Order vs. Chaos: Writing a Story a Week

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Order vs. Chaos, the Yin and Yang of creative life. I’ve always come down on the order side of things. I like revising  at least as much as writing. Around the house I’m a neatnick, which is just another expression of my compulsive need for order and routine. While my family may think my pick-your-shoes-up-and-make-your-beds habits extreme, in the context of previous generations, my standards are pretty lax. I don’t wash the inside of the kitchen cupboards like grandma did, nor do I annually take down the curtains and drapes and wash them, and all the windows inside and out, like my mom.
Things have to be in order for me to concentrate.
Here’s a story that sums up my family’s housekeeping ethos: One day my grandma was visiting my mom and dad (she lived next door). She said she wasn’t feeling well and walked across the lawn to her house. When mom checked on her a couple hours later she could see that the house had been cleaned top to bottom.

“I thought you said you weren’t feeling well, why did you wear your self out cleaning the house?” my mom asked.
Grandma’s answer: “A clean house rests me.”

I know exactly what my grandma means by that. But when I’m writing, over and over I get the lesson that I must allow a mess. I know this, but that doesn’t make it any easier. The only way to become okay with this is to practice making a mess. That’s the biggest lesson so far from my story a week project.

Having a one week deadline, not just this week but every week, made me realize just how much I was revising during the first draft and how it can really screw up the CHAOTIC FLOW of the work. I can see now that whenever I hit a tough spot, I slip into revising as an avoidance measure. You know, I’ll just tidy up a couple of these paragraphs or move some things around. Pretty soon all my writing time is gone, and I haven’t moved the story forward from where it was the day before. Now, whenever I catch myself reading around and tidying up, I put my cursor back at the bottom of the page and force myself to work on the next scene, or any unwritten scene.

I’ve written two stories (not finished but ready-for-revision drafts) this month. This week I’m working on my third. Something that was supposed to be a flash story, but is looking like it will come in at about 3,000 words. Today it’s still a mess, but that’s okay.

Laundry’s folded, let’s get to work.

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