Recently, I’ve been working on breaking out of some old, bad habits – the perpetual “the problem is the tool, not the tool wielder” that seems to have become a rabid infestation in my brain the last few years.
When I started writing, I had a marble notebook. That was all. But even then, I yearned for the freedom and mobility that some upgrade would give me. First it was a Palm Pilot (“To be able to just carry that around!”), then it was a keyboard attachment for my PalmPro (“To use on the VRE during my commute!”), then it was a laptop. Every time I reached my goal, there was always something just out of my reach that would elevate me further.
It is now twenty years later, there are still tools I see that “would make it so much easier to create!” – MS Surface, a newer iPad with mechanical keyboard, etc. – but the truth is, none of that matters.
The only tool I need to write is the one I’ve had all along, the one residing in that chunk of grey matter between my ears. I realize how cliché that sounds, but that’s actually what makes it true.
The other big blocker is that I expect too much of myself when writing. When I sit down to write, I always found it helpful to have goals. “This will be XX pages long” or “I need to write XXXX words a day.” Doing that, though, forced me to stretch or manipulate stories because I felt like they needed to meet a certain criteria for length.
I had, in other words, forgotten the most basic tenant of writing good fiction:
A story should be no longer or shorter than it needs to be to tell its tale.Someone smart at some point
It makes writing a struggle, I won’t lie, but it’s also somewhat freeing. I’m not trying to “write to market” (What market? What sales?) If my stories never find a home that’s ok – it’s about the writing and telling, not the selling and publishing.
And so I have found myself sitting down every morning for the last week, pulling up an old but trusty writing app and putting down some words. Some days less than a hundred; some days this week, over a thousand. I know where this story is going; I don’t know how long it is yet, or how long it will be, or what the “right” length for it is. I’ll know that when it’s done being written.