Indianapolis and faucets

So, Indianapolis. I think the best way to explain is this: Indianapolis was my attempt to be a turn-faucet.

(Note: I have no idea if these are actually referred to turn-faucets and push-faucets, but that’s what I’m calling them, okay?)

On one hand, you have turn-faucets. They offer a wide range of control. Temperature, volume, duration. With a turn-faucet, you can decide all of those factors and more. Turn-faucets are versatile and accommodating.

(Although the one in that picture is not particularly stylish.)

(But it IS the kind we have in our condo.)

On the other hand, you have push-faucets. One press does it all, and one press is all it does. You get about twenty seconds of water that you can only hope is neither frigid nor searing. (Usually it’s frigid.) Push-faucets are easy but limited.

You can see where this is going, right?

Some writers trickle out a few words one day, then pour whole chapters the next. Other writers produce a steady stream of paragraphs each time they sit down to work. The question was, which kind of writer was I going to be?

Now, I can type (conservatively) 60 words per minute, which means I should be able to write 3,600 words per hour. And yet, when I have to craft those words into sentences, shape them into story, my rate goes waaaay down.

Maybe it’s because I sit facing a wall.* Or because I work at home instead of going out to coffee shops and libraries. Or because I use Scrivener. Or Chrome. Or a Mac. Or…

Yeah, I know.

Anyway, back in October when I was getting really frustrated about my progress (or lack thereof), the We Heart YA girls suggested I go on a writing retreat. To eliminate distractions. To get rid of any and all (stupid) excuses. To make the final push and Finnish my book.

Or as I saw it: To prove once and for all that I could be a turn-faucet.

As Barney Stinson would say: Challenge accepted.

After doing some research, I settled on Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. It was relatively close and inexpensive, and it seemed like a nice place. (Definitely was.) I went alone, worked furiously from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, and was really looking forward to blogging about my lovely, triumphant getaway on Monday morning.

But as you all know, I didn’t finish my manuscript that weekend. I didn’t even finish it later that week. No, it took me another 3 months to finish. Why?

Because I am a push-faucet.

For a while, I felt like a failure. The further I got from the weekend, the more it seemed like I was NEVER going to finish. Like I was a fool for thinking I ever could. Then one day, I got SO far away that it didn’t even matter. And that was when I finally had enough emotional distance to realize the truth.

That weekend was a huge success.

(In a way.)

That weekend in Indy taught me that no matter how perfect the circumstances, I really can’t write more than 2 hours at a time, and in those 2 hours, I average about 500-700 words. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or how bad I want it, I simply am not a turn-faucet. That’s not a tragedy; that’s just a reality. And as long as I accept it, I can make it work for me.

Which is exactly what I’ve been teaching myself to do these past 3 months. But that’s another story for another day.

So whether you’ve got 360º flexibility, or one-push consistency, embrace it. There’s no right or wrong way to get the words out. Water is water.

*Note: I no longer sit facing a wall. But that too is another story for another day.

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17 Comments

  1. I also rarely write for more than two hours at a time or four hours in a day (two sessions–I almost *never* do three). For the 3 Day Novel Contest, I wrote more, but I didn’t like it. It’s definitely good to know what you can expect from yourself so you can give yourself the opportunity to be successful because failing all the time just sucks.

  2. Angela

    I think this is applicable to a lot of things – and I find a lot of that reminds me of my current studying in medical school. Great advice, and it came at a really needed time. Thank you.

  3. I think it’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing our writing processes to others – so and so pounds out this many words per day, so and so completed a first draft in only two months, so and so hardly needed any edits … yada, yada, yada. You’re right, though, it’s important to remember that this is different for everyone. Our ideas, stories, and passions vary, so why can’t the way we get those passions onto the page? Staying true to ourselves as writers is so crucial. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Marci

    This is an awesome analogy. I am also a push-faucet.

  5. So stinking proud of you. Not for finishing, but for going and going and going. It helps me stay motivated too, you know. I vary between both “faucets,” and I’ve learned to not even pay attention. Git ‘er done!

  6. This is such a great metaphor, and I’m glad you’re no longer trying to be something you’re not. It’s futile, isn’t it? And actually unnecessary, when you come right down to it. You’re a writer. It doesn’t really matter how much water pressure you deliver with one push or turn. The hand under the sink still gets wet.

    I am so envious of your weekend writing retreat getaway. I would LOVE to do that. But my biggest fear is that I would go someplace and then never write. My discipline is definitely a push-faucet.

  7. Great post! Your retreat sounds glorious…let’s get a bunch of writers and do one in Hocking Hills or Columbus…okay!?! :)

    I’m a total push facuet during the school year. Ugh!

    The summer is my time to be productive and I live for those days but even then the words can come out slow.

    Yay again to finnishing your book!

  8. There’s not one way to go about it. You just have to figure out how you work best, and it looks like you have! That’s not to say you’ll always be a push faucet. I’m learning that every book is different, and things I did the first time round aren’t working this time. That’s part of the fun I think, the constant learning ;)

  9. Very interesting. And even though we down here refer to faucets as taps, I still managed to understand ;-)
    I don’t know any more how long I could write for in a day – I know pre-child I could easily do three or four hours a day if I had not too much else on but I wonder if I could do that again (imagining forward to when my son is in school) – I don’t think so, I’m slower and more “accurate”, I think more as I write. A bit more push-faucet I suppose!

  10. Sonje-
    Yeah, I try to do a morning and an afternoon session, and then evenings as a bonus 3rd if I can manage.

    Angela and Marci-
    :) I’m glad non-writers can get something out of my ramblings too, hehe. (Although both of you have writerly tendencies!)

    Sarah and T.S.-
    Yep! Some people wind up being different kind of faucets at different times. Also good to realize and accept. :)

    Juliann-
    LOL. I was afraid of that too, but with the WHYA girls and Andy and my parents all sort of “watching” to see how the weekend went, and with the money I put into it, I was too afraid to let it be a complete waste.

    Amanda-
    Taps! I like it. :)

  11. Em

    Water is water. So true on so many levels. :-)

  12. Jon

    Love this post. Nice you had the courage to go to Indianapolis just to write. I assume there are very few distractions there!

  13. Les

    I’m definitely a push faucet, even when it comes to editing. Like, I’ve given up apologising because I’m only half-way through what I should be finished. It’s just how it goes.

  14. Les-
    Not apologizing for myself is definitely something I’m working on.

  15. I agree completely. When you’re writing, the pace can matter. The minute you’re done, the only thing tha matters is whether it’s good.

    I think all writers have to embrace things about themselves that are unusual, or even unique. In my case, it’s not the rate at which I write, it’s the fact that I post as I write, which I know is (to put it mildly) not how most people do it. But I’m okay with that, and it feels very comfortable to me.

  16. This is a wonderful post and so true! I went on a four-day retreat in Nov 2010 with the intention of finishing the draft of my book I was working on then. Wrote like a madwoman. Didn’t come close to finishing draft (spent one whole day perfecting chapter one, then later deleted it). Did the same retreat two more times, and I STILL hadn’t finished my draft, but I was much, much closer and did finish it within a month or two after the third retreat. As long as we’re plugging away, that’s all that matters.

  17. Anthony-
    “I think all writers have to embrace things about themselves that are unusual, or even unique.” – Agreed! That’s how we get variety in our stories and perspectives. :)

    Meghan-
    Hehe, glad to know I’m not the only one who has done this kind of thing without finishing. But yeah, the push was totally worth it. I mean, I wrote way more than usual, and it was like a jumpstart for my momentum and enthusiasm.

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