Writing: Be Like the Squirrel

Take all your problems
And rip em apart
Carry them off In a shopping cart
And another thing you
Should’ve known from the start
The problems in hand
Are lighter than at heart
Be like the Squirrel, girl
Be like the squirrel

From “Little Acorns” by The White Stripes

I was writing this morning. That’s exciting in and of itself. I’ve had the ideas for a story floating around in my head for the past few weeks, and I put most of the opening scene to paper this morning. And then I stopped.

I’ve gotten into the habit recently of writing in bursts (often on weekend mornings) and completing a very short story. I’ve returned to these shorts to expand and edit them, but for the most part I’ve written full stories in a sitting. The problem with this is that it doesn’t even vaguely scale.

This morning’s writing session felt particularly good, because I was writing a piece of a story, set in a world that is still growing in my head, and by ending where I did I feel very much like I have a place to start when I sit down to work on it again. This isn’t a new idea. I like how Cory Doctorow put it:

Leave yourself a rough edge

When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.

[update:20090725] After blogging about how cool it is to find a stopping point in your WIP … one really should eventually pick it back up.

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~ by mentatjack on June 13, 2009.

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