Writing, Writing Workshops

I’ve Always Been a Little Slow…but this is ridiculous

Nearly a month ago, I took Mary Robinette Kowal’s Weekend Intensive short story course. Remember? I sure do. It was great. At the end of the class, she warned us that after a workshop or class like this, it’s not uncommon for writers to come up against some kind of block; for their internal editors to scream each time they put fingers to keyboard, for their minds to feel like mush, for stories to feel like breach births instead of channeling the muse. It comes, she told us, from the information we’ve just learned being processed into the brain. The info goes from being “learned” to being “known” and “actionable.”

Who hasn’t heard of this? Clarionite hopefuls are warned of it. An Odyssey-going pal fought his way through it. I’m dreading it after VP this fall (but I hope it’ll be a shorter version, seeing as how VP is one week, versus the 6 weeks of Clarion/Odyssey). But after a weekend long workshop? Really?

The first week after the class, I did think about the things I learned–quite a lot–while writing. And then, the following week, everything went “back to normal” for me (or as normal as it ever gets, here). But this week? A month later?

Heh. It’s hee-ere!

This week, every time I go to the keyboard, my brain fights to stay a step ahead of my fingers. No, it shouts, NOT like that. Don’t you remember? Skip that bit, it’s boring. A close-up here, this is IMPORTANT, don’t forget. And, for gods’ sakes, can’t you describe her emotion without using her darned eyes? I mean, really!

Part of my brain insists that I should “cease and desist” until I finish internalizing, that I should clear the path for all this tough brain-work. Of course, that’s the “lazy brain” speaking, the part that would rather sip margaritas on the beach than actually do anything. So, I’m not taking that advice. I’m pushing on, through the shouting in my head. I’m working, in small bites, on three different stories (something very odd for me), hoping to distract the Internal Editor by flopping to a different story each day. Not sure it’s working…but when they’re done, I’ll have three more stories.

It’s hard work, a tough slog through each and every word. But, I’m still writing. I’m internalizing as we speak (well, as I type and you read). And while these first drafts won’t be stellar pieces of shining prose polished to perfection (oh, how I wish!), they WILL be solid rough drafts that, with luck, will be better than what I’ve written before.

So, what’s new in your world?

6 thoughts on “I’ve Always Been a Little Slow…but this is ridiculous”

  1. Not sure how you feel or think about this, but if I’m working on a story and starting to feel stuck or unmotivated, I switch to another story. I move to something I’m really struck or moved by. I don’t write short stories or poems anymore, so it’s one novel or another.

    One thing I was wondering is how you manage your ideas. Do you keep paper and pen, or an iPad or iPod with you everywhere in case an interesting scenario or “what if” pops up? I ask because I write down every idea, silly or brilliant, and email it or voicemail it to myself. I have about 75 of them in a file on my computer in case I feel a little slow and need to switch things up.

    I hope you get inspired again pronto!

    1. Thanks for the motivation and encouragement, Vince! I usually have my smartphone handy, so odd inspirations can be typed from it into an app that links right into my Dropbox “idea” file. Sometimes I’ll record a message to myself, but I always feel odd talking aloud to myself, and squirmy listening to my recorded voice later…so I avoid that if possible. Like you, I have lots of half-baked ideas waiting for a story, or a rainy day. Or in this case, an Internal Editor running rampant 🙂

  2. Yay for amazing workshops and learning! Argh to the process of internalizing and applying what we learn. That’s the rough and tumble part learning. What too few people tell us is that learning is an act, meaning we must be *active* participants, and as anyone who has ever worked on a farm or in the garden, or who has cleaned the house and cooked Thanksgiving dinner, or who has framed a house knows, actively learning, internalizing, and applying information is hard work! So too with writing.

    I’m back from Odyssey two weeks now and I am beginning to quiet my internal editor who through the six weeks of Odyssey has gained way too much power and knowledge for her own good (okay, not really, it’s just that she’s quicker to pick up the info than my internal writer is at applying that same information). Now is the time for my writer to flex some muscle and work through that information. Editor needs to step back and not hamper writer’s progress!

    OMG, yes–the trouble of describing emotions of a character without writing about her damned eyes! There is much too much blinking and flashing of eyes going on 🙂

    Best of luck integrating information and transforming it into knowledge! Tell your internal editor she can take a vacation until the drafts are done and then she can have it, constructively of course or she gets kicked out.

    1. Congrats on your recent Odyssey and graduation! You must have met an online acquaintance of mine there, Dani deLisle — she was so excited to be going, and I was thrilled for her.

      Yeah, I’m kicking the old I.E. into the “monster closet” until the first drafts are done, but I can still hear her mewling…sigh. Fortunately, it’s getting easier as the days go on and I keep showing up and ignoring her and just writing. Like you said, it’s an act; “write” is a VERB, not a noun. You gotta _write_ to exercise those brain muscles.

      Oh, and I see you’re from Bayern: Gruess Gott! (I lived in Nuernberg for a couple years and loved it!)

      1. Thank you! Odyssey was amazing. And wow, you know Dannie! And lived in Nüremberg! How wonderful. It really is a small world. Dannie and I just workshopped one of her stories online. Well, that was two weeks ago now–where did the time go?

        Yes, “Write” is a verb (telling myself, “see? other writers agree”). I also have a quote I’ve posted on my wall: “You can’t sit around thinking, you have to sit around writing.” – David Long.

        I’m happy to hear yo have ways of putting your I.E. in her place. I’m getting there. As Sofia pointed out in a recent post of hers, that there’s something more immediate about prose written while tired. As she put it, “Tiredness takes the direct route. It doesn’t pack extra luggage.” Which I think means the I.E. and the rest of the peanut gallery are asleep and dreaming, leaving the writer-self to write.

        But now I am tired and must to bed. Thanks for commenting!


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