CTRL-A & DELETE

I just caught myself hitting  CTRL-A & DELETE with touch-typer speed and precision.  No hunting and pecking for that odd combination of keys required.  In case you’re not a complete computer nerd like me, the key sequence highlights everything on your screen and deletes it.  It’s the quick and easy way to start over with a clean slate, or the modern equivalent for ripping the sheet of obnoxious writing from the typewriter, wadding it up, and pitching it toward the trashcan (only not as cathartic).  For whatever reason, this time I paused and thought about why I did it.  It must have been the third or fourth time I had hit those keys in the preceding five minutes but I hardly remember doing it.  I only remember trying to get an article off the ground and not liking my results.

I had started an article I wanted to publish on Medium.  You see, I’ve been “saving up a couple good ideas” for pieces I believed had some legs and could launch my Medium presence with a bang.  Saving an idea is a silly notion, I know, but that’s the reality of how I thought today.  I wanted this to be a great piece, though, and I was not meeting my expectations.

As I re-read the first six or seven sentences of the article (for the third or fourth or fifth time), I judged it as unworthy of a venue where I could expect people to pay to read my work.  So with a flash of thought, my fingers twitched and the offending words were obliterated.  As I pondered my action I tried to figure out on what grounds I based my judgment.  I was, and still am, at a total loss for anything that made sense.  I simply did not believe it measured up to other articles I have seen on the site but I can offer no concrete evidence as to why I believe it.

My actions were obviously a symptom of publishing fear.  Somewhere, deep inside me, despite my strong words and bravado, despite my month-long record of posting blog content, I am scared of how the public will judge my work.  I don’t want to be laughed at or ridiculed.  I don’t want my work to be found wanting by the internet literary mafia.  Instead, I expect it to strike a chord with every person who reads it.  I want it to move them enough so they not only reward me with their dollars but they are compelled to tell all their friends about the wonderful article they read.  What tripe.  I know the futility of approaching the work with some sort of “greatness goal” from the outset.  It’s just not how it’s done.

“The writer’s job is to write.  Let the public and the critics decide what to do and think about your work,” says every guru on the internet.  With clear instructions like that, why is it so hard to separate yourself from thinking about how your words will be perceived?  It’s a conundrum.  There has to be a trick to dissociate yourself from the feelings of inadequacy and impending doom.  If I can find that trick I’ll retire a millionaire.

In the meantime, I need to end the habit of judging my work as I write it. The CTRL-A & DELETE cycle must be broken.  I suspect I am not alone in fighting this problem.  I also suspect it will be similar to the addict giving up the needle or the bottle. There will be a few relapses, but my resolve shall remain strong.  To ensure I do not wimp out and delete the next great article I conjure, I commit to writing and publishing an article on Medium within five days.  You should do the same!  If we can’t do that, maybe we should pry the DELETE key off our keyboards!

Where to Spend the Writing Time?

I have a problem. It seems I keep creating them for myself. This time, it’s a question of how best to spend my writing time. I have publicly committed to publishing articles on this blog (at least 365 by January 1, 2019), but I also need to work on my fiction and other projects. How does one decide where to spend the time when there are multiple competing projects, all of which are worthy of the effort?

Time is scarce. Between work, family, studying, sleeping, and writing, the day is beyond booked. Some writers believe there is plenty of time available in the day and that the real problem is doing the writing. That’s backward to me. The writing is easy, provided there is enough time available, and that’s always the rub.

In my quest to figure out how to make better use of my time I did some experimentation. It turns out that as long as I have a “road map” of where I want to go with my work, I write at an average pace of about one thousand words per hour. When I do not have a well-defined plan, however, I’m slowed to three hundred to five hundred words per hour, and my satisfaction with the work is typically much less. The obvious solution is to spend time writing only when the plan for the work has been completed. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.  Planning takes time, too.

I estimate I will need to write approximately one hundred eighty thousand words to fulfill my commitment to my blog. That’s akin to writing a large novel. If I properly plan each article, that amounts to one hour per day that I must spend to achieve my blog goal (plus the time it takes to plan what I want to write).

I have two fiction pieces I want to write, too. Each of them will require about twenty thousand words each. That’s another forty hours of raw work, plus the planning time, rewrites, and editing. All together, I will probably spend one hundred fifty hours on them.

The yearly total is about three hundred fifty hours of work for my writing. Per week that equals almost seven hours. Where does one find seven hours per week? The question before me, then, is to determine if I can justify putting forth a significant amount of effort over the next year to accomplish all my writing goals or if I should reevaluate my commitment to publish 365 blog posts and spend the time focused on fiction or other projects.

To make matters worse, my interest in my fiction waxes and wanes, as does my interest in writing for my blog. I find it difficult to sit down and slog through five hundred words for a blog post when I am more interested in working on a story, and vice versa. The bottom line is I’m not sure where I want to go with the work right now and I’m not at all certain that there will ever be a perfect answer. How do people manage the competing interests for their writing time?

What Is The Value of One Human Voice in a Sea of Voices?

I’ve often wondered what value a single human voice has in today’s age of instant information. I wonder if I will make a dent in the world at all simply because the task of getting my message in front of a large number of people seems so impossible given the number of other people trying to do the same thing. If I do happen to get my words in front of the masses, will it make any difference? Continue reading “What Is The Value of One Human Voice in a Sea of Voices?”