My first Research Road Trip (RRT) was generative — immerse myself in my main character and see what scenes would come out of it. The second (RRT2) was to confirm, narrow, and hone the scenes that stuck to the page. But the third (RRT3), which I just returned from, was different — I had a complete draft in hand, literally. I was able to walk through each scene, then sit and take in sensory detail, nab overheard background dialogue (I’m a thief), and see if the feelings I was trying to convey on the page matched my simulation of the real thing. So productive. So much fun. Not bad scenery, either.
Woke to find a present at the foot of my bed: the one-and-only April 30, 2016 I’ll ever get. Mary Oliver wrote, “That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning: Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” Yes, I would . . .
Think books don’t matter? Think again.
Recently I posted this on Facebook: “Apparently there is a substantial body of research which indicates that if you talk about a goal — finishing your novel, climbing a mountain, eating all two dozen fresh-baked cookies in one sitting — you are LESS likely to achieve it. Whoa, that’s not been my experience, just the opposite. Then again, I’m often deluded. What about you out there in Facebooklandia? To speak or not to speak, that is the question.”
Later, in response to the lively conversation that ensued, I wrote: “I easily found research to support both sides of this discussion. So I guess there’s not a right or wrong to it, just what works, and what works is very individual. For me, stating my goals helps, especially if I break them down into specific, doable steps, e.g. in order to be ready to climb Mt Rainier in August I am going to go for a trail run today. Or with my writing: on Monday I’m going to finish the second draft of the next 3 scenes of my YA novel. On Tuesday I’m going to shoot for 3 more. By the end of the week I hope to have reached the midpoint of the story. Oops, there it is — I’ve said it out loud, and in public. Will I go for a run, even though it’s raining, and write a bunch next week? I will report the results of this very limited research project as the data comes in.”
Now I’m back home in Corvallis from a writing retreat with an update:
– Yes, I did go for a run that day, rain or no rain. (Complete truth be told, I like running in the rain; that one was easy.)
– Yes, I did meet all of my writing goals last week, and have already hit the mark again every day this week.
However, if I hadn’t publicly stated my goals I’m pretty sure I would have achieved them anyway, so . . How’s that for an ambiguous conclusion?
Or maybe it’s not ambiguous at all. If it works, use it. If it doesn’t, bag it and move on. The important thing is to keep searching. And, of course, to keep writing.
Apparently there is a substantial body of research which indicates that if you talk about a goal — finishing your novel, climbing a mountain, eating all two dozen fresh-baked cookies in one sitting — you are LESS likely to achieve it. Whoa, that’s not been my experience, just the opposite. Then again, I’m often deluded. What about you out there in the big wide world? To speak or not to speak, that is the question.
Early morning editing checklist:
1. Laptop? √
2. Black tea with lemon? √
3. Brain? Um . . .
So maybe, um . . . there’s a difference between clearheaded and, um . . . empty headed?