Guest post by Michelle Gonzalez
“A hole in the wall or in your head!” she added.
Robynne is one of my dearest friends. Not only is she kind and good-humored, she is also a novel writer, and this has made her indispensable to me. With the help of The One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) program, I too am writing a novel.
Like so many, I purchased OYAN in the hope that I could fulfill my childhood dream of writing a book; but with this difference: I am not in high school. I’m 28.
This post is for any of you writers out there who empathize with Robynne and me in the frustrations of writing, but, in particular, it is for those of you who face the particular challenges of completing the OYAN program after your high school years.
I hope that sharing my story will be both an encouraging read and an effective prevention against head injury.
I started OYAN last year, 10 years after graduating from highschool. In those 10 years I completed a university program, went through several jobs, and married my true love. Currently I am working three jobs, helping to build a church community, and discovering all the ups and downs of being a wife, a housekeeper, and the real me. Life is beautiful, but it is also very full.
I think all post-highschool writers can empathize with my struggle to make time for my novel. Whether your job is demanding, you have children, are caring for a sick family member, or are just fighting the daily battle against dirty dishes and laundry, life crowds out writing. Here are my tips for making OYAN actually work for you and your writing dream.
- Set Aside Time.
The OYAN program requires time, and concentrated time, at that. I’ve learned that it has to be regularly scheduled into my day. I found it helpful to use a scheduling tool, such as the Storyline Productivity Schedule, a component of Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story, a workbook by Donald Miller.
Storyline suggests writing early in the morning, when the mind and imagination are refreshed from sleep, but we all know this is not always possible or even ideal, depending on personality. The main thing is to make sure that writing time is scheduled in at regular periods—daily, a couple times a week, once a week, whatever we can manage.
If, like me, you find yourself flagging after an hour or two of writing, get up, do something invigorating or relaxing for 15 minutes, and then come back to your writing.
- Take Extra Time.
If you are completing OYAN after highschool, this could be a very long journey—longer than a year, anyway. You probably don’t have room in your schedule to follow the course at the suggested pace to finish in a school year. And you don’t have a parent or teacher to set deadlines.
I can assure you from personal experience that there will be ups and downs. Some days you will be inspired; you may go through several lessons in one day! Other days you will find yourself up against what seems an impassable wall of frustration. This is ok. In the words of Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Do what you can on those days. Read good books. Go for a walk in the dusk. Talk to friends who understand. Don’t give up. I can do this and so can you.
- Choose a Creative Space.
I have also learned that concentrated writing requires a particular space. To write, I must be in a space where I can forget the dirty laundry and dishes and focus all my energies on writing. One of the best places I’ve discovered is the library. It’s usually quiet, and all those books surrounding me remind me of the hard and good work I am doing. And if I can’t come up with a name for a character, I just read a few spines on the shelves around me.
- Find (or Make!) a Writing Friend.
One of the most important lessons I have learned so far is that I need companions on my adventure. Robynne is one of those writing companions—we talk about plot development, naming characters, and the joys and frustrations of writing. Another writing friend checks up on me on a regular basis. We read each other’s work, offer suggestions, and make sure that the other person just keeps on writing. My husband, Jandrew, is always ready to read my work and make sure it’s not boring.
Without these people, I probably would not write. I would give up, abandoning any hope of finishing a novel let alone writing a good one.
Accountability and encouragement is key for OYANers of all ages, but I think it is particularly critical for older OYANers, because of the extra hurdles we face. Make sure you have at least one of these people in your life. And if you already have one, make sure they know how much you appreciate their help.
If I could give my fellow “mature student” OYANers one message, it would be: Do not give up.
I also want to recommend OYAN to any of you fellow dreamers reading this who haven’t considered this course because of its high school label. OYAN is an excellent program. You will learn about writing, but you will also learn so much about reading as well, and how these two things have such an enormous impact on our life and culture.
I have a ways to go in fulfilling my dream, yet look how far I’ve already come! I am in lesson 24. It took me almost a year, but that’s much further than I used to be. And the adventure continues!
Are you an over-19-year-old who uses OYAN? What have you found helpful or challenging about your journey?
Michelle Gonzales is a poetry and non-fiction author currently taking a leap into the great unknown of fiction writing. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she enjoys reading scads of books, riding her bicycle, and spending time with her husband, Jandrew.