September 23, 2005

The Bone Pile

In an effort to keep my aura clear, I'm going to move away from spirituality and discuss writing. Imagine that. A blog called "LoWriter" that actually discusses writing.

One of the best ideas I've stolen from somewhere else (and now I don't remember where) is the idea of "The Bone Pile." This is a file on my computer. Due to several computer crashes back in the day, I now have several versions of this file, but ideally, it should be a single file.

When I write, I like to sit down at the computer and type out whatever comes to me about the topic. So sometimes, I'll be writing about fudgsicles and I'll think of something that's actually meaningful and type it in even though my topic is fudgsicles. I don't want to stop because I'm on a role, but I don't want to lose the idea, either. Obviously not much profound can actually be added to a piece about why I love fudgsicles, but when I revise the piece, I find that I want to keep this section of text. What do I do with it so that I won't lose it? I cut it and paste it into The Bone Pile.

The idea is that The Bone Pile is the place where good ideas go until they're ready for flesh. I can't take credit for it, and I have no idea where I got it. I think it came from one of my classes at Bethel, but other than that, I have no idea. Every once in awhile, a person should go sort through The Bone Pile and see what he or she has there. I always open it up when I feel stuck. I don't have anything in it that I want to share right now, but it always helps me get unstuck. Often, I find some of my best stuff hidden in The Bone Pile. Many ideas for poems and essays have originated there.

Anyone else have any good writing techniques they want to share?

Posted by LoWriter at September 23, 2005 03:41 PM

Jack London said that when he was a kid he caught a really bad illness that made it so that he couldn't go outdoors or engage in physical activity. As a substitute, his schoolmasters made him write some sort of essay every morning. He credited this forced productivity for his ability to write novels later in life. he just got into the habit of writing every day.

John Cheever gets up in the morning, shaves, puts on a suit and goes into his basement and writes for eight hours, then changes into "regular" clothes to go back to his regular life. Writing is a job for him...good times.

Posted by: rhett at September 23, 2005 08:24 PM

i honestly dont like the idea of "writing as a job" but i bet i'd be a better writer if i did. i like to keep my job and my passion separate. (even though i write for my job,and i have to write passionately).

i like the bone pile idea. i wonder... if you collect enough "bones", perhaps you could have a book of just bones. that would be quite the concept. i mean, you'd still have to edit it for flow and whatnot, but it's a neat idea regardless.

Posted by: at September 24, 2005 11:09 AM

yeah. that was me, if you oculdnt already guess....

Posted by: dr gonzo at September 24, 2005 11:09 AM

I think it's less about making writing an obligation and more about making it routine. Since I haven't done a great deal of writing recently, I'll use running as a metaphor. When I wake up, I rarely feel "in the mood" to go for a run. In fact, usually I'm groggy and grumpy, but six days out of the week I haul myself to the gym and do my run, not because it's a job per se, but because I want to be fit.

If I said "well, I'll just run when I feel like it", I probably wouldn't succeed because I wouldn't feel like running very often, but if I decide that I'm going to run every morning six days a week then I probably will succeed because if I stick to my routine, I will get a good amount of excercise every day and as long as I eat right I will inevitably become fit.

In much the same way a writer working on a novel may only write when they feel like it, but many successful and prolific writers build writing into a routine so that their productivity has a much better chance of success.

Personally, when I wrote a rough draft of a novel, I was so excited to be finally finished with my shitty rough, that I haven't looked at it since. If I had built a true routine around my writing, I would go back and rewrite with the same dedication I wrote it in the first place :D

Posted by: rhett at September 24, 2005 02:28 PM

I am personally looking forward to the day when I am not working eleventy billion hours a week. When that day comes, I plan to write everyday. For an hour right away when I get home. Or hell, stay up until 1 am and do it then. Right now, it's not just a matter of not being in the mood, it's mathmatically impossible to do the number of things I need to do in order to be healthy and still work as much as I do (barring the invention of an actual time turner like they have in Harry Potter, of course.) I get more millage out of my hours than the average bear, but there still aren't enough of them.

Posted by: Lo at September 25, 2005 06:29 PM

Since I only really put up the pretence of being a writer at those artsy sort of cocktail parties I don't have anything to add from experience. However, I read somewhere that when someone asked Faulkner whether he wrote every day or only when the inspiration hit him his answer was something like "I only write when the inspiration hits, I just make certain it strikes me at 8am every morning."

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 27, 2005 12:42 PM