Saturday, 19 November 2011

Not all progress needs to be forward, some can be sideways.

What would goals be if you actually accomplished them on a regular basis?  I mean what can I learn if I am always successful?  Nothing, really.

Take this week for example.  If I had achieved my goals I would have written every single day for at least an hour.  Doing so I would have completed my first draft of the short story that I have been working on and I would be setting it aside to let it ferment for at least a week.  At which time I would then begin the editing and revision process.  While this would be wonderful, it didn’t happen.  In all I wrote for a grand total of one, yes one, day.  In total a mere 500 or so words were added to my work, all of which were on the first day of the week. 

What was I doing the rest of the time when I should have been joyfully hunched over my laptop?  Nothing really.  I didn’t do anything aside from run errands, nap, do laundry, and watch a little TV.  While normally a week such as this would deflate what little positive self-esteem I have, resulting in me questioning my ability to actually pull this writing thing off.  But this time it didn’t happen.

I found myself on Tuesday at my local bookstore chain, Chapters, interviewing for a seasonal sales associate position.  I mean since I have already decided that I am a cliché in many ways, why not try and go for it with gusto.  So there I was, a liberal arts grad student already possessing two liberal arts bachelor degrees, interviewing for a minimum wage job at a bookstore.  The only thing more cliché would be trying to work at Starbucks.  Since I don’t drink coffee and already spend a significant amount of time throwing back venti hot chocolates, I figured I didn’t want to ruin my happy refuge from the boredom of my house. 

But I digress.  Back to the story at hand.  After my interview I wandered over to the writers section of the story to see if they had the 2012 copy of The Writer’s Market or The Canadian Writer’s Market.  After all, I do intend to try to sell this short story I am working on and hopefully a few more.  While searching I saw several self-help books for writing fiction and short stories.  At first I actually chuckled when seeing them and thought how foolish someone would have to be to actually buy one.  But then it hit me … I can always look at one to see if it isn’t a total waste of money.  Now, I don’t know if I will ever buy one but it might help … someday.  I guess the same goes for blogs about writing.  They may not all be a waste of time and good information is still good regardless of the source.

So I flip one open and by serendipitous circumstance I find myself looking at a page title “7 Habits of Effective Writers”.  I quickly scan the bullets beneath the title and one seems to stand out.  To paraphrase, it simply said that I needed to look for the stories that exist all around me.  At first I thought this was foolish as I want to write a fantasy book and the events that transpire in my day to day life have little in common with the world that I am creating in my head.  It was a second later when I found something had triggered in my mind.  It was this thought that changed my perception of the world around me or perhaps better said I changed my perception of my relationship with the world around me.  I need to perceive the world not as a father, husband, school teacher, and passive participant.  I need to observe the world as a Writer.

What changed was how I looked at the people I encountered this week.  I didn’t try and think about their stories or the stories that were evolving around them.  I found I was looking at people and observing their behaviors and physical characteristics, thinking the whole time about how I might incorporate them into the characters in my writing.  It amazed me, as the week progressed, how readily available unique characters are in the world.  I have found at least two individuals that will end up in my novel in some form.

So while I did not make any progress in actual writing this week, I did make progress in my development as a writer and that is important to me.  Progress is progress, even when it is not physically observable. 

Oh … I didn’t get a call back about the job.

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