Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Tips #1: The Three Rs of Practice & A Page A Day

Writing, like any skill worth honing, requires practice.  In turn, practice entails a process of three Rs: rigor, repetition, and ritualization.

The three Rs apply to practicing any skill, whether physical or mental, artistic or technical.  But for writing in particular, rigor is what it takes to sit down at your desk--likely for hours at end--and devote yourself to the writing process, despite the distractions of media, the internet, and everyday life.  Repetition of that rigorous process is the next step, one that writer's blocks, lack of motivation, and unexpected exigencies can easily derail.  If one can manage to make it past those hurdles, however, then repetition solidifies into ritualization--where the entire process becomes a natural part of one's daily routine, like having a cup of coffee in the morning or brushing one's teeth at night.

Making writing a ritual doesn't necessarily make it any easier.  But it does help to ensure that, regardless of the difficulties, you'll continue to write.  Or at least see to it, as Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells of Writing Excuses put it, that you're BIC HOK: "butt in chair, hands on keyboard."  Stephen King describes a similar notion in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: writing every day, with a goal of 2000 (or, for beginners like us, 1000) words a day.  Those who've participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, have experienced just how excruciating meeting a daily word count can be--even if its only 1667 words a day, for 30 days.

Despite it all, no matter how eloquently one can explain them, knowing the Three Rs and successfully applying them are two very different things.  I've occasionally managed to muster the work ethic to achieve rigor, but just as often, laziness wins over and I squander my writing hours on sundry pursuits.  I've known days where I plunk out 1000 words before 10 a.m., and move on to the rest of my day with the effervescent glow of that achievement coloring everything in sunny hues; I've also known days where I've toiled at the keyboard long past nightfall, with my spirits as exhausted as the daylight.  Repetition is something I've only achieved in sporadic bursts, and which has invariably ended in crash-and-burn periods of lethargy the likes of which would probably make even a sloth itch with self-loathing.  Ritualization, for me, is the bright and shimmering goal at the end of a long, dark hallway--and like so many others, I'm still fumbling for a light switch.

I think I may have found one in the form of the following clause: "A Page a Day."  The goal is to produce a page of writing per day, repeating that feat each and every day, until it becomes a ritualized part of one's daily schedule.  Whether it's 250 words--the usual word count for a page of double-spaced, 12-point Courier New text--of a longer composition, a completed short-short story (also known as "flash fiction"), or a substantial blog post or Facebook note, what matters is that it be an attainable goal, and one that will yield significant results in the long run.  (After all, a page a day for just one year will leave you with 365 pages!)

This notion reminds me of a children's book called The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen, in which the titular "arithmetic" is a mindset that enables the inhabitants of a Nazi concentration camp to endure the ordeal: the notion of taking on each day one at a time, of breaking down the horrors and trials of their lives into day-long pieces and facing them one at a time.  One, plus one, plus one, plus one . . . ad infinitum.

This "A Page a Day" ("APAD"?) approach can easily extend to other creative pursuits.  I like to draw, but often find even more excuses not to than I do for writing.  A page of sketches or a completed drawing per day for a year would fill many a sketchbook--or a good portion of hard drive space.  Even if you end up falling short once every three days--a total of four months out of the year--you'd still have 240 pages to show for it.

I'm going to begin APAD today, with both writing and drawing, and encourage you to do the same with the pursuits that find worthwhile.  In the coming weeks I'll come back to this subject and update you on how it's worked for me, and I encourage you to do the same.  I definitely think that APAD is a switch in the dark hallway in which so many of us find ourselves--but whether it'll turn on the lights remains to be seen.  I'm hopeful that it'll work for at least one of us.

Well, now that all is said and done, I suppose this counts as my page of writing for the day.  Now it's your turn.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Welcome to The Nexus of Misc ('cause it's shorter and "miscellanea" is an easy word to misspell), a blog comprised of hodgepodge entries on a multiplicity of topics representing the myriad interests of your humble author. These include, but are no means limited to:

- Writing (creative, legal, academic . . . even a bit of grammar and usage, once in a while)

- Anime & Manga (and all the fan-based activities--fan fiction, fan art, doujinshi, user-generated content, etc.--that go with them)

- Law (especially the intersection of copyright and fan-based activities)

- Philosophy (with a smattering of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Kantian thoughts)

- Technology (computers and all the other devices that make the 21st such a wonderful century in which to live)

- Gaming (computer and video; old-school like chess and Go; card flopping like Magic: the Gathering and the Battletech CCG)

- Books (especially science fiction and fantasy)

- Writing Implements & Paraphernalia (Pens--especially fountain--and papers of all sizes, stocks, and bindings)

- Keyboards (because there's so much more to the world than the sad membrane keyboards that most people type on)

- Watches (especially mechanical, and sometimes to include those of the pocket variety)