Since November a huge amount of my creative energy has gone into my theatre instead of my writing. Which makes me neither happy nor sad, it’s just how it worked out — the focus went to one area and I produced good work in one medium instead of another.
At the moment I’m trying to ‘restore balance to the force’ (Happy Belated Star Wars Day by the way!) by picking up the pen and writing. Happiness!
Only it feels like this:
It’s not like I’ve forgotten how to write. I can still string words together good. Sometimes I even remember good words well. And I have the added bonus of knowing what I want to write and how I want to write it. But I feel super out-of-shape. Ya know? Like a marathon runner —
Okay. I know nothing about how a marathon runner feels. I hate running.
But I was a swimmer. I know how to swim. I haven’t forgotten the strokes. I know all the methods for moving through water. At the moment, however, I would get my ass handed to me if I tried to race anyone and/or participated in any kind of lap swim longer than fifteen minutes.
So it is with writing at present.
The remedy for lax writing muscles, I’ve decided, is the same remedy for the above sports analogy (the swimmy analogy, not the runny analogy): practice. Specialized practice.
To get back into the swing of things, I’m turning to Duotrope’s calendar of deadlines for magazines with themed issues. My thought process in this comes from my writing teacher David Keplinger — whose workshops always had a ‘box’ put around them. The idea was — whether the box consisted of a theme, particular subject matter, or a specific exercise — that if you put a box around the writing, you stop thinking about all the things that slow you down.
If you’re working within a box, you can’t waste time thinking about Am I good enough? Am I saying what I want to say? How long should this be? Those questions just kinda fall away and you work on staying within the parameters.
Generally, I’m pretty good about working within a box but the big-ass WIP I’m in the middle of is too big of a box to jump back into. I have a little too much playtime in there and I’d like to get back into the structural elements and I think Duotrope’s calendar is perfect for that because:
1. Deadlines. I have to finish in a certain period of time in order to submit my piece. I chose things with pretty up-and-coming deadlines so I don’t have time to think. Write fast. Write hard.
2. Word counts. The magazines have limits set for the words. I don’t have to debate within myself about how long or short I want it to be — there’s a definitive stopping place.
3. Themes. These make it simple for me to come up with a storyline. I can’t hem and haw for endless amounts of time about What Idea Shall I Write? With themes dictated, I’m forced to be creative in the idea department.
I feel like these are good little workouts to get back into shape. Once I’ve pounded out a couple, I’ll feel more comfortable jumping back into the big ol’ book that’s waiting for new words.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.