I’ve finally come to accept something I think I knew all along: I should be a writer. So starting now, I will be taking significant steps to make that a reality. I’ve already been writing blog posts and charting out ideas when inspiration strikes me, but now I will work toward the goal of publication. I’m going to be evaluating various routes–fiction, nonfiction, long form, short form, magazine articles, targeted blogs, serials, comics, maybe even screenwriting–and trying to come up with the best fits for the stories I want to tell.
It all came together
In the past, whenever people told me I should be a writer, I’d always respond, “Sure, maybe, but I have nothing to say.” I think perhaps I just needed to build up life experience and let it all simmer for awhile, because all of a sudden I have plenty of ideas and desire to write.
I think fear played a role too–fear of what people would think, fear of what effect the things I wrote would have on my life. But these days I’m more afraid of what might happen if I don’t say something. It’s oddly given me an amazing sense of freedom.
I’m very lucky that I’m in a position where I can pursue something that won’t have financial benefits for years, if it even has them at all. As such, I am throwing myself into it headfirst and making some serious changes in order to give myself the best chance of success.
Maximizing workday efficiency
The first big change will be social media. When I first started using Twitter, I used it as a microblog, and I really haven’t stopped using it that way. However, few others use it that way, and Twitter obviously doesn’t want me to use it that way. I am unable to go back and read my old tweets, and as such many thoughts and ideas are simply lost. So my first change (and challenge) will be to stop posting my stream of consciousness thoughts on Twitter, and instead put them somewhere where I can use them later.
My second Twitter change will be some mass unfollowings, and perhaps following a few new accounts. At time of posting, I follow 156 accounts. Some of them I follow because they are funny. Some of them I follow because they are friends of mine. I have a smattering of Japanese twitterers I follow for the purpose of having Japanese in my stream to practice reading. And then I have a collection of people in the web design industry who I follow to keep up with trends and information.
I will evaluate the “funny” accounts on a case-to-case basis and see if they warrant keeping. Are they funny enough to spend time reading every day? For my friends, if I am friends with them on Facebook, their Twitter accounts must go. Most of them cross-post, so I won’t miss anything but annoying redundancy. For the ones who don’t cross-post, I’ll evaluate them the same as I evaluate the “funny” accounts. Ultimately, does reading these tweets help me pursue my goal or just waste my time? I will cull some of the Japanese twitter accounts, especially the ones I know I just scroll past without trying to read, but there are a few I know I would like to keep. I will also keep Japanese-culture related Twitter accounts. And finally, I will purge all web design-related Twitter accounts. I do not intend to ever again pursue web design as a career. I’ve come to realize that the things I enjoyed about that sphere were content writing/editing and graphic design/layout, and I have no interest in wrangling code. Since I am now resolved to focus on writing, I have no need to read about CSS tips and tricks.
I will start to look for more people interested in writing and storytelling, and follow them for inspiration. I will also look for people who are interested in the same issues I’m interested in. But I won’t let my follow list get so large that a significant portion of my day is taken up catching up on my feed.
Facebook will largely remain the same, though I will prune some Page “likes”. I may add a few new friends so as to get them out of Twitter. Facebook is more private for me, though, so this will be done only after careful evaluation.
I will probably stop using Path. All I ever do there is tell it when I wake up and when I go to sleep, and very occasionally check in to a location.
I am very interested in continuing my study of Japanese. It’s my hope that someday I’ll be good enough at reading the language, and have a strong enough appreciation for and understanding of the culture, that I can translate literature. To that end, I’m going to be removing a few motivational websites and social media accounts from my routine. I once thought that any site that offered motivation would motivate me, but I’ve recently realized that my personality requires a certain type of motivation, and other types can actually demotivate me very quickly. Anything that makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough will make me throw up my hands and give up entirely. One site in particular is written by a person with completely different goals from mine, and I discovered that I was feeling bad because I wasn’t working hard enough on his goals! Even though I know it’s not this blogger’s intent to make me feel this way, nor any other’s, I have to be aware of my own personality and reactions and cut out any negativity, regardless of where it comes from.
Once I have cut out social media distractions and demotivators, the time I spend overall on social media should automatically decrease. I plan to ensure this by not leaving a tab with Twitter or Facebook open at all times, as has become habit. I further pledge to start my day as a producer rather than a consumer. I currently have a habit of reading Twitter and Facebook while I’m getting ready in the bathroom, then reading webcomics when I get to my computer. Instead of engaging in these distracting and procrastinating activities, I’ll think about my day while I’m getting ready, and maybe even start brainstorming what I’m going to be writing and taking audio or text notes with my phone. And when I get to my computer, I’ll start working. Simple as that.
I’ve considered even creating a separate Windows user account for when I am working, and blocking certain websites and applications that could be distractions. But I know that too much change all at once is difficult to maintain long term, so for now I will see how the above adjustments go.
Tools of the trade
Right now I don’t have a great system in place for capturing and then revisiting writing ideas. I’ve been using iPhone voice memos and notes when I’m out and about and Word documents and blog post drafts when I’m at my computer. This piecemeal approach has been okay while I really haven’t been doing anything with most of my ideas, but it isn’t very conducive to getting writing projects out the door. Ideally I will find a way to bring all of these things together so I can easily find them. I’ve been thinking about a cute yarn clothesline with clothespins to hold fancy notecards with the name of current projects. On the backs of the cards I can list where the research information and notes are stored physically and digitally. It would be a fun way to see all my projects at once and keep me focused without cluttering up my desk. I’ll have to think about where such an apparatus would actually go, though.
I already have information on getting published (or, perhaps more accurately, getting rejected) from discussing the topic in my creative writing classes in college and from reading Magazine Man’s blog. I have a few leads on literary journals and know how to find more, and I have ideas about what sorts of magazine I might want to write for. So when the time comes, I think I should be okay to start sending out short stories, essays, and articles. I am also obviously well-versed in blogging, though perhaps not in cultivating an audience. I’m not so clear on how to begin with writing for comics; I would need an artist to bring the story to life, but even writing a comic script is new to me. I will research whether or not there are templates or examples available anywhere. I know there is a format for TV and movie scripts, so all I’ll need to do is find it and study it. As to where one might submit a pitch, again, I’m unsure, but this is only the beginning, and I have lots of research to do. And writing, which is the most important thing.
As far as where I’ll do the writing, I’ve always been most comfortable in Word documents, probably because that’s where I wrote all my college papers. However, I can certainly see the benefit of using an online service, such as Google Documents, and being able to access my files anywhere I go. It’s something I’ll have to think about, but for now I will stick with Word. I will probably sign up for something like DropBox to make sure I don’t lose anything.
I’ve heard that six hours is the longest viable block of working writing time. I’m not going to start out shooting for that–going from nothing to six hours would burn me out fast. Instead, I will write until I’m fatigued every day and not worry about how long I write. I know there will be days when I don’t feel like writing, and for now, as I ease into it, I will use those days for research. In the future, though, after I’ve established a writing routine, I will write through the block to keep myself going, and try to hit at least my minimum writing time.
I’m excited to finally have direction in my life. For so long I’ve been reactionary, just accepting whatever came my way and dealing with everything day by day. In recent years I’ve started taking charge of my health, and that has empowered me to take charge of so much more. I’ve learned just how destructive and demoralizing bouncing through life aimlessly can be, and even though I’m scared, I’m putting a stop to the uncontrolled ricocheting and propelling myself towards a goal.
Here I come, universe.