Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Touch It Every Day"

If there's anything an MFA student likes more than a glass full of alcohol, it's a lecture full of double entendres. This little gem was doled out in my second year, when I was in the throws of learning short stories and panicking over my thesis. The admonition, of course, was that we needed to be in our work at least a little every day. But this was school; there wasn't a minute I didn't feel like I wasn't "touching it."

Fast forward to this past year, when I've taken on a new job, gone full-throttle into a new direction that has left much less time for writing than my glorious past years. I plow through the novel; I put it down. I tinker with some shorts; I put them down. I go through long droughts where I am tutoring long hours of the day and running my kids around the other waking hours, and I never even open my word processor.

The problem with this is more insidious than just not getting words on the page every day. The problem is I lose interest in my story. I feel far away from it, and the farther I feel, the harder it is to pick it up. I stop thinking about it when I'm not working on it, which means that when I do pick it up, I don't know where I'm going and I spend more time staring at the computer rather than actually writing.

Characters in a book are not that different than real people in your life. The less time you spend with them, the less you know them.

So the past few weeks I've made a vow to "touch it every day." Even if that means just opening it to see what I did yesterday. To read one section that's been bugging me. To add a scene, or just a few words of description. To change a line of dialogue. To cut a few words out.

When I'm tired and worn out and brain dead, I remind myself I don't have to engage in a full-on relationship with the manuscript. I just have to touch it.

And it works.

Now, when I'm not writing, I'm thinking more about it. I'm finding that when I open the manuscript up, I have more to say. I know the characters a little more intimately. I know what is missing, what they'd say in a situation. I've been thinking about the scenes, about what is missing, about where to go.

I know some of you are writing machines, but others are in the same boat as I am... floating a little between the full-on writer life and writing as we can between the other pressing things in life.

Here's my encouragement to you who are floating... touch it. Just a little. Every day. It works.


  1. Definitely experiencing the same sea sickness as you. Even when I've had time to write, I find myself doing other things because I don't want to get back into a story that I've neglected for so long.

    Great advice about touching it every day, even if that's just reading a bit of it.

    1. Patti - I appreciate you so much. I feel like we are so much in the same boat - so much more than before, even, and that makes me appreciate how hard it is for you. Working, raising teens... I want to be a writer, but I feel more and more like someone who writes as opposed to a writer. And then I think that I always think of YOU as a writer, and that makes me feel better. We are Working Writing Mom Warriors. :)

  2. Yes. This is exactly it - "touch it every day." I think about my story every day and will jot down notes or phrases that come to me, but i don't necessarily write every day. Keeping in touch is so important.

    1. Thinking about it definitely counts as touching it. I don't always write, either, but I do find if I don't open it and read it, or jot an idea down, I begin to lose touch with it. I think the more I get into it, the more often I am writing, the more its okay to have those days every now and then when I don't. I just have to make sure not to string too many of those days together. I thought it was funny that right before I posted this, Nathan Bransford posted a blog about not having to write every day to be a writer. :)