As a university student, I had the reputation for pulling all nighters. The Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke from the local 7-11 and I had a close personal relationship. This was particularly the case when writing papers for history and political science classes. I would get lost in the research phase of the process. One new piece of information led me into the investigation of a myriad of other possibilities. I jumped down the rabbit holes of learning that served to show me how much I still didn’t know. Inspiration came in the wee hours of the morn when commitment to one argument was an imminent necessity. I started and stopped when I ran out of time. I was able to formulate an argument drawing from the many facts and positions I had researched and end up with something that was my own. I find that I follow the same pattern of getting lost in the research in my personal writing.
I love the research into the topic or characters that I am writing about. Although my preference is for fiction, the careful attention to factual detail is what makes fiction believable. Many of my own experiences and life lessons inspire my writing but when I start writing I quickly realize I need more. I throw myself into the research phase to tease out the pertinent details of the topic or motivation of the characters. As when I was in university, I still love this learning phase. The more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know. I love to read and can do it anywhere.
The biggest problem is that I don’t have a deadline for completion of my personal writing therefore it is easy to be sidelined by the more pressing demands of life. I can convince myself that Maria Kondo would want me to sort through my “myriad of collections” in order to “spark joy”. That I need to get more exercise or binge watch multiple renditions of reread favourites to tease out how the plot has been structured or characters developed.
The only solution that I have discovered to date is to just start writing. In school, I regularly wrote the mandatory outline of my papers after I had finished it. The inspiration for the direction came through the process of writing not before. This year my goal is to set up a routine for my daily writing. The research time and the additional reading, will be “in addition to” rather than “instead of” the time actually spent writing.
Another thing I plan to do more often is to develop my online and in person writing community. Sharing my professional writing was initially a risk-taking venture. This changed as I grew more confident, pushed my thinking, and received positive feedback and invitations to join stimulating on-line and in person conversations. More recently I have taken the risk of sharing my personal writing or at least pieces with other writers. It is a big risk-taking venture. However, I have discovered that Twitter is equally as good for developing a supportive writing community as it is as developing an educational learning network. It makes it clear who is paying attention and wants to collaborate. It makes sense that people engaged in the same area of interest are most likely to support each other and provide informed feedback and the encouragement to keep at it. And I am inspired that I can pull together many years of pieces into completed drafts in 2022 with that support.