Robin Hawke

More than a Record
March 16, 2012, 12:56 PM
Filed under: All Writing Challenges

I’ve been through a lousy period. NaNoWriMo did a number on me. In October, I was writing, blogging and satisfied with my progress. In November, the baneful month, I wrote reams, splashing daily word counts across my blog. In December, distracted by holidays and travel, my goal was to maintain. I pulled out my NaNoWritings in January and began the work of providing form and structure for Judging Jade. My progress was slower than a three legged turtle before I realized why: I was writing backwards.

The discovery led me to the conviction that I should always begin with something mysterious–I can’t find the word for it. It’s the opposite of understood, but it isn’t misunderstood. Whether it is an image, an act or a word that propels me, I need something that seeps, ticks, maybe even dives. I’m not entirely sure what, but it operates on a gut level; it’s a conviction. Then, it is time to scrabble around uncovering the subneural, subconscious, subgut. (It’s a puzzle: how do I connect eating scrambled eggs with throwing popcorn and why do I want to?) The answers come slowly, but eventually the tide comes in. The result, if I’ve worked it right, has depth and layers.

During the NaNoWriMo process, I wrote an explicit record of what my characters did. There was no mystery and an alarming lack of subtext. There was nothing left for me to explore. Trying to enrich a recording of events into a reading experience is a slow path to hell. What I can’t do, maybe others can, is take a series of events and convince myself there’s something to uncover. So writing every detail down as I move characters from A to B is not part of my writing process. Feeling my way through images and flashes of phrases is what I need to explore tidepools before creating a landscape out of found sea urchins and seashells. And if my landscape pleases anyone else, it is because I have found the deepest pools of meaning.

I’m overdue—so overdue—picking up an award. And I received a second. I’ve never felt less of a Versatile Blogger, but I’m trying to get back to that place where words flow from the inside out not outside in. Please help me get back into the blog current by asking me questions on my Interview Robin page.


15 Comments so far
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On the sideboard when I published this post:

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

Isaac Asimov

Comment by Robin Hawke

Oh Robin, I have been a very bad writer. I understand exactly what you mean. I need a word, a phrase the flash of an image to inspire me, just a seed. But seeds have been hard to find. But, I have found one and will be writing up another DIY Romance post this weekend.

Comment by wcdameron

I get it: everyday I beat myself up for not posting flash or visiting blogs. But if the writing isn’t going well, then there’s so little incentive to put yourself out there. I have been a very bad writer too. Robin

Comment by Robin Hawke

I think we all go through this from time to time. I certainly have, and I expect to again. For me, I visualize a character in trouble. That’s how I get started. I try to find the inner story to offset the outer story and go from there.

But I don’t think you can expect too much out of NaNo. Really, it is just about putting words on the page. It is meant for those writers who get distracted easily and can’t finish a thought. Or who need a deadline. Or don’t know if they can write a book but are curious to try.

While NaNo can help us get a book started, it is not designed to help us fill in the gaps that inevitably occur under such time pressure.

I wrote a NaNo novel and was extremely pleased to find that I have a story idea brewing now. A 50,000 word story idea (underscore ‘idea’).

I can’t revise it directly from its NaNo stage. I have to literally open a blank document and write it from scratch, but with a framework now in hand. Structure, plot, motivation, tension. Those things came through the NaNo draft but they were badly written or ill-timed or poorly executed. I feel like I need to start fresh, with fresh words, a fresh schedule, and that will help me avoid writing “NaNo Style”.

And as far as maintaining relationships through other blogs, that can be a huge time sucker. It is extremely difficult to keep up with everyone. When you’re already under the gun in terms of finding time to write, it’s not easy to give that time to blogging. I try to comment on five blogs a day. That can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how verbose I get. 🙂 It’s not a lot of blogging, and I wish I could reach out more. But for now it’s what I can fit in on a regular schedule where I don’t miss too much.

Hang in there!

Comment by 4amWriter

Thank you! I will try. I know the importance of understanding one’s own process. I entered NaNo to develop that understanding. It did, just wish I wasn’t still dealing with the aftermath of that experience four months later!

Comment by Robin Hawke

I’ll echo what 4amWriter just said. Sometimes we all struggle to find the inspiration or the links between the separate parts we’ve written. I am a complete “pantser” when it comes to writing, and there are times I wonder how will these disparate scenes come together? In time, they do.

I’m having a similarly difficult time keeping up with blogs. I feel stretched for ideas for my own, and I have to abandon any attempt to comment regularly on most of the ones I follow.

But from what I have been reading, I think a lot of writer bloggers have similar thoughts as yours these days. Life happens, and we can’t ignore it. Writing goes through peaks and valleys, and we find our way out of the depths.

Take some time to enjoy the spring weekend!

Comment by jmmcdowell

As a blog gets more successful, the blogger gets less?

I love your comments and thoughts and blog. I know how many awards you’ve received. Do you want another?

Planning to visit DC this weekend. Last three years too late for cherry blossoms, but maybe we’ll catch them this year.

Comment by Robin Hawke

Oh you should catch them! The peak is supposed to be in 3 days. Everything is just beautiful around here right now. Since the Festival doesn’t officially start until the 20th, you may not have to deal with huge crowds.

I don’t mind awards 🙂 They’re a bit of work, but I like bringing other blogs to people’s attention. But as you know, the hard part is finding things to say about ourselves!

I think you’re on to something with that opening line. My goal has always been to be a successful writer, not a super popular blogger. But as more people start following, I pressure myself to post “better” content. But I’m not always sure what that is….! So if it helps, you’re not the only blogger wondering about direction and worrying about the toll on the important stuff—the “real” writing.

But have a great time in DC. I always get a lot of inspiration there!

Comment by jmmcdowell

As soon as I can find the quote I’m thinking of, I will post to “Interview Robin”. Very interesting post, btw. 🙂

Comment by Tracy Hutchinson

Dido to the above. Dry spells happen to all of us. The more you sweat about it the worse it gets. Relax, have fun. Do something else besides writing. Let your brain relax. I promise it will kick in again. Creative brains don’t know how to not create.
We’ll still be here when you get back.
How about a few pictures of cherry blossoms?
I wish I was close enough to go. I’ve never been.

Comment by MythRider Phyllis Moore

Posted the blossoms! You’re right about not knowing how not to create, thanks for the encouragement, Robin

Comment by Robin Hawke

I know I’m late on this, but I kept it in my inbox, because I really wanted to respond.
I really understand how you feel, as one gets caught up in the whirlwind of trying to do everything, and in the end loses the thread that brought us here in the first place:
The writing.
Don’t sweat Nano. You won, and wrote the words. That’s a great achievement. Everyone learns something different from the experience, and even from year to year there are different lessons to be learned.
Sometimes, I think all it takes is to slow down, and the voice that knows what you want to write becomes clear again. Maybe your Nano needs to rest, and there is something else demanding to be written. Maybe there is a nugget of gold in that Nano that still needs to be discovered.
Keep going! I’m cheering for you. 🙂

Comment by Kirsten

I’m feeling the time loss more than anything else. I have so little of it. I don’t mind the learning at all, nor the failing. But when it comes with a hefty time price, I get bent out of shape!


Comment by Robin Hawke

Well that just read like a major insight to me. Must have some intrigue, mystery, element of the unknown, surprise, pending conflict. Try rereading your post like an outsider, as if you didn’t write it and write a reply to it. Bonne continuation, great post, more of these please.

Comment by Claire 'Word by Word'


Comment by Robin Hawke

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