Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And So What We Have Learned...

Shorter post today. Wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few things I've learned about my work habits over the course of this past semester.

First, the bad.

Late Night Writing Is Not Effective

There were several times this semester when I made myself stay up until I finished an assignment. It didn't work. Usually, I would tell myself to work on the assignment, but I'd end up distracting myself with online crap, fiddly work only semi-related to the assignment, or just general moping about how much I still needed to do on the assignment. In the end, I hardly ever got the assignment done, and I would have to walk into class the next morning with little or no sleep and my tail between my legs. It was a humiliating, depressing, and humbling experience. Essentially, I need to work more on planning ahead and, more importantly, working ahead of schedule.
Larger projects are best dealt with by working at it over a long period of time. This is a concept that I have practiced repeatedly with my fiction writing, yet I can never seem to master with my academic writing. So that'll be something to improve in the coming year.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.

Outlines Are Wonderful

I am slowly, very slowly, developing a proficiency with using outlines. My enthusiasm for outlines, however, has never been higher. Late in the semester -- I'm talking last two weeks here -- I finally grasped some simple outlining techniques that vastly improved my writing process. Being so late, and thus lacking any chance to revise, I don't know how much these techniques helped to improve my writing itself, but the process of writing longer papers (particularly at the last minute) became bearable with outlining.
So I'm planning on applying these tricks to my fiction writing as well. Naturally, the basic, overall-structure outline is useful for knowing where the story is going and when certain events occur. However, a smaller, more sketchy outline quickly hashed out at the beginning of a scene or section of the story (or paper) can help to organize the main points I want to make in the following section of writing. This is especially helpful when in the middle or at the end of a day of writing.
I regularly experience the phenomenon of inspiration weaving in and out of the writing process. Ideas stream into my mind for other areas of the writing even as I write the segment I'm working on. Thus, ideas have the possibility of getting jumbled up in the midst of writing. This is especially true when I have a surge of inspiration for the next scene/segment pertaining to structure of ideas or particular turns of phrase that I want to incorporate. I can easily forget these elements as I'm writing the current scene or as I try to write to that point in the next scene. So, sketching out a brief, rough outline for the next section can help me to remember those ideas. Also, at the end of my writing day, when I might have a cluster of ideas for the next day's writing, I can sketch out an outline to remind me of those ideas when I start the next day.
So yeah, good idea.

Productivity Breeds Productivity

This is the one I'm most excited about.
The more I work, the more I want to work. The more progress I make in my writing and on a particular project, the more progress I am able to make. The faster I can write. The better I can write. The more passionate I am about writing. This is the most peculiar phenomenon that has occurred to me in the past six months. Of course, there are rough days and slow days and days that I don't want to press through to my word counts. But in the long run, I'm more excited about writing with each passing day that I write.

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