Write-a-thon, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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3 Comments

  1. good to read – thanks

  2. Great evaluation of your challenge. I especially like your cross-training analogy. Keeps the brain flexible!

  3. I love your Misery loves Company photo! Brilliant!

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