I'm hard at work on the first draft of a new book, and by "hard at work" I mean it doesn't yet have a title or a middle or an ending. It does, however, contain over 12,000 words, thanks to a certain productivity trick. It's called "Don't Break the Chain" and the Internet credits Jerry Seinfeld with its creation, though I'm sure he can't be the first person to ever do this. Basically, you begin by setting a goal - for example, my current goal is "write 1,000 words a day." Each day your goal is achieved, you get to cross that day off on a calendar. This adds to your "chain," which you want to make as long as possible. If you miss a day you have to start over, at which point you will inevitably try to beat your previous record, because goals and numbers are the greatest thing in the world. (You can see why this method works well for me.)
|A behind the scenes look at my writing process. Fancy!|
This system is great for first drafts, at least the way I write. It encourages me to get the words down and worry about the story later. Right now, I'm still trying to figure out what the story is, and each day a bit more emerges. When it comes time to revise, I'll probably have to find a new method (wine? despair? hiding under my bed?) but for now I'm feeling pretty good about my progress.
And if a paper calendar is too antiquated for you, there's also a handy website where you can cross off your accomplishments virtually.
In addition to writing every day, I've also been reading a lot. I suspect this is partly why I've been able to write so much - the two activities are inextricably linked. It's only the second week of January, and I've already finished two novels. I've also been enjoying some amazing writing on the 'net, which I am happy to share with you.
Here are some things I've read recently and loved, written by my friends:
- All the Girls We Knew in the Suburbs, by Ben Hoffman, via American Short Fiction
- 5 Poems by Sally J. Johnson, via Electric Cereal
- Housewarming, via Newfound and When We Met During Prohibition, via Leveler, both by Kathleen Jones
- Space Poems, by John Mortara, via SPACE
And here are some things I read and really enjoyed, even though I don't know the people who wrote them:
- When You Love a Book Because of Who It's From, by Helen Rosner, via BuzzFeed Books
- The Virologist, by Andrew Marantz, via The New Yorker
- The Town Without Wi-Fi, by Michael J. Gaynor, via The Washingtonian
And finally, I have no words of my own yet for this latest tragedy, only my condolences, sadness, and horror. I don't want to politicize a terrible event (though that is inevitable), but I hope it shows that reading and writing are still and always will be important, revolutionary, and life-changing tools.
- The Attack on Charlie Hebdo, by Amy Davidson, via The New Yorker