A slow start.

omnioutliner screenshot

Crank handle by De Shark on flickr
(Photo by De Shark on flickr)

I need a crank handle at my desk. That and willpower. For now, tea and gritted determination has to suffice. I find it really hard to get up and going right now – not good when I have a book I want to write and content strategy to be doin’ – and I’m trying to work close to Pacific Standard Time at the moment to help out an American client so my body clock is all kinds of wrong right now, anyway. My small children, of course, are not on PST. They are barely on GMT. Last night they had me up and about for an hour at 4am. And so morning, even a very late starting one, is painful.

I’m tackling this in a two pronged attack. Prong one: I’m shifting about my diet and eating / exercising habits. I have always been quite principled about food but since having Thing 2, 18 months ago, I’ve found myself sliding into bad habits and relying on quick fixes. Not good. But I wanted to mention it, so you didn’t think that I was just going for 19 cups of coffee and a choux bun while writing. I know how much you all care deeply. Anyway, what I want to talk about here is prong 2.

Prong 2 in the ‘getting going despite being mere nanometers from a lovely, fluffy duvet’ is my golden rule to never start writing from a cold start or a blank page. Both are excellent bets for facing paralysis swiftly followed by a burning need to clean out the hallways closet or make meringues or whatever is your next ‘must do, sort of’ task.

Instead, I get paper and pen and write a list or brainstorm or draw silly diagrams of what it is I want to say, and through this I tend to find an anecdote to open a chapter on or a good comparison to make. This is a page from my notebook related to the book and a talk I did last summer (covering the same material)

image from inside my notebook

I type this up, play with it a bit and then go back to the planning. If it’s a big complicated thing, like, I dunno a book, I’ll open up omnioutliner and continue in there. Here’s the outliner file that eventually became the first Table of Contents.

omnioutliner screenshot

If it’s for a presentation, I often start finding visual hooks for each of my points and start compiling a folder and list of those. I write snippets as I go, slowly gathering them into a thing with a start, a middle and an end. This is my draft: a squalling, clumsy composition of competing ideas.

I no longer have nothing. I have the things I am going to write about so now I can take pleasure in finding the best way to describe these little serendipitous synapse connections of mine rather than struggle to have them at all. I like to to think of writing as a bit like when you came to write up a report at school of an experiment (maybe involving a potato and electricity). It’s where you come to lay out all the hard work your brain has been doing and show it off to its best advantage.

Today for work I have a bunch of page tables to create based off a new IA, but as it doesn’t require all of my brainwork to be doing that, a small portion of my little grey cells will be ticking over how best to introduce style guides to freelancers and explain why Kraft food need to go back to nursery school and learn what a ‘doing’ word is. Aiming to write a couple of thousand words on it by midnight. We’ll see how it goes.

Book look: masochist writer seeks vaguely achievable goal.

Mac keyboard

If there is one thing I have learned about writing that I can pass on with utter confidence that it will make all the difference, it is this:

Just fucking write something. Anything. And often.

I need reminding of this too.

a) because, like most writers, I find the sitting and writing is the hardest bit to commit to.

b) I have a book to get done. A book that I genuinely believe there is a need for. That I want to get out of me and into other people.

c) because every piece of polished writing begins life as a shitty first draft, so it can live in the interim as a sorta rubbish draft on my blog.

Now the thing with me is I am somewhat commitment phobic. It is something I have come to learn in my old age (okay, 30, whatever), somewhat strangely after marriage and two kids. I have a hard time committing and finishing and completing. Especially my own writing. (Other people’s stuff, if of at least a readable quality, no problem redrafting at all. Strange but true.)

I’ve said before that I believe deadlines exist because writers would never stop tweaking otherwise and I’m as bad as all of them.

So, I’m going to try to post here, daily (flight schedules and whatnot allowing) to keep myself accountable and tell anyone who’s interested about book progress, stuff I’m doing and consuming and whatnot, and basically keep my writing brain tuned up. I might skip weekends, we’ll see, but certainly aim for Monday-Friday.

I’ll be signing up to wordpress’s 2011 challenge just for the larks. Let’s see shall we?