Thursday, May 17, 2012

Enjoying the Agony of Starting AND Finishing a Weekly Blog

Writing a blog has never been my idea of a good time; rather, it’s a necessary undertaking I viewed from the start with horror and trepidation.

Luckily, my VA was understanding, patient and surprisingly encouraging of my early attempts. (I might also add that her editing skills are awesome and were tested with every topic.) But to my amazement, whatever I gave to her she managed to make better and more readable.

My fragile ego was encouraged, and I began disciplining myself to write on Thursday and to be completed on Friday – a weekly schedule I kept initially with some regularity. I was extremely dependable for several months. But then, as my client training schedule got busier and my travel time increased, I found it much harder to be disciplined about sitting down and coming up with some coherent thoughts in order to get the writing process started.

Why the hesitation? I asked myself if I could really write well enough, or did I have anything to say that anyone would want to read? I doubted my skill, as I had never had anyone encourage me. Oh, okay. I got a few pats on the back for papers done in graduate school, but the sparse comments were definitely nothing really noteworthy.
And, then how much about communication is really new? Last summer I wrote often about the contenders for the Republican nomination who were extremely entertaining in the beginning of the race, but after the tenth debate they were generally boring.

As of today, Ron Paul has stopped fundraising but has not officially dropped out of the race, Rick Santorum has given the weakest endorsement for Romney on record and is effectively moping his way to oblivion. A noticeably heavier Newt is busy with Callista, paying off a chunk of campaign debt. So, not much interesting to write about in that arena.

Convinced I was obviously the only one with writing issues, I was amazed to see in the Saturday/Sunday, April 21-22 issue of The Wall Street Journal a column by author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen titled “The Agony of Writing.” Her opening line – “I HATE to write.  I have to force myself every day to sit down and begin” – got my attention.

With such intense feelings about writing, I wondered how she ever finished her new memoir, Lots ofCandles, Plenty of Cake. The answer? A disciplined quirkiness! Regardless, I was hooked and began reading the rest of her article.

I was amazed, as so much of what she had to say about writing echoed my thoughts and even my writing patterns. Quindlen starts her writing day by taking a walk, which she says is composition: scenes, character, even dialogue.

I have found that some of my best writing ideas appear and develop while I’m driving 101 to San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, a drive that often takes two-plus hours. I jot ideas down with my right hand while my left is firmly planted on the steering wheel. Usually the body/plot and some great sentences take shape for a future blog. 

Quindlen feels strongly about keeping a writing schedule – daily from 9-3 – which she deems her “elementary school productive hours.” I generally write best if I can start in the morning and then get back to it the next day.

She cautions not to take a job where you do lots of writing. She firmly believes there are only so many words per day in the human body. So if you write, email and tweet during the day, you probably don’t have much left for writing. I tend to agree with her, as I can’t even begin to write at the end of lots of driving and a very busy day.

And finally, she says she always stops writing in mid-sentence or before the end of a chapter. She feels it’s harder to start a new chapter or a new paragraph in the morning, but she can always finish a sentence. I have found the same thing and actually look forward to getting back into editing first and then writing my final content.

Unlike Quindlen, I can’t write with music in the background and always have my office door firmly closed. And then with all systems in place, I’m amazed at how, as she says, “one sentence has a way of following another.”