Tuesday, September 27, 2011
My chicken is delusional.
She hides all day in her nest box, cozy under her perch. She won't come out in the yard to scratch and peck unless we drag her. What's she doing down there?
She THINKS she's sitting on eggs. But she's not. All her eggs are in my refrigerator, waiting to be made into breakfast. Even if we let her keep the eggs, she hasn't spent time with any roosters. She could sit there the rest of her life and no chicks would hatch.
But the worst part is, she's entirely stopped laying.
There was a stage of my writing career when I was like my chicken. I brooded over my first manuscript for ten years, picking at it, making little changes, polishing the prose to perfection. At the time I was sure it would hatch into a bestseller, but now it's obvious to me that I was delusional.
The worst part was, I wasn't coming up with any new stories. I poured all my writing energy into that one manuscript. Sure, I'd get story ideas, but I wouldn't take the time to develop them and write them. I was content to sit on one project.
That was until I went to my first writer's workshop. Day one, first thing the teacher said was, "How many of you have been writing the same book for seven years?"
It was ten years in my case, but I raised my hand with the others.
"I want you to go home and put that manuscript in a drawer. You need to work on something new."
How could he say that? He hadn't even read my story! How did he know it wasn't going to hatch?
It was the best writing advice I'd had in my entire life. I put that old manuscript away and wrote something new, and I couldn't believe how much better it was when I gave myself a fresh start.
So now, three years and three full manuscripts later, I'm feeling more productive. But I still have to fight my brooding tendencies. Here's my plan:
1. Get out of the nest box. Go to conferences and workshops. Participate in my local SCBWI. Read lots of books, fiction and non-fiction. Go to lectures. Keep up on publishing industry news. Don't let myself constantly say, "I haven't got time for that, I need to be writing."
2. More eggs. It's been way too long since I submitted a short story to a magazine, and the only contests I've participated in were associated with writing workshops I've attended. I need to do better. I should make myself write a short story between every draft of the novel I'm working on. Maybe I'll even do NaNoWriMo this year.
I know that some people have the opposite problem - they have a hard time focusing on a single project long enough to get it ready for submission. But as for me, I get TOO focused. I hide in my writer cave and let everything else slide, and then I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes time to reimmerse myself in the quest for publication.
So if you're a brooder, what do you do to stay in the writing game?
Posted by Rebecca J. Carlson at 10:18 AM