Monday, December 19, 2011

Assessment


I used to hate this word. In the academic world, at least to college teachers, it means an examination of what we do to see how effectively (or ineffectively) it furthers a student's learning and development. And it's hard to gauge, complicated, and sometimes makes us a bit defensive. (What do you mean my students knew less at the end of the semester than at the beginning?)

With a short article from Writer's Digest, however, I have realized that it's way past time for a self-assessment of my writing habits. WAY past time. I've known so many writers who have very particular habits--a certain place to write, certain snacks, the best time of the day to write, etc.

My habits have always been pretty specific, too:

1. I write reclined in my wingback chair, laptop on my, well, lap.
2. I tackle a short online game before I start writing, to clear my head.
3. I write only during the day, not in the evening (unless I'm up at 2 a.m.).
4. I sit on my books for months, working on other projects until I finally get back to them.
5. I work on only one project at a time.
6. I put my writing last, after dishes, laundry, cleaning out the cat box, decorating for Christmas, cooking dinner--okay, pretty much everything. (I'm a bit like Cinderella, telling myself I can write IF I get all my work done, and IF I find a suitable dress to wear...)

So, what's wrong with all this, besides the obvious travesty in #6?

It isn't that anything is wrong. But the WD article suggested looking at my habits carefully to see how well they work, honing those I want to keep, and tossing or changing the ones that inhibit my productivity. And since I'm planning on signing up to be a school substitute in January, I have some definite reassessing to do.

Here are the questions I need to ask myself before then:

1. Is reclining the best way to tackle this? What about sitting at my writing desk, or even standing (it's better for circulation, and I've done it a little recently, with good results). Don't my legs start cramping if I write more than an hour at a time? Might another position help me be more productive AND healthier?

2. How much does online gaming get in the way of writing? Should I restrict my games to the fast ones? Doesn't Dragon Mahjong, for instance, sometimes delay me for half an hour, since I want to play until I actually win a game? How much time every day do I waste on this crap?

3. WHY do I only write during the day? So that I can stare at the football my husband is watching? Is television ever worth it, besides Grimm and Once Upon a Time? I already know the answer to this. I find most television mind-numbing or outright irritating... so why not write while the hubby is getting his TV fix? What is it I'm sacrificing my time for?

4. How effective is it to sit on my books for so long? What's the ideal time for stepping back to gain perspective? This one might be the most effective habit for me as it stands, actually. I reread my Death By Chocolate story, attempting to revise it, but it seems as if 1 1/2 months is not enough time for me to gain perspective. I added some detail, yes, but I didn't make the substantial changes to it that are probably needed. Lucy (hopefully) will see the holes and be honest enough to slash through them without mercy. I find that time is absolutely necessary for me, or I end up with three revisions of a work that don't even add up to a good edit. I know most writers are different from me in this, but it doesn't matter. I have to make sure that what I do works best for me.

5. I am too scatter-brained to work on two novels simultaneously, but my gut feeling with this work-on-only-one-project-at-a-time mentality isn't helping me be productive. I so want to finish a project that I slog through it even when it's utter crap, when it might serve me better to switch to something that could work better. Then again, I know two many friends who have five unfinished novels. This one might just have to stay as is. I have to think it through--perhaps try out a new habit or two--and experiment to see what works best.

6. Putting my writing at the bottom of my TO-DO list absolutely must change. Self-sacrifice cuts into my creativity more than everything else, and I need to at least fit in writing a little bit every single day. I've had "rewrite query" on my TO-DO list for two weeks now, and I know that today it won't happen. Will it happen tomorrow? I need to figure out why I believe my writing activity is not worth my time, and I need to find a way to show myself that it isn't a waste, that it deserves my devotion (and I deserve the time to write).

Wow, this entry turned out really long, and it probably bored the snot out of you, but if I can put these questions to myself, I might end up with a more productive 2012 than I would have otherwise... and maybe I'll be on a truer path to establishing my career as a writer.

So, what about all of you? Any habits you have that need a bit of assessment?

5 comments:

  1. Probably but I never think about writing habits. I like the quiet of the morning when no one is around or awake but I also write with two dogs tearing through the house making a wreck of the quiet, I write when I want to and don't when I don't. The other stuff gets done as it shows it's ugly little face same as the writing.

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  2. Five unfinished novels ain't nothing. I've started five unfinished novels this year. And started and finished two, too.

    Everyone's different on what they can manage and what works best for them. A self-assessment, however, seems like a fine idea.

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  3. But, Walking Man, you manage to remain highly productive. If your habits worked that well for me, I'd do them, too. Hopefully, I'll figure out a way to do all this without being so anal retentive.

    That's pretty awesome, Stephanie. I've never been that productive... and you have a full-time job, too. I obviously have some productivity issues.

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  4. You analyze things very well and very thoroughly. Thanks for this. :)

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  5. When things have to be just so
    before the sign changes
    from stop to go
    then it's time to rearrange roads.

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