The Journal: Back to the Future

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* First, a quick welcome
* Topic: Back to the Future (sigh)
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.” Thomas Sowell (via The Passive Voice)

First, a quick welcome to Leanna L, Philip, and anyone else who’s joined us recently. Very glad to have you aboard. (grin) Now on to the topic.

Topic: Back to the Future (sigh)

Sorry for the seemingly hokey title (grin), but as you will see, it fits in this case. I’m sharing this not to whine in public, but just in case you find yourself in the same or a similar leaky boat.

First, a brief setup: A short while back someone mentioned either in a comment or via email that maybe my conscious, critical mind (CCM) was sewing doubt and that’s what was keeping me from starting to write again.

Nope. That wasn’t it.

As I explained, I was unable to write fiction At All, so my critical mind had nothing to do with it. The CCM doesn’t engage until you’re attempting what it sees as a risky venture: writing fiction for public consumption. The CCM’s job is to protect you, and if it can keep you from writing or from finishing what you write, then it’s succeeded. It will have saved you from the possibility of criticism or embarrassment. At least that’s the CCM’s take.

Okay, so I brushed away the last few wisps of brain fog and started writing again on November 29. But the first two days of writing on the new novel illustrated that I’m more than a little rusty on the writing front. What’s worse, my CCM came roaring back with a vengeance. I honestly didn’t anticipate that, at least not to such a degree.

Then I made another mistake in judgment. I thought I could just shove my CCM aside like I used to. But after 4 months, I discovered I’m a little out of practice. (grin)

At first, that seemed odd. After all, I have all the same knowledge I had before I took my forced hiatus. I have all the same skills, the same computer, a better writing surface, and so on. All I’m missing is Practice for that four months: practice writing and practice dismissing the CCM, right?

Nope. Wrong. Before I stopped writing, I was dismissing the CCM and putting words on the page. But those things were only the result of what I was practicing. As I’ve talked about here before, I was practicing TRUST.

Trust is what enables me to put 1000 to 1500 words on the page per hour, every hour. (If that seems like a lot, it’s actually only a snail’s pace of 17 to 25 words per minute.) And Trust is what enables me to shove my conscious, critical mind aside. If I’m struggling to get back up to speed (and I am), it’s because I’ve lost that trust. So I have to relearn it. I have to relearn what I practiced up until August 6th and what I’ve been teaching everyone else for the past several years.

Though there are minor variations, fiction writers write in one of only two basic ways:

— In their hubris, they don pristine, godlike authorial robes, then ascend into an ivory tower to plan and control every aspect of the storyline and the characters. (Most writers, after being educated, start out this way.) But eventually, the more fortunate ones go a different route:

— They climb down out of the authorial tower and donate the robes to homeless shelters for use as sheets. Then they slip into jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, roll off the parapet into the trenches and race through the story with the characters, laughing and trying to keep up. In other words, they control nothing. They TRUST the characters to tell the story that they, not the writer, are actually living. Then they record that story as it unfolds.

Trust is what makes writing fun. And if sitting alone in a room making stuff up can’t be fun, I don’t want to do it. It’s just that simple.

Reestablishing trust in my characters will also enable me to recognize and subdue the critical mind. At present, I find myself wanting to edit (CCM) as I go, which of course cuts my production from 1000 or 1500 words per hour down to a few hundred words per hour. Bleh.

I’ve said more than once that sometimes I wish I was back at the very beginning of the process, learning to trust myself and just about to write my first novel. This is a perfect example of being cautious about what you wish for.

All that said, this is not a big thing, by which I mean This Too Shall Pass. As I said at the outset, I shared it only in case it might help someone else who’s in a similar boatwreck. It’s just gonna take a little while, maybe as long as a few weeks. Or a few stories. Of course, your results might vary.

To explain what’s going on in “Numbers” below, for now I’ve put the current novel on hold. I’ll write short stories and/or vignettes, explore characters and situations, and use those venues to retrain myself. (You can do this too, to train or retrain yourself.)

So we’re back to the P word: It all boils back down to practice. Most importantly, practice in trusting and not second-guessing my characters. That will help a lot toward the other, lesser thing I have to practice: pushing down the conscious, critical mind. The more I trust the characters, the less room there will be for CCM in the first place.

During this relearning process, when the critical mind rears its ugly head, I’ll consign it to a dark corner of my brain. If it refuses to go, I’ll get up and walk away for awhile, then return to the story a few minutes or hours later and start writing again.

I’ll keep track of my progress below as I write, and I’ll keep track of my numbers (more to get back in the habit than for any other reason), but I probably won’t talk about this setback again. And I’ll defer the start date of my new annual goal to January 1. That should give me time to get fully back up to speed.

Finally, for now, I’m not going to worry about publishing. Publishing is a strictly mechanical endeavor. For now, my sole focus will be putting words on the page, dismissing CCM, and passing along to you whatever I happen to learn along the way.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “The Astounding Secret Behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s Creative Genius” at

See “A-Z of food storage” at Maybe story ideas.

See “A Simple Acronym Sums up What’s Wrong With Social Media” at Ignore the trite acronymn, but the article is definitely food for thought.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1160 words

Writing of “The Jimson Stage” (opening)

Day 1…… 2454 words. Total words to date…… 2454

Writing of WCGN 5: Carmelita Ramos (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… 2602 words. Total words to date…… 2602
Day 2…… 1081 words. Total words to date…… 3683 (set aside)

Total fiction words for December……… 3535
Total fiction words for the year………… 629419
Total nonfiction words for December… 1630
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 20770
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 822459

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.