03 April 2007

(not so F)AQ's

to finish off a satisfying working day, i will answer a few very interesting questions my friend c (check out his german blog here) has posed today. here we go...

how do you stay motivated when there is no deadline?
my instant reply to this was that, as a writer, i want to produce finished, presentable texts.
i compared the process of writing to the process of getting a tattoo: you can't just stop in the middle, when it hurts too badly. c replied that, if it's 'just' the finished product that matters, nobody should ever have motivational problems. i agree. indeed, the finished product has to really matter. here, i guess, you'd have to distinguish between writing that's done voluntarily and writing that somebody expects you to do. intrinsic and extrinsic factors, just as with any other motivational problem. also, you would clearly have to distinguish a lack of motivation from a phenomenon called writer's block. writer's block is an ugly, nasty thing i have experienced myself. if you suffer from it, try unstuck by jane anne staw. it helped me a lot last year, when i was going through a 'mute' phase. she basically suggests that you should start with writing one to five minutes only a day for a couple of weeks. sounds like no task, but when you really suffer from writer's block, it relieves you of the pressure to just produce all that text you haven't produced in years in one day. she mentions a lot of other helpful ideas, too, so without wanting to make too much of a fuss about the book: i can really recommend it.

with regard to my manuscript: as i do have a deadline there, too (end of august 2007), there is no such thing as no deadline. there was, before i committed to the writing life as a main occupation, but now there's really no excuse to keep me from writing/ working over a longer period of time. even the coming week that i will spend in switzerland, i will make sure i'll have enough time to myself to keep on going. there's nothing i hate more than an involuntarily interrupted work flow. even though i'm looking forward to going home right now, i'd rather stay here and think about my structure, my protagonists and my wording. no joke.

what keeps you from surfing the internet all the time?
nothing but turning it off, i'm afraid.

how much of what will be in the final story do you know before you even start to write?
as much as possible! with the flood story i knew where i was heading 80%. interestingly enough, much of the imagery i planned to use developed further during the process of writing. it kind of linked itself to the story and a climax -of which i only knew where and when it should be coming- emerged naturally. (this sounds like bad tantra advice, i know, sorry.) so anyways: when it comes to the manuscript, for example, i don't expect to be starting to write before the end of april. there's so much drafting to do, so many scenes to make up and arrange, so many locations to imagine, so many character traits to mix and match.

when i was younger i tried to write spontaneously and wondered why i never produced something brilliant. it is, because writing requires thinking in the first place. you wouldn't want to start filming a movie before you know what it's about, either, would you?

how much time do you spend on details like the slowness question (see related post below)?
once the structure is set, i spend ALL my time getting the words right. there is a difference between annina is sitting on a chair and is trying to concentrate and annina is sitting on a chair. she is trying to concentrate. and annina, sitting on a chair, is trying to concentrate. words are NOT details. a good text is, and forever will be, all about the words!

the slowness example from below, by the way, didn't even make it into the first draft.

how do you know you're talented enough?
i don't. i mean, people have told me they like what i wrote and that there's a fair chance they'd like and possibly even buy the stuff even if they wouldn't have known it was me who has written it. but really, i don't. and if i think i am talented enough only for an instant, my inner critic pipes up in no time and shouts: BULLSHIT!

yet when i see all the rubbish that is getting published these days, i might as well try. keep in mind that my time frame for the professional writing life (if there shall be no overly successful outcomes produced by me) is set to five and a half months. of course, i will keep on writing if nothing comes of it, too, but i want to see how i can do until then.

basically, if you've been here before and came back for more, i guess i could have a shot at being published.

don't you need a message?
to me, you don't. i don't. writing is about observation. your point of view is your message. people like to know what's going on in other people's minds. if observed well enough, the message will creep in between the lines.

how do you learn to write?
here, let me quote william zinsser again: you do NOT learn to write BY READING. you learn how to write by writing. that's why i don't mind 'wasting' an hour of my 'writing time' on compiling and answering these questions.

can i read what you write?
sure you can read what i write once it's finished and submitted. all 'proper' recent texts i produce in german, though. i will keep on posting older and newer english poetry of mine every now and then, plus a couple of translations either way around.

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