I haven’t lost to February.
And February was so long that it lasted into March
And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, “That’s a crocus,”
And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “Its a flower,”
I tried to remember, but I said, “Whats a flower?”
You said, “I still love you.”
– Dar Williams, “February”
I usually hate February. I drown in this sunless, useless, brown month quicker than Jimmy Hoffa in concrete shoes. At least, up until this year, that’s how the game’s gone. While I’m sure it’s seasonal depression, I’ve never done much about it except get through it. And eat chocolate. That usually helps.
This year’s been different. After emerging from the worst cold of my life that sent my kid to the emergency room and my husband out of work for ten days, I had a changed approach to writing. I never made a resolution, really, not in the way people do that whole thing. I didn’t plan. I just decided, in my head, that I wasn’t working hard enough at this. I was letting distractions overwhelm me at every possible turn.
There’s no magic formula other than this: I write. Even when I don’t want to. I don’t watch a lot of TV, try not to Twitter too much. And I’m finding on the days that I don’t make my goal (1K a day) I start to get really upset with myself. (If only I could approach fitness this way) So far that has been enough to kick my ass into gear.
If you’ve followed my posts over at the Aldersgate Cycle, you’ll note I started that blog just about in February, likely as a way to get my creative brain moving. But the whole writing component still eluded me, and I often questioned how in the world I would ever find my way out of editing Hell and do anything creative again. In May of 2008 I wrote this:
But there are times where telling the story becomes such a Huge Thing that I get rather tongue-tied. Or, I suppose, finger-tied. I’m tossed into brain numbness. It’s not writer’s block, because I know where the story is going (at least now I do). I even outlined all my chapters to the end (yes, I’m proud of myself). It’s just at times it feels like there’s so much to say and so much to do and so many words to write–and write well–that I just can’t get it right. The last month or so has been replete with hurdles, writing huge sections and deleting them, restructuring, moving around, petitioning the Muse (Aelfric has one heck of a sense of humor, I tell you).
This used to typify my process. I would only write when I had something to write. Now, when one well runs dry, I tap another. In the middle of Queen of None I took a two week break and finished The Aldersgate. I had 30K, wrote 40K, and since I finished The Aldersgate I just got another 40K in. I’m not bragging, especially considering I know that high word counts don’t equal high quality counts. But the cool thing is that I started January 1. That’s 110K since then, which is as much as I wrote in the last two years.
Sure, I’m not working in an office; I am a stay at home Mom, and I have (some) downtime during the day. My mind is in a better place than it’s been, well, ever. But every case is different. It may be that you have a 200 word goal for the day, or a 100 word goal for the day. The point is that you make it absolutely habitual.
To come back to the whole February issue–I think this year my straight-talkin’ to myself has not only gone a long way in terms of wordcount, but it’s also prevented me from slipping into the darkness of the month. I mean, I had every excuse considering my little sister got cancer for Christmas, etc.
Of course my other theory is that it’s purely escape, that my imagination is going into overdrive to cope with the stress. But really, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. There are far worse things. For the moment, I am enjoying it.