Feb. 3rd, 2013

griffin_cordray: typewriter (writing - typewriter)
Before I sat down to write this post, I was doing that thing Robert Boice, in his book How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency, calls binge-writing. I have no excuse except force of habit; I could even feel my body getting achier and more restless every minute, to the point where it began to outweigh the enthusiasm with which I was working. To be honest, I'm still feeling achy and restless, and thoughts are dropping like flies. But force of habit is a pretty solid excuse, and I'm only now coming to evaluate "the generally unrecognized shortcomings" of binge-writing (thanks, Boice).

It's always been the same for me: when I write on a project that I really care about (whether because it's dear to my heart or because a grade hangs in the balance), I tend to do so in great fertile bursts. Those are the happiest times, when I have set aside weeks over a summer or winter to work on a single project. The planning-period leading up to that slice of time is filled with dreaming and planning (Keats' agonie ennuyeuse, what a beautiful heartache), and then, on the first day of that holy time, the floodgates burst.

But I don't often set aside this time to write, and my all-or-nothing approach tends to result in very long periods of drought. The last time I set aside such a big chunk of time for writing was over two years ago. Summer of '10. I realized this with horror over winter break. The memory of that huge burst of activity two years ago somehow deluded me into thinking that I was still making process on my project.

But what about the practicality of writing every day on every project, as Boice recommends? Personally, I count it a success if I manage to get any writing done on a daily basis, and I'm making progress in ritualizing writing moments throughout my week. But there's another issue that complicates the matter, one I'd be particularly interested in discussing with the rest of you: what writing counts? Or more to the point, what writing doesn't count, and why?

I've been keeping an online journal for the past nine years (I just checked; the official anniversary is February 19). Some days I'm basically just checking in, ticking off tasks and memorable conversations, but I've also been known to marathon twenty-page epics over a special event. In addition to that I keep copious notes on just about every project I'm working on, both for my seminars and my personal stuff. And then of course there are revisions, where one's efforts often lead to a drop in word count. As I write, I'm constantly wondering: does this count? Is this worthwhile? Or does this go toward that "one million words of crap" that Raymond Chandler reportedly talked about?