Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aside: What Are Your Obsessions?`

Over the last few years, I've realized through firsthand experience that many writers have little quirks or ticks that develop through long hours of brainstorming and writing.  For some, these quirks are merely interesting, amusing little habits that earmark them as "artsy writer types".  For others, they're ingrained, hardwired aspects of the writing process that are just as integral to writing as, well...the writing itself.

Some less charitable folks might call them obsessions.  I, however, like to think of them as "focusing agents", tools that pull me closer to the writing and the story itself.  As my free-time has shrunk (add two kids, stir, pour, and let stand) but my dedication to writing (i.e. insanity) has grown, I've seen these focusing agents demand more and more priority, until they've become so much a part of me and my writing process, eliminating one of them would be like lopping off an arm.  Here they are, in order of how they developed:

1. I can only write from 3 AM - 12 PM.  

3 years ago I started waking around 3 AM to write.  With a rambunctious two year old, graduate school and another child on the horizon, I needed to do something radical to keep writing.  I've always been able to run on only five hours of sleep, so I started hitting bed around 9 PM, waking up at 3 AM to write before everyone woke up.

Now, it's hardwired into my system.  Unless its before 6 AM and absolutely silent, I have a VERY hard time writing, even with the free time.  Also, two years ago when I spent M - F writing the first draft of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, I found that even in the FABULOUS quiet of my alma mater's library, I could only write until noon.  Then, my brain sorta stops.  

Even when I've slept in and have free time in the afternoon, I can't do it.  The very first things I must do in the morning is read for thirty minutes, then write until I can't write anymore, or else the day's clutter just piles up and gets in the way.  

2. I must write all fiction longhand first.

 Another thing I learned during Hiram?  I write first drafts so much better longhand.  Don't know why.  All I know, several chapters into Hiram, I got very frustrated with the quality, printed the chapters off, and started over from scratch, writing long-hand on Mead paper.

The results were awesome.  Again, not sure why.  Not sure I want to spoil the mystery, actually.  All  I know, it forced me to write slower, reconsider my words, descriptions, action scenes, it put me more "in touch" with the story.  When I convert from long-hand to type, the resulting drafts read so much better, smoother.  Now, I absolutely MUST write fiction long-hand first.

Also, this habit has uncovered a TINY obsession that hates crossed or scribbled out words.  That, and the first paragraph must be awesome.  The first sentence even "awesomer".  Hence, the new addiction to Bic white-out tape.  I should invest in their stock, at this point. 

3. I can only write with a Pilot G-2 .07 ink pen.

 This developed around the time of my move to long-hand first drafts.  I've always preferred the gel rolling ball fine points that write smoothly, and this just happened to be the one I was using  when I converted to long-hand drafts.  I CAN write with something else if I have to, but you can bet I won't be happy about it.  And YES, I do buy them in bulk at Sam's Club, when I can.

4. I've kept almost every Pilot G-2 .07 ink pen I've used since I started writing long-hand drafts.

Don't even ask where this comes from.  Purely pack-rat instinct.  Maybe because I sensed that not only was this long-hand first draft thing a drastic change for me personally, but it also bucked the current norms.  Who even does this anymore?  Lots of people I suspect, but many more folks just type.

Anyway, I've written every single pen dry since Hiram Grange, then kept each one.  So at the very least, when it's all said and done, if I don't achieve fame, glory, devoted fans or get money and win lots of awards with my writing, at least I'll be able to arm a whole LEGION of sixth grade boys with enough empty pens to start a full-scale Spit Wad Armageddon.

So.  Writing obsessions, anyone? I'd love to know I'm not the only oddball out there...