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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Among a Hundred, Maybe a Few

The biggest challenge with having a week of unstructured time is to avoid seeing it as a challenge and instead see it as an opportunity. To structure my work, I’ve started with a list of ideas for scenes and some notes that I’ve taken over the past few weeks. That’s gotten me started. As I flesh out those ideas, I’m thinking of other things I need to write, so I’m thinking that it will not be too difficult to use my time productively. It seems acceptable to make things up (retreat activities) as I go along, since that’s what I’m doing with my writing.

I’m also trying to avoid giving in to the temptation to savor the experience of writing and to make each word count. In other words, this is an opportunity to emphasize quantity over quality. Not that I’m allowing myself to throw down complete shit, but I’m keeping my internal editor otherwise occupied (e.g., encouraging him to put his energy into judging passersby, critiquing the theme of my blog, etc.).

Jane and I have made good use of the Wellspring House main room, and we’ve found some nearby places to work. Today, we spent a few hours at Mocha Maya’s in Shelburne Falls, which is where I cranked out most of today’s word quota. Here’s the excerpt:

Or he might see Blaine make the frowning face that meant he was getting a headache and forget himself and reach out to rub the back of Blaine’s neck casually with one hand, more to offer support than to fix the problem. This would happen among a hundred, maybe a few hundred people at a public place, a fraction of the few thousand people that Blaine and he would see in a day spent together, and of all of those people, Blaine was the only one he’d ever see again. Any disapproving strangers probably wouldn’t recognize him, nevertheless know his name, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

Some of you may be wondering: what exactly is my daily word quota? Well, I don’t have a firm number in mind. On the first day, I wanted to write at least 1000, which I did. And for today I wanted to write more than I wrote yesterday, which I did. That seems like a reasonable goal for my time at the retreat. Even if I only increase the total word count by one each day, it’s positive momentum. I’m not expecting to write some extraordinary number of words during this week. I’d rather use my time to develop good habits that I can maintain when I return to real life.

Today’s total: 1352 words

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3 Responses

  1. I’m sad I’m missing you guys, but I’m glad it it’s working out so well.

  2. […] make sure I do things every day that move my writing forward. While on retreat, it was important to focus on quantity and on a specific project. Since arriving home a week ago, I’ve needed to alter my […]

  3. […] some scenes for the novel. Having lost momentum, I feel a little silly for fretting over the unstructured time I had this summer when I went to a writing retreat. That was a good problem to […]

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