The Journal, Thursday, 9/17: Critical Mind. Ugh.

When asked what advice he would give new writers, Ray Bradbury said, “Write at least a thousand words a day for ten years. Write at least a short story every week of your life, or its equivalent in essay form, play form or the novel. … Habit is everything. Learning one’s craft is locked into habit.” So there you go.

Got a good night’s sleep last night despite the idiot dog across the way doing his bark-at-nothing thing at regular intervals. Rolled out right at 3 to begin the day.

Slipping a bit in my ongoing retraining, so I’m retooling again. I always check email first thing while I’m waking up, read news stories, etc. But recently I’ve been responding to lengthy emails from a person who asks a lot of questions.

Now I’m not blaming the person for asking, so don’t get me wrong. I could always just say something like “Sorry, I don’t have time for this.” But I’m trying to help, trying to share my own knowledge and experience, so I don’t mind. And if you know me at all, you know I usually go overboard with my answers to be sure I answer the question thoroughly. So totally my fault.

This morning I received an email like that with nine numbered questions. To save a little time scrolling up and down I opened a Notepad document, listed 1-9 down the side, then wrote my responses.

It still ate an hour and a half out of my day. Granted it was almost a thousand words (I checked only for purposes of this post), and that many words of nonfiction from the conscious mind in an hour and a half is pretty much blazing speed, at least for me. But I allowed my response to eat about 1500 words worth of my fiction-writing time. And I’ll lose more time too. Time that I can’t afford to lose.

The problem is that once I’m working in my conscious, critical mind, it takes awhile to get back into the free-flowing subconscious creative mind.

So I’m tweaking my retraining schedule again. Beginning tomorrow morning, I’ll still check email, read news items etc. to wake up as always. I’ll even respond to some email, but long stuff or stuff that I feel requires a long response will have to wait until the end of my day.

Oh, beginning tomorrow also, this post will go out later in the evening. I’ll try 6 for awhile. If that doesn’t give me enough leeway, I’ll raise it to 7.

Now about the conscious mind. One of the primary functions of the conscious mind is to protect you. If you’re about to lean your hand on the hot burner of a stove, the conscious mind is what causes you to feel the heat and jerk your hand away. The conscious mind is what causes you to sense the edge of a cliff is near and back off. (The subconcious mind would say, “Go ahead! Might be a trip!”)

For a writer, the conscious mind invokes every writing myth you ever heard in an attempt to stop you from writing. (If you don’t finish what you’re writing, you can’t submit it or publish it and you won’t be “hurt” by rejection or criticism. This is why we don’t mind outlining or plotting or thinking about writing or just rewriting and “polishing” ad nauseam.)

And the critical conscious mind is wily in that regard. Notice, I recently (only a few days ago) had retrained myself to take no more than a half-hour of waking-up time before turning to the writing computer. Enter this correspondent, and suddenly I’m taking an hour and a half to two hours. Nicely played, conscious mind. (grin) But I’m putting a stop to it.

So how do you beat the conscious, critical mind? You take a personal oath to adhere to Heinlein’s Rules. Then when you realize you’ve fallen off, you wag your finger at your conscious mind, set it back in the corner where it’s supposed to be, and get back on Heinlein’s Rules.

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must publish what you write so people can buy it.
  5. You must keep it published so more people can buy it.

I’ve been falling down on Rule 2 lately. Why? Because my conscious mind keeps wanting to know where the story is going in advance. So I have to clear that away, start another story, write an opening and see where it goes.

I have to stop “thinking” and Just Write the Next Sentence. Now I’m putting all this here so you can see that if you have to battle this stuff, you aren’t alone. I battle it too.

Okay, so I wrote that response to my correspondent, and that siphoned me into using my conscious, critical mind. Since I was drowning in the CCM anyway, I came here to write this. And now four hours of the day are gone.

Now I’m gonna take a bit of time to adjust my head. Maybe I’ll read a little more Bradbury or something (it motivates me), and then it’s to the writing computer. I’ll see you again this afternoon when it’s time to post this.

By the way, I’m officially calling time of death on my 30-short-stories-by-September-30 challenge.

Did some reading and a few other things, and now, a full six hours after I got out of bed, I’m finally starting my fiction writing. That is completely unsatisfactory. Sometimes there are valid reasons not to write. Today is not of of those days.

My Current Goals and Challenge
My goals remain to write 3,000 words of publishable fiction per day and at least one short story per week. I probably will announce a new challenge soon. I do still want to stay in my retraining though, and writing short stories is the best way to do that right now. Stay tuned.

Topic of the Post: Nothing beyond what I wrote above.

Today’s Writing
Well, nothing like I wanted. Frankly, the fact that I started this post with that particular Bradbury quote is the only thing that made me write fiction today. I couldn’t break free of all the crap in my head. I’ll have it back tomorrow, I guess. I did write that foreword that was requested (1285 words) plus that long email earlier (1000) plus this (over 1200), so over 3000 words of non fiction. But very little fiction. Like I said, I’ll be back on it tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 1458

Writing of “Norval Babineaux” (not sure what this is gonna be)
Day 1…… 3405 words. Total words to date….. 3405 words
Day 2…… 1487 words. Total words to date….. 4892 words
Day 3…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Writing of “Curious Shapes” (short story)
Day 1…… 1022 words. Total words to date….. 1022 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

Writing of “Nick Mansione” (short story)
Day 1…… 1458 words. Total words to date….. 1458 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

Total fiction words for the month………… 28300 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 493341