Why So Serious?

Because I need to be.

Fighting my natural instincts, I’ve spent the last two days chewing over and taking to heart what I wrote in my last article.

The results?

  1. I wrote 2065 words in three separate sittings. Just writing scenes. It didn’t matter if it was tied to my current novel. I just wrote whatever I felt like writing.
  2. I spent several hours putting both those scenes and an old short story through the wringer. I’ve been analyzing how I treat ‘stimulus and response units’ (henceforth referred to by the term Dwight Swain used: MRUs – Motivation-Reaction Units).
  3. have not moved forward in reading the next chapter of Writing and Selling Your Novel.  I’m taking notes and rereading and analyzing only the chapter on MRUs. I’m preventing myself from reading more (emphasized, because as previously discussed, reading more ≠ learning more). I shall go no further until I’ve spent every day for the next week simply writing a lot and then marking it up all to hell. Again, focusing only on MRUs.

Sticking to the last item has been difficult for me. I found myself wrapping up a couple pages of analysis and then saying, “Yup, I’m done! I get it.”

Nope! You ain’t done pal. You may think you get it. And, who knows, you just might. But why not spend a little more time being sure? Why not put in a little more practice? It certainly won’t make you any worse.

Sure enough, after spending a little soak time today, eating lunch and reading other blogs, I already thought of new ways to improve my analysis. How about I dive deeper and highlight the emotions, the knee-jerk reactions, and the rational actions. Does it make sense to internalize and then react here? Why? Write it down!

Though I’ve long held the opinion that learning and improvement require taking an active role, and I’ve applied this concept to a few other goals in my life, I’ve had yet to do so with my writing. Some synapse is finally talking to the right neuron within this thick skull of mine.

And so it’s long past time to put this opinion to the test and get serious about my writing.

A sample of my basic MRU analysis. Stimulus bracketed in blue. Response bracketed in red. Of course a response can also serve as a stimulus. Internalization and summary writing are bracketed in green.

P.S. A friend of mine recently said something like the following: “Great blog! Why are you so depressing?” Hmm. I guess my posts have been a bit of a downer since I’ve mainly been highlighting my struggles. I probably should bring some balance here before this place turns into a virtual Seattle and it’s overcast and raining all the time. I will think about how to fix this so I can hop on the Happy Train™ for my next post.

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0 thoughts on “Why So Serious?

  1. I haven’t thought it’s depressing. Struggles are important to get out, find comfort.

    Celebration is good too, which is how I saw this.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I feel the same way. Since I’m learning something new, there’s bound to be more uphill climbing than flat road, but it probably wouldn’t hurt if I proactively sprinkled in some more upbeat posts.

  2. I too haven’t thought of your blog as depressing. Occasionally discouraged maybe, but that’s something we all go through. Either way it sound like you are making progress on your goals, and there’s no reason to be unhappy about that.

    1. Thanks for chiming in Jae! Definitely a lot of discouragement in my writing, I won’t deny that. I think it’s because I’m a pretty happy and emotionally reserved guy in ‘real life’, so using the blog as a journal, a lot of what I don’t express in person ends up here. But I don’t want to be a fountain of discord for my readers either, so I really ought to make an effort to let my happier side shine through. 🙂

      One of the reasons I started this blog was to document the downsides of learning how to write. I think that’s because it’s something you rarely see from those who have ‘made it’. It just seems like they had this magical, innate ability to write out of the womb. I was hoping that a year or two from starting this blog, I could demonstrate that a ‘regular person’ can also learn to write well. A person who struggled with lots of false starts and the frustration of having no idea what he should be learning or practicing or reading.

  3. It sounds like you are learning. A lot more than myself. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and I understand the “downer” attitude. I have that problem, too. Hard to see the positive when the ultimate goal is so far away. I guess that’s why writers sometimes focus on word count. It’s an easily identifiable and positive thing in our writing efforts. 🙂

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