December 15, 2010

What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging

I haven't posted here in a couple of weeks. This is what I've been doing with myself in the meantime:

→ Staying off the internet for much of the day. I decided to disable my computer's wireless connection before bed each night and not turn it on until finishing the day's writing work. To my surprise, most days I haven't been particularly eager to get back online, and after writing, I move on to reading, housework, etc without stopping to look at Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. As a result, I've been more productive than usual in the non-internet world. As another result, I've only had time for "essential" online interactions, and I've regretted missing out on my normal levels of consumption and engagement. Such are the problems of our modern world (or not).

→ Engaging repeatedly in pointless turmoil that goes like this: I think of a brilliant blog post I'll write later that day and compose a few sentences in my head. I run out of time in the day for writing a blog post, due to accomplishing so many other productive tasks (or not). I tell myself I'll write the post the next day. The next day, I have lost all enthusiasm for the topic but have another brilliant idea. The cycle repeats. I do not write any blog post at all. I feel guilty about neglecting my blog and letting down my devoted readers. I berate myself for the narcissism of imagining that my readers, however devoted, are actually sitting around thinking about how I have let them down. I feel guilty about my narcissism. I feel narcissistic for posting about my guilt. I marvel at the fact that I do not yet have any posts tagged "guilt".

→ Thinking about patterns, habits, and cycles, both in my own life and in the lives of my characters. Despite my real or imagined narcissism, I far prefer to analyze these as they apply to my characters.

→ Making excellent progress on getting the story of my novel right by writing a synopsis. I'm sure this advice appears many places, but I know that in REVISION & SELF-EDITING by James Scott Bell, he recommends drafting a synopsis (or several) as a way to assess a story before revising. I've been writing what I expect will be about a 15-page document that lays out the plot of my novel -- not the plot as it exists, but as it should be. This has been a slow, extremely useful process that is forcing me to come up with answers to all the questions like "How did that result in him believing that?" and "Why wouldn't she have told him that years ago?" Once I'm done with the synopsis, the idea is that I'll know what I need to change in the next draft, and I'll have some confidence that those things won't need to be changed again. I keep feeling like it sure would have saved a lot of time if I had simply created this synopsis before ever writing the book in the first place, but I know I wouldn't have come up with most of this stuff without writing it a couple of times. It would be awfully nice to develop the skill of doing it in the other order, though.

→ Smiling at my reorganized book collection every time I walk down the hall.

→ Rewarding myself for getting rid of 150 books by -- yes, you guessed it! -- buying more books.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Paul Collins at Slate studies a Victorian writing guide and observes what the first how-to book for fiction can still tell us: "[Sherwin] Cody tells would-be Victorian writers to show and don't tell ('To say your heroine was proud and defiant is not half so effective as saying she tossed her head and stamped her foot'), to kill their darlings ('sacrifice absolutely everything of that sort'), and write what they know." (Thanks, Dick!)

→ Parker Peevyhouse at The Spectacle puzzles over When Writers Don’t Read: "Reading a chapter of someone else's book is like taking a shot of espresso -- it keeps me going. It puts me in the right frame of mind, like the author is sitting there with me waiting for me to jump in with my own story."


Eleanor Brown said...

The idea of writing a synopsis in preparation for revision is really interesting. I may have to try it.

And kudos on your internet-free experiment! As I've said many a time, there's interesting stuff to be done on the internet, but all too often it's been three hours and you wind up reading the Wikipedia entry on cheese. And by you, I mean me.

Mom said...

Sorry to have passed on the "guilt" gene in my DNA.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Mom, I'm pretty sure I inherited that gene from both sides!

Henri Picciotto said...

For a reader who loves your blog, your non-posting is quite helpful: I often go for weeks without checking Google Reader, and it's nice when not so much has piled up there.

Facebook does not call to me, and I don't read Twitter, so I guess I don't have a big Web addiction issue. Though I've been watching _30 Rock_ when too tired to do something more productive.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Henri, it's nice to have readers clamoring for less!

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