Week Five: Summer 2016 Online Writing Group

It’s week five of our online writing group! Yee-haw!

Now let’s get to it.

Week Five Goals:

  • Alena: Laura’s assignment for week four came at a good time for me. I had hit a wall with the short story I was writing, “Two Bakas,” because I was getting hung up on the story’s flaws. Frustrated, I didn’t work on it for a while. Then, for week four’s assignment, I revisited it with a less critical eye and got back to writing it for the enjoyment of writing’s sake. (I’m so glad it helped!)

My goals for week five include finishing that same short story (or at least coming close to finishing it). I’d also like to work on a novel of mine, which I’ve already started doing character sketches for.

  • Aliena: WRITE. (I’m on vacation, dagnabbit. I have time to write. Just need to make it happen!)
  • Anne D.: My goal this week is to try and write.
  • Anne H.: Coming soon…
  • BevWe got chicks this week, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time admiring how cute they are. With the holiday extension, I was able to finish Ch. 10 revisions and even go back to Ch. 5, which is still bloated. I also wrote a letter AND put it in the mail without agonizing for weeks about typos. Some of my readers have been critical of me sending letters about summer in December… I will continue to post cute chick pictures on my blog, Fiacre’s Spade, and tackle the next chapter. I’ve already cut four pages. I hope the story still has a soul. (I’m sure it does!)

For next week, I will tackle Chapter 10, May, a big one for plot development, write my blog, and finish the letter. (Bev, I’m so glad the assignment helped — good work!)

  • Emily: Gonna try to write three questions for my book this week.
  • Katherine: Last week, I did get some writing done, but not as much as I would have liked.Next week, I have some writing that still needs to be done, but mostly I am needing to do some reorganizing of the back 30% of the book. I want to print out the entire thing so that I can really analyze the order and structure better than on my small laptop.
  • Laura: I met most of my goals last week and am looking forward to continuing to work this week. I’m going to finish the second chapter of my big project and start on the third; I’m going to finish my blog post about California and publish that on Wednesday; and I’m going to start a short story I’ve been thinking about (I finally have an opening image/scene and feel like I can start it).
  • Lisa: Last week I got absolutely nothing accomplished in the writing department. This week, I hope to at least write five pages.
  • Matt: More of the same from me for week five.

The past week has been different. My progress has slowed considerably, and that is only due in part to a busier schedule and a bit of clusterfrak that diminished my free time during my days off. I’ve made a number of fairly large changes to this story since the writing group started, and now I find myself focusing more on smaller issues. It is a more ponderous pace, but an interesting thing has happened. Somewhere along the line I have developed a sense of confidence that the manuscript is constantly improving, and that each new version of the story is the best version that it has been.

  • Matt the Second: I was able to finish my piece for the Raue’s poetry night from a few weeks ago. But I haven’t been very productive as the only place I have to write is in a very public spot with a lot of distractions and potentially people being nosy and looking over my shoulder. Being that what I want to work on is personal I don’t feel comfortable writing there, and I’m not sure how to overcome this obstacle, which sucks because I’d like to be more productive. Both the pieces are ones I’d really like to see some progress on. One so I can possibly submit it to different 10 minute play festivals and the other so I can get over the hump of not believing I’m able to write something full length. So I guess my goal should be finding a place to write where I feel comfortable to do so. Not sure where that could be. (Try the library!)
  • Mike: Only revised a few more pages of my short story but worked out a big plot point in my head for future work. That’ll have to wait till next week. I’m traveling with my older two daughters this week and will have to keep my goals appropriately realistic. I’m planning to finish a long blog post about my daughter Zoe’s educational environment.
  • Ray: Coming soon…
  • RobertGoal is 7000 words.
  • Rosalie: Once again I accomplished my week four goals at the very last minute. I seem to be having trouble making up my mind about how I want this work to flow. I have changed the theme FOUR times and finally decided that I’m just going to let it stand. Because I’ve changed the theme so often massive revisions to the work I thought I had finished are in my future. For week five I’m going to start on this task.
  • Sarah: Two goals this week: 1. Set up make-shift writing space in the living room; 2. Sneak in writing time while my kid plays. Still working on scripts for videos on Non-Western art.
  • Tina: Coming soon…

I’ve noticed that a number of you have included “setting up writing spaces” at some point during the last few weeks. And I absolutely recognize the need to have a tidy space that makes you feel in control. That feeling of control makes you much more likely to start working; it’s easier to transition to a working state in you have a comfortable, soothing space to do it in.

And I know how hard it is to transition to a working state. I have a hard time transitioning from listening to NPR in the morning to working; from watching my DVRd episode of The Preacher to working; from watching my DVRd episode of BrainDead to working; watching my DVRd episode of The Bachelorette to working; from binge-watching all of season three of the X-Files for no real reason (except, because, X-Files) to working. You see where I’m going with this?

In fact, I have such a hard time transitioning to a working state, that I rarely get much good work done at home at all, so I try to work as much as I can in my office at school. On campus, I don’t have to contend with my television (or, really, my lack of will power when it comes to my television). Instead, there’s just a cave-like atmosphere (because I turn on very few lights) and the white noise of the building’s HVAC. It’s tremendously productive.

But because I’m not teaching this summer, I have few reasons to go into the office, and I need to capitalize on all of my time here at home. So what I’ve been doing is not letting the lack of a comfortable, soothing, tidy space be my excuse not to work. And that’s your job this week: do not let the lack of a comfortable, soothing, tidy space be your excuse not to work.

This is my office:

Messy Office

This is actually a relatively clean space for me. Only two piles.

See, that’s not a soothing place to work. But I have to work anyway. So here are three options for you to choose from this week if you don’t yet have a great space to write:

Move to a clean space, even if it’s not your office or designated space.

If you have any space in your house that’s cleared off — your kitchen or dining room table, a table in your basement, or your lap as you sit on your couch or on the bed in the guest bedroom, make that your writing space for this week.

Yes, writing in a tidy space is soothing, and I know this because of what Marie Kondō writes about in her two books on tidying up. And do you know where those books are right now? In that pile on my desk. Let’s move on.

Make a Cave.

Let’s imagine that there are no cleared off spaces in your home, and that every single space is covered in piles of books, receipts, papers to file, notes to remember, etc. What do you do? Embrace the piles.

When I was an undergrad at University of Wisconsin, Madison, I used to love studying at Memorial Library where they had these cave-like study carrels. I’d go to do my research (using books, not computers) and then do my writing in a little library cave, usually at night, and usually with a smuggled in cup of coffee. It was quiet and creepy and totally amazing.

So what you have to do to create a writing cave at home is this: double-stack all of your piles on your writing surface so that you have just enough room to work in, but make sure that you’re sort of surrounded by stuff. Then hunker in there and put in a pair of headphones. This is key: the headphones will help you focus and pretend that you’re alone in this little paperwork-pile cave world. You don’t even have to plug them in or listen to anything; just put them in your ears, tell everyone in your house that you can’t be disturbed for thirty minutes, and then get to work.

Do a Quick-Clear.

If you don’t have any clear spaces, and you don’t want to make a cave, then take five minutes — no more — and move everything you don’t need from one of your spaces onto the floor in the corner of the room (preferably behind you so you don’t have to look at it). Don’t worry about organizing. You are not organizing. I repeat: You. Are. Not. Organizing. In fact, the less you pay attention to what’s in the stack you’re moving, the better. Just move it into piles that are sturdy enough not to fall over, then turn your back and get to work. When you’re done, move it all back.

Is any of this ideal? Of course not! But we rarely live in ideal spaces or exist in an ideal situation for writing. We have to carve out space just like we have to carve out time. Don’t let the lack of either be an excuse not to write.

And if all else fails, leave the house and go to the library, a coffee shop, or a park bench!

Doesn’t this stock photo woman look totally romantic and productive? YOU CAN BE HER!

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Have a productive week, writers!

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2 thoughts on “Week Five: Summer 2016 Online Writing Group

  1. Pingback: Week Six: Summer 2016 Online Writing Group | lakeprojects

  2. Pingback: Addendum | lakeprojects

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