I'm Writing a Book
I’m writing a book! More specifically, a novel. And I want to document the process here for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I want this to be your sign to go and do the thing. Secondly, to keep myself accountable. And third, I think that showing your work can be a fantastic and beneficial part of the creative process.
And one more reason. I want to explore a cool concept known as narrative therapy as a way to plan my life and bring my aspirations into fruition. I want to document it because I think it will be an interesting experiment.
I’m not an expert but narrative therapy is a method therapists sometimes use in which they have the patient write out their current situation in the third person. When they write their lives out like a story, it helps to give perspective and for them to recognize their pitfalls and explore their options.
Then, the writer can continue to describe how their protagonist (themself) can move forward and how they’d like future events to transpire.
I’m going to adapt this for my own use and basically write out how I’d like the next one to five years to transpire: I take my time writing my story, have it made into a novel, and then adapt it into a screenplay. Check back here to see if it happens. Isn’t that fun?
Why do I want to write a book? Because there is a story I want to tell. I’ve been thinking about a book I’ve been wanting to write for the past year or so, and I threw it into my long, long-term goals. I was thinking maybe in the next ten or so years, once I’ve lived a little more and had more to write about.
It’s kind of like, if you’ll remember, my distant lofty goal of running a marathon once in my life. Or, like my distant lofty goal of moving to Hollywood. Since I started journaling and blogging, and thus making a commitment to myself and establishing some social accountability, both of those things ended up happening pretty swiftly. So why not give this one a go, and see what happens.
I was inspired in part by a productivity youtuber I used to follow named Ali Abdaal. Before I ever thought about writing anything, I really liked the way that Ali made himself accountable by changing his internet bio to “Future Author” while he was writing his first book. He talked about the writing process in all of his youtube videos right from the earliest stages. I had no doubt then that he would indeed publish that book.
And, unsurprisingly, Ali Abdaal has published his book.
Today I came across a blog post by Joanna Penn where she documented the entire journey of coming out with her first novel. She started it during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and had it published in a little over a year. Going from o-1 novels in a year, I think, is fabulous. And since then she’s come out with an entire series.
I just find it so lovely when we get a glimpse into the creative process like this, rather than learning about it once the hard and dirty work is over. I’ll do my best to describe my experience and I’ll keep this post up to date with my progress, so check back if you want to see how it’s going.
And please, if you feel so inclined, engage in the comments with your thoughts. I’d love to talk about it. I’m looking to join a first time writers group, too, so let me know if you have suggestions.
My Writing Journal:
I attend a friend’s movie premiere, which was, no shade, written in 8 days, filmed in 8 days, and had a budget of $100,000. This is one of the first movies he created and since then he’s produced about 10 more that have been doubling in size, scope, and production value each time. As they say, “writers write.” You just have to do it.
Also in May 2023
Ironically, this is the beginning of the historical 2023 WGA Writers Strike. And, since I work as a makeup artist in the film and television industry, I am officially unemployed. I use the time to start writing and to study everything about writing that I can get my hands on. But, as the days stretch on it gets a little bit too stressful.
September 2023 The writers strike has gone on for what seems like eternity and there is no end in sight. It seems it is just a part of life now. I’ve come to terms with it, found a way to segue into other work opportunities as a makeup artist, and I feel better about using my free time to write again. I start my novel fresh.
It's October! The writers strike just ended and the actors will likely follow soon, meaning that I'll get back to work in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, I'm writing away and I am thankful for the opportunity that this time has afforded me - in the midst of the darkness I was introduced to my book!
I'm learning as I go and have been enjoying The Great Courses on Audible, and YouTube videos by Jerry Jenkins and Ellen Brock on the craft. As far as books, On Writing by Stephen King and Hollywood by Charles Bukowski have been sensational.
I'm having fun! I'm getting a little bit faster as I get the hang of things. It took me around two or three weeks to write the first ten pages, and now I'm at about a page a day.
From time to time I've felt totally stumped and when that happens I'll do a writing meditation and find that it gives me content to sort through for a few more days. Running helps me come up with new ideas and solutions too. It's a fun puzzle. I'm enjoying observing the different phases in the process.
I know that I'm working quite slowly, and that many writers prefer to write away and not look back until the first draft is complete. But similarly to the way I paint by starting with the subject's face, I like to give myself something enjoyable to look at while I work.
I'm still going! I did get back to work in October so I no longer pass my days writing but I do still make time first thing most mornings. I participated in NaNoWriMo for two weeks (NaNoWriMo is when you spend the month of November speed-writing a novel). You're meant not to look back and get out the roughest version of the story you can. I managed to come up with 20,000 words but I didn't really enjoy writing that way. I prefer to spend my time submersed in each scene, imagining myself in the room, picturing the things the characters would to each other.
As the film industry becomes more active, I'm spending about 20 minutes each morning writing. I still think about the story and its characters often, and I'm digesting content in films and books differently. It's still joyful and I'm in it for the long haul. I'm at about 40,000 words which is crazy.
Since I started writing my novel in September it feels like I've been going over and over the same 40 pages, constantly editing and brainstorming and plotting and re-editing. That is until earlier this week when The INFJ Writer helped me to crack my creative code.
She explained the difference between writing and editing. Basically, when you start to edit your work for structure and grammar, you're accessing the analytical, logical side of your brain, whereas when you're writing, especially as an INFJ, you're using your intuition. These two functions are coming from two completely different parts of your brain and when you stop the writing process to edit, you cut yourself off from accessing your creativity.
I've heard it a million times; that writers should focus on completing their 'sloppy first draft' without looking back or judging the work, but now I finally know why! I incorporated what I learned into a new routine:
First of all I stopped checking my phone in the morning. I don't access the internet or texts from the outside world at all until after my writing is complete and I've gone out for my run.
When I get up, I read a bit of a book (not the same kind of book that I'm writing - so that I'm not influenced), write in my journal about whatever's on my mind (this is something I learned from The Artist's Way, it helps to get the muscles going and turn the censor off) and then I dim the lights and do some kind of writer's meditation.
In The INFJ Writer, she mentions how deeply INFJs are moved through music, and suggests that we use it as a tool to prime our brains. One way to use music is to listen to a specific playlist or song that helps us identify with the character. I play a song over and over again, and try to sit with it and go deep into my thoughts before I start writing. I imagine reaching up to God for information (praying to the muses as referenced in The War of Art), but you can imagine yourself channeling whoever or whatever your source for creativity is. After the song's played a couple of times I begin the writing process and keep the same song playing until I'm finished.
With this new practice, I've been able to write 4-6 fresh pages each day. I just let the words come to me without editing them or even really looking at them.
I'm going to continue this process without looking back or editing the story at all until I have around 100,000 words. Then I'll go back and try to make sense of it. It's going to be a hot mess BUT hopefully it will be authentic!
Once I get my morning writing out of the way, I go out for my run and start my day.
It's February! I'm still writing. In fact I've managed to scrawl down 70,000 words. I'm having so much fun and that's the most important thing. I think the focus has to be on the writing process itself rather than the end product otherwise it would be doomed.
I started reading The Creative Act by Rick Rubin lately which I am absolutely obsessed with. He confirms the notion I've picked up by studying other creatives over the last couple of years, which is that the creative process is one in which you let the art come through you. The artist is merely a conduit, and until that first draft is written you can't judge the work, because it's not yours.
So every morning I've kept up my prayer to the muses (call it meditation) before each writing practice, and then I put the pen to paper and let whatever wants to come out come out of me.
It's been fascinating to watch the twists and turns unfold. The story has gone in a direction that I never would have predicted before I started writing. I'm watching it happen myself, and recording what happens.
~*~ The rest is still unwritten... ~*~