Hi, I'm a Binge Writer
October 24, 2005

So, I decided to try National Novel Writing Month again this year. I tried this a few years back in an effort to kick start myself into writing more fiction again, but ... well ... let's just say it didn't last long at all.

I used to write stories all the time. From about fifth grade on, I always had some short story or novel that I was working on in my big spiral notebooks. (This was even before the Commodore-64 "computer," kiddos.) Even at that time, those short stories which didn't start out as creative writing assignments in language arts class, started out as my exploring some weird dream that I'd had. The first novel I finished all the way through (in high school) was based on a dream that I had. I was bored babysitting the night after I'd had the dream, so I started to try to write down this intriguing dream that I'd had.

I still have those 40 sheets of light blue paper (the only paper I could find in the kids' craft supplies) and they are filled with my teeny-tiny writing in .3mm pencil. When I started typing those 40 pages up in the Commodore-64, it turned out to be well over a hundred pages -- and that was just a first draft skeleton of the story.

I spent the next several weeks writing almost non-stop during school hours. I stopped paying attention in American History and English so I could spend more time writing -- besides, the teachers couldn't tell the difference between my writing a story and my taking notes.

Or so I thought. But at least one of them commented on my improved study habits ....

I probably had that first draft done in about two or three weeks. And then I began typing it into the decrepit computer and then re-writing those pages in class again.

I wrote short stories and the beginnings of many more novels during the next few years. I finally finished my second novel my last year in college. I went on to graduate school in creative writing and used the next two years to refine and polish the story.

By then, I was teaching. I wrote one short story in 1996 or so. I haven't really written anything since, until the short story I posted here a few weeks ago.

My high school creative writing teacher, like many writers and writer-wannabes, said repeatedly, "good writers write every day. You have to carve out the time to work on the stories every day or you'll never be a writer."

My answer was always, "I'm a binge writer." I might not write for a few weeks or even a month, but I always come up with another story, get excited and then write in every spare moment possible until that story is done. But trying to force myself to write when I'm not "in the mood" is a generally painful experience. I've done it a time or two, but it sounds forced.

Is the advice to write every day good advice? Yeah, to a point. You should force yourself to set aside some creative time every day. But you might not really get creative work done every day -- at least not the creative work that you can concretely measure for the world to see. Might just be that you need to spend a day or two listening to the nuances of a new CD and letting your brain float, recharge those creative batteries a bit.

And that, I think, is why I didn't really write from '96 until 2005. I wasn't really taking care of my creative batteries. It gets harder, for me anyway, once I was not going to school and working. Seems like I should have had more time to write, right? After all, I had been working 35 hours (or more) a week and taking 9 credits a semester. I suppose because I started teaching right away, I just didn't have that time. I taught the class everyone hates: freshman English. Now, I'll tell you, I did not have 150 people in a class. I had 20. And I only taught 2 or 3 classes a semester. But ask any freshman writing teacher how much time it takes to help students by commenting on the first draft, second draft and third draft of three major essays. Plus, of course, some miscellaneous other assignments. We're not talking grammar worksheets, either.

By the time I got home from work, I just didn't feel like writing anything for myself. And, eventually, the ideas stopped coming around so much.

But since I was told Notre Dame students don't fail in the spring of 2004, I've been trying to re-vitalize those batteries again and I can feel ideas starting to shake loose and attempt to find flight.

I'm just hoping that NaNoWriMo is the ticket I need to get rolling again.

I pulled out one of the novels I was working on in high school. I think that's going to be completely recast as a SF novel instead of a regular fiction story. And we'll see where it goes.

50,000 words in a month. I think I can do that.

Posted by Red Monkey at October 24, 2005 10:12 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Gabriel said:

I too am doing the NaNoWriMo...good luck it is coming up in just a few days.

October 24, 2005 1:19 PM


Davad said:

I'm warming up my typing finger, too. Good luck to all of us!

October 24, 2005 5:03 PM


indeterminacy said:

I never heard the advice that to be a good writer you have to write every day, although it's obvious that practice never harms. Some good advice I picked up from one of my university English profs was: If you want to improve your writing read good books. I think there's more to that advice. You'll see by example what works and what doesn't. When I write something myself, I try to please my sense of what is good and what works, a sense I've developed through my own reading.

Your description of a binge writer, who writes whenever he/she has an inspiration, as opposed to just producing text at some kind of regular pace, is what I think gives us the works that stand out as inspired and brilliant.

October 25, 2005 6:49 AM
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