Tag Archives | writing habits

The Best Planners for Writers and Other Humans

daily-calendar

My daily calendar

I’m obsessed about lots of things.   Knitting, popcorn, wine, France, writing, story, character, Christmas, fire, pugs, my grandchildren, and planners.  (I know, weird list.)  And while I could wax poetic about every item on this list, the topic today is planners.

I love them.  I am a planner fiend.  (Probably for the same reason that I am now a dedicated meditator–because my over-active mind drives me crazy and I need a place to write down all the things.) I’ll buy one planner, convince that it is THE ONE that is going to change my life and make me perfect. I use it for a while, then grow disenchanted with it and find myself starting to look for another.  Here’s a (probably incomplete) list of planners I’ve flirted with over the last couple of years:

  1. Day Designer  I love the designs of these planners, and from using her free downloads I realized that what I need most are the daily pages.
  2. Bullet Journal  Which has become a whole, huge industry. If this appeals to you, please bear in mind that you can keep a very useful version of it without all the crazy detailed drawing, charts and graphs that some people do.
  3. Planner Pad. I really like the way these pages are laid out but ultimately there wasn’t enough room on them for my notes.
  4. Erin Condren’s Life Planner.  These are great because they are customizable in style. But the pages didn’t work for me.
  5. Passion Planner. Lovely and wonderful in many ways, but regretfully I needed more room in the daily section. I do like their mission of giving a planner away for every one that is bought.
  6. Dreambook.  This is a beautiful book and has very detailed and specific items to check off on each page, which was the rub for me. I don’t want someone else telling me what I should do each day.

It is worth noting that most of these sites have videos or photos detailing how you can best use the planners, which are helpful. And many of them also offer free or inexpensive downloads so you can try the pages out without committing to an expensive set.  I’ve also found that Etsy has a lot of downloadable planner pages to buy very inexpensively.  But beware, looking for a planner is a rabbit hole activity that you can get lost in for hours, a particularly great way to procrastinate when you’re stuck on your writing. (A friend told me that.)

I’ve finally honed a system that works for me.  And not surprisingly, because I am the most freaking right-brained human on the planet, it is composed of three parts.  I have finally figured out that I need a planner with daily pages, so I can check off the items of my daily routine, my to-dos, and appointments, and remind myself of what’s most important to me each day. But the daily calendar doesn’t sync so well with a weekly one, and I need to be able to open a calendar, glance at a two-page spread, and see what I’ve got scheduled.  And finally I need a place to corral master to-do lists, lists of books I want to read, blog post ideas, etc.  It took me a long time to admit defeat and realize that there is not a one-size-fits-Charlotte planner out there that meets my needs. So instead I use:

  1.  A plain and simple weekly calendar.  I bought one the size of a large index card on sale at Freddies, where I shop for everything, and I use it to note appointments, and places I have to be.

    weekly-calendar

    My weekly calendar

  2. A daily calendar.  I bought this one from Danielle LaPorte (affiliate link) and I love it and can’t wait to start using it.  Because: it has space to note my schedule, the 3 most important things to get done, to-dos, stop doing, what you want to change, what you’re grateful for. Perfect.  Very close to the pages I was drawing for myself in the bullet journal.
  3. A bullet journal. This is an organizer that you put together yourself, using a Moleskine or other journal.  I thought for awhile that this was going to serve as my one-size-fits-Charlotte planner but I got too overwhelmed trying to track my appointments in it.  This is where I keep those lists and so on. I’m also drawing my own daily pages in it until my Danielle LaPorte calendar starts in January.
  4. A blog calendar. Oh crap–I guess I actually have four elements.  Geesh. Anyway, I bought another wee little weekly calendar and use it to track and schedule my blog posts and newsletters. The thought occurs that it would be a handy spot to note my daily writing word count as well.

Now if someone can figure out a way to get all this into one book that doesn’t weigh 20 pounds, I’ll pay you a million dollars in gratitude.  In the meantime, I’ll go with this system.  Which I reserve the right to change.

I also love planning workbooks. You know, the kind that take you through all kinds of questions so that you can plan your year.  There’s nothing I love more than sitting down with a workbook, a pen, and a bunch of scratch paper for a good planning session. (Well, I love planning a novel more, but that’s a topic for a different day.)

For the last few years, I’ve used the Your Shining Life workbooks from Leonie Dawson. These are a lot of fun, full of brightly colored hand-drawn images and Leonie’s signature goofy style.  You can buy a business edition, a personal edition or both. I love these–very supportive and encouraging. Last year, though, I got a bit overwhelmed by the breadth of them.

So this year I decided to try something else.  Currently I’m working through the Your Best Year 2017 workbook from Lisa Jacobs.  She’s been very successful marketing her homemade goods on Etsy, so the focus is on products, but I’m finding it helpful all the same.

Alrighty then.  Do you use a planner? Which one? Do you have questions about how I use mine? Leave a comment below or email me, I’m happy to chat about my obsession.

Also–France.  You know you want to go spend a week there focusing on your writing.  In 2017, we will have two different weeks to choose from. More info here and you can also email me any time for details!

0

Portrait of a Procrastinating Morning (And How You Can Avoid One)

object_graphic_design_261471_lJust about every morning, I wake (naturally–it’s just when my body is ready to get up) around 5:30, stumble downstairs, drink some water, then grab my coffee and head to my computer, after being careful not to trip over the cat in the predawn darkness.  And then I get right to work and don’t move until I’ve finished my daily word count look at email, maybe check on what happened in the world (though less so lately as its too painful).

Finally, I get to work.  I plug in brain.fm, which helps me ignore the cats and husbands wandering around the house,, and go to it.  And I’m pretty good at sticking with it (with lots of breaks for more coffee and water) until I’ve reached my word count.  Which, over the past month, since I did Nanowrimo, was 2,000 words a day. (And yes, I did finish! I hit 50,047 words on November 30.)

But, yeah, that’s the perfect world. Which doesn’t always happen, alas. Here’s what happened one morning last week: I woke earlier than normal because of a stomach ache, and went back to doze on the couch for a few minutes.  Then I smelled coffee, went and grabbed some, and stumbled to the computer.  Which, when I woke it up, was open to a page I really wanted to read.  So I did. Despite knowing better.  Which set the tone for reading even more when I went over to my inboxes. And then one thing led to another..and pretty soon, well you can guess what happened.

Yep, I’d waste my entire morning writing session.  Because I had to read about the fires in Gatlinburg (which are so tragic.  The resort I’ve stayed at there several times burned to the ground.  Scroll down on that link to see photos of the Westgate.)  And check on the latest political news.  And then I decided, smugly, that today just wasn’t a good writing day and what I really should do is make notes for some business visioning I’ve been doing. But by that time, all I ended up doing was confusing myself.  And I gave up and went to eat breakfast.

But, here’s the deal: this bout of procrastination set the tone for the whole day, and I struggled to pull myself back to my focus. Also, I felt like crap (mentally and emotionally).  I felt edgy and out of sorts, and besides that I wasted a lot of energy beating myself up.

And the truth is, I could have avoided the whole mess, just by being aware of my own creative rhythms. Because truth be told, I needed a break.  I had been writing hard all of November and doing a lot of other work, too. (Okay, so planning the next France retreat over wine at Noble Rot is maybe not hazardous duty, but still.)  When I first started my procrastination spiral, I might have been able to figure this out and rather than click through internet stories and ads for sales, I could have done something intentional. Something that would have fed my creativity instead of making me feel bad about myself.  Like taking a walk. Or stepping away from the computer and reading a book.  Or spending some time organizing my office. Or repair to the living room and knit.

But I didn’t.   But next time this happens, I’ll try to catch myself mid-stream and nip the spiral in the bud.  (Let’s see, did I mix enough metaphors there?)

Being conscious and mindful of your creative rhythms can be oh so helpful.  And then allow yourself to do what you need to do to sustain a writing practice over the long haul.  And if that means stepping away from the computer, for the love of God, let yourself do it.

Do you procrastinate? (Is that question akin to asking, do you breathe?) How do you prevent it or deal with it afterwards? Please do share in the comments.

Photo by levi_suz.

2

What it Takes to Be a Writer: Part Three

You’ve revved up your brain, planted your butt in the chair, and now you’re ready to write. I sometimes envision this moment as that of a piano player: you place your fingers on the keys, expecting great music to pour forth….and nothing happens.

You freeze. You don’t know what to write. Or the words won’t come. Or you are so damn critical of the words that do come that you shut down the computer and decide to go clean up dog poop in the backyard.  Because dealing with that kind of shit is better than dealing with the crap you’re putting on the page.

Ahem. I have news for you. Writing crap is good.  Writing crap is desirable (at least in a first draft). GETTING ANY WORDS ON THE PAGE AT ALL IS YOUR ONLY GOAL.  So do it. That’s my first bit of advice:

Write Crap

Just write, even if that means reminding yourself how awful you’re doing as you go. My first drafts are full of all caps exhortations about what terrible work I’m doing. Like: THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE AND IT’S REALLY STUPID. Once I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can carry on with the rest of it.

Here is an unedited glimpse of what I wrote yesterday as I tried to get going:

Okay I’m just sitting here with the cat, staring at the computer.  What the f#%k. Staring never got the writing done. Just write something. This is where prompts are really handy!   Start with the image.

And I did. I started with the image and the scene flowed from there.  Writing crap, and reminding yourself of it, is incredibly freeing.

Write Crap Often

Like, every day. We already talked about making time and conserving energy for writing in part two.  Do your best to write as often as possible. It makes a huge freaking difference, I’m not kidding.  Doing this, you gain momentum. You have that lovely feeling that half of you is living in your fictional world.  And because of that, you’re in love with the real world you actually do inhabit.  And when you are in love, you want to spend more time with your beloved, correct? So you will be eager to return to writing your novel.  And that, my friends, is the power of writing every day. (Even if it’s crap.)

Plan Ahead

I’ve proven to myself over and over that I procrastinate and get distracted when I don’t know where I’m going.  This is why I like to write a loose outline for the plot of my novel, and why I’m such a huge fan of character dossiers.  The other thing I like to do is write notes to myself. I do a lot of “writing about” the project in my journal, and I just about always write little notes to myself in the manuscript as to where to go next.  Then when I open the file first thing in the morning, I know where I’m going. I often diverge from my plans, but at least I have a way in to get started.

Employ Systems

There’s lots of help out there for writers.  You can download Freedom, which will turn off your access to the internet for a predetermined amount of time.  You can use a Pomodoro timer that allows you to write in spurts (or just use your phone’s timer).  You can use Scrivener.  The point is, there are all kinds of tools out there that will help you in your daily writing. Find the ones that work for you and use them.

So there you have it. What are your favorite tricks to get words on the page?

2

How To Get Your Writing Done

numbers_text_texture_225115_l (1)So, you have a book…or an article…or a story that you’d like to write. (Right? Because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.)  And you need to get that book finished, that story done.  How to accomplish such a thing?  How to make room in your schedule to get it written?

To my mind, there are two ways to get your writing done, and writers fall naturally into either group, because of need or temperament.  I have strong opinions on which works best. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in fifteen years of teaching writing and nine years of blogging, it’s that there’s not one way that works for every writer. The best I can do is offer options and opinions and let you figure it out for yourself.

The first group, and I count myself among them, are those writers who prefer to write every day, or as close to it as possible. The second group write in great chunks of time as their schedule allows. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Daily Writing

If you’re at all like me, you prefer this schedule.  Aiming for writing every day means you’ll hit at least five days of the week, right?  This is the standard advice that most of us preach, I think with good reason.  Such as:

Benefits

–This schedule is the best way to get and maintain momentum on a project. If you’re writing every day, you watch your word count grow regularly, which is hugely encouraging.

–Your story stays in your head.  I don’t know about you, but my brain is so full of random bits I’ve picked up lord knows where that I lose the train of story very easily. If I’m writing every day, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I sit down to write. This story is right there, waiting for me.

–You don’t even have to write a lot to pile up the pages.  If you manage to eke out three pages a day, that’s 90 pages—a third of a novel—at the end of a month.

–Your writing will become more facile. The more you write, the easier it is. Writing is like anything else: the more you do it, the more adept you become at it. And if you’re writing every day, you’ll hone your skills quickly.

–You will learn more about writing more quickly. As above, the more you write the more you realize how much you don’t know—and what you need to learn. Writing every day helps you learn it.

–There’s magic in making a daily commitment. There just is.  You begin to take yourself, and your writing, much more seriously.

Detriments

 –You may be tempted to write a lot of crap just to meet your word count. Though there are benefits to writing fast (like getting the damn draft done already) I’ve written drafts that are so terrible I’m not quite sure what to do with them.

 –It can be difficult to fit daily writing sessions into your schedule.  I’m with you on this one.  I find that if I don’t write first thing in the morning, doing the most important thing first, it often simply doesn’t get done.

–If you miss a day or two, you might get discouraged.  And discouragement can so very easily lead to not writing.  And then you feel like a failure.

Chunk Writing

You’re a busy CEO and Mom of five. In your spare time you run marathons. But, you’ve got a story inside you that you’re developing into a novel.  So once a month you find a babysitter and spend the day writing.  With luck, you’ll bang out a chapter or two.

Benefits

–This kind of writing schedule can be easier to fit into your schedule.  Those who simply don’t have minutes to spare in their day often have more luck taking an afternoon off, or trading babysitting with a friend in order to nab some writing time.

–The breaks between writing times can clear your brain.  I do find that sometimes my brain gets overloaded when I’m on a writing-every-day schedule, and then it shuts down.  Giving yourself regular breaks can keep your writing brain refreshed.

–Writing less often takes less mental energy. And after a busy day at work, or chasing two-year-olds, mental energy can be in short supply.

–You don’t have to get up early (or stay up late) to fit your writing in.  No regular time sacrifices are needed!

–You may enjoy it more.  If you write for the sheer love of it, forcing yourself to a rigid daily schedule may make you start to hate it.

Drawbacks

–It is really easy to get off track.  If you haven’t worked on the story for a while, you may lose your enthusiasm for it and then it is really easy to find excuses not to spend Saturday writing after all.

–It is much harder to keep track of the story.  Your brain is full of the soccer games and swimming lessons of your twenty children—how are you going to maintain its attention to story as wait a month (or a week or whatever) between writing sessions?

–You’ll waste time getting up to speed.  You’ll likely have to reread your story to remember exactly where you left off at your last writing session.  And that is going to take a chunk of your precious time.

–It is easier to get discouraged.  Hit a writing snag when you’re writing every day and it is not such a big deal.  But if you reach a roadblock—what scene should come next?—while writing in chunks you may waste your entire session trying to figure it out.

So those are my thoughts on the topic.  But here’s the bottom line: figure out what works for you and then do it. If you fancy yourself a daily writer but you’re not doing it, experiment with chunk writing. And vice versa.

What’s your writing schedule? Come on over to the blog and share in the comments.

Photo by maio5.

 

2

Otherwhere: Special Toto Edition

Yes, Toto. As in, the song Africa.  Maybe you have to be a certain age to appreciate that song. Or maybe not, because the tune is lilting and ubiquitous.  Anyway, you’ll have to scroll down to find out what I’m talking about.

Lots going on lately, as in many great links, and I’ve not been good about doing this post regularly. So here goes:

Writing

You should write in third person.

Five tips for more powerful writing.

Share your talent.

Keep up with your passion while you earn a living writing.

When to start a sequel.

How to use a plot planner.

7 tips for writing strong character motivations.

Walking is good for the writer.

Time saving tips for writers.

Life

The coolest moment in life (an homage to Prince).

10 ways to do your own impossible daily (I do #1 every morning).

Are you addicted to dopamine?

Okay, you have diligently looked over all my links and now here is your reward–a link to the band Toto singing their huge hit from the 80s, Africa. No, wait! Because I love you SO much, I’m going to embed the video in this post. You don’t even have to click away to view it! (And let me give thanks to Kay over at Mason-Dixon knitting, whose post this morning originally reminded me of this song.) You know you want to watch it.

8

Writing In the Summertime

Writingoutside

My outdoor writing space

It is hot here in Portland, mid to upper 90s all last week and more of the same this week, with temps predicted to reach into the 100s by the weekend.  We usually get some hot hot weather during the summer, but this is very early for a heat wave and it is lasting a long time.

My office is upstairs (I'm in process of moving it downstairs, but that project is taking forever) and that automatically makes it hot.  (We, like many Portlanders who live in older homes, don't have air conditioning.) But it also gets stuffy, the air stagnant, and because it is full of boxes (the afore mentioned moving project), its not a very inspiring space at the moment.

In self defense, I moved my computer and all my notes downstairs last weekend and then one early morning around 6 AM I got the idea to move my operation out back.  I set up on the outdoor table on the deck and listened to the birds sing and wrote my heart out.  I started out a few weeks ago setting my Iphone timer for 15 minutes and telling myself I was just going to write, simply as a way to get to the page.  But now, I think it is safe to say that these daily outside writing sessions are turning into my next novel–and that my daily writing practice has transformed my writing life.

Firtreeoutback

The tree above me

I now set up outside every morning and it has quickly become my favorite time of day.  It is peaceful and cool and quiet aside from the occasional dog barking and I am getting a lot of writing done every morning.  It is amazing to me what a change of venue can do for your writing.  Some people love to go work in coffee shops, but me? Not so much.  I'm far too distracted by people and noise and activity.  Besides, I do my best work early in the day, in my pajamas, and that doesn't work so well anywhere but home.

By 7:30 the sun hits my back and lights the screen and I can't see so well and I'm starting to flag anyway.  But the point of all this, besides encouraging you to look at where you write and how well it is working for you, is to share a few tips I've learned (relearned?) as I start writing a long project (i.e., a novel), again.  

1.  Call it Daily Writing Practice.   Some times the daily writings  are just random scenes, sometimes they actually turn into a scene for my WIP, and sometimes they become me obsessing about where I am in the WIP.  But gradually, the daily practices have turned into real, consistent work on my next novel, and the sessions have lengthened out considerably.  But at the beginning, I just called it daily practice and all I had to do was write something, anything for 15 minutes. Whether or not your writing sessions pertain to your WIP is up to you—but if it doesn't, that's okay.

2.  Keep a Writing Log. I've started a daily writing log, wherein I write about my feelings and thoughts on what I'm writing.   I wish I'd done this during the writing of my most recent novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery.  Now that it is finished, that novel exists in a sort of magical haze for me, and I've convinced myself that writing it went smoothly from the idea to the end.  But a few days ago, I opened, by chance, one of my daily writings from last summer–and read a whole long rant about how stuck and frustrated I was on the progress I was making.  Because, the thing is, when a novel is done, you forget the day to day grind that went into it.  Because the Bonne Chance was somewhat magical in origin, with the entire story essentially downloaded to me in the shower, it has been easy to forget the hard parts. Instead, I labor under the delusion that the writing of it was easy and sure in every letter and word.  While parts of it were, much of it wasn't.  And it is reassuring to remember that as I struggle to start anew.

For a look at how a major literary figure used a diary, check out this great Brain Pickings piece about the journals John Steinbeck kept while writing the Grapes of Wrath.

3.  Set Word Count Goals.  Once you get beyond the random daily writing practice (and its okay if you never do, truly), it is fun to set yourself some goals.  I was hitting 1K words a morning with ease, so today I notched it up to 1,500.  It helps to give me some kind of framework for what I'm doing.

4.  Give Yourself a Place to Go the Next Day.  If you are working on a long project, write a sentence or two about what happens next, so that you know where to start the next day.  If you are doing random writing, choose a prompt so that you don't go in search of one on the internet and get distracted.

 5.  Stay Organized.  For some dumb reason that I will probably regret, I like to save each days' writing in a separate file, labeled with the date.  I think I like to see the files pile up in the folder I've created for them.  What I will likely soon do is put all these pieces together into a file labeled "full manuscript."  But I am notoriously terrible at organization, so you can probably figure out your own system that works well for you.

Okay, that's it!  I hope you are making progress on your WIP or enjoying writing something.  Do you have any tips for sustaining a regular writing practice?

5

Stupid Writer Tricks: 7 Crucial Mistakes Writers Make

Dunce-school-punishment-857281-hSometimes I like to tell myself stories, say, when I'm doing the dishes (which my husband might claim is rare) or putting on my make-up and drying my hair.  And it occurred to me recently, that a couple of my favorite stories fell into the category of colleagues doing Stupid Writer Tricks. (Because, in the stories I tell myself, I'm always the heroine who is five times smarter than anyone else–and of course, I never do any of these myself.  Nope, not ever.)

And then it occurred to me that these stupid writer tricks warranted a blog post.  So here you go.  In all seriousness, these are bad habits that can derail a writing career faster than my cats attacking their food dishes at 4 AM in the morning.

1.  Not utilizing the basic tools of the trade.  In the course of my travels through the writing landscape, I have come upon several practitioners of our craft who do not have word processing programs.  God only knows what they type on, but this means, at a minimum, there's no formatting and no spell check.  It also often means that others cannot open their manuscript.  It for sure means that their submissions to anyone anywhere in the entire publishing world will be ignored and they will be branded as an amateur.

2.  Ignoring conventions of genre and structure.  Like, writing a mystery without a murder. Or thinking that it really doesn't matter if their novel's characters don't want anything.  It does to matter, because, DESIRE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND.  And furthermore: yes, the conventions of literature apply to you.  No, your genius is not such that you can ignore them all. And if you persist in coddling your genius in this manner, guess what? The world will ignore your work.

3.  Ignoring the critiques of those whom you have entrusted to read your manuscript.  There's a fine art to taking criticism.  Sometimes, it is so clearly not applicable and that's fine.  Reject it.  But I've seen writers ignore advice that would have made the difference between a meh book and a wow book and that's just plain dumb.  Rule of thumb: if more than one person is bumping over something, consider changing it.

4.  Ignoring submission guidelines.  Years ago, at one of the first writing conferences I ever attended, an audience member inquired at an agent panel, "Does my manuscript have to be typed?" Sure wish I had a photo of the expressions on the faces of the agents there that day.  I don't think anybody these days is quite that stupid, but you'd be surprised how many people I know fail to follow the most basic of submission guidelines.  Bottom line is this: go to the website of the agent or publication to whom you wish to submit and DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY.

5.  Not using social media.  Yeah, I know.  It's beneath you.  Tough.  Do it anyway. If you don't like Twitter, use Facebook, and vice versa.  If you don't like either, try Instagram (my current favorite).  Or Pinterest. Maybe you'll even be one of 10 people who like Google+!  Whatever, find something, anything that you like and work it.

6.  Posting all self-promotion, all the time.  I have a friend. She is the bane of all her writer's friends existences because all she does on social media is talk about her great she is and how everyone loves her book so much and how now she's appearing at this conference (where everybody loves her) and now she's reading at this event.  Barf.  I've got news for you–after awhile, nobody pays attention.  I know its a cliche, but what we want is to engage.  Start conversations.  Comment on what other people post.  Chat a bit. It'll get you way more followers–and it is way more fun.

7.  Not writing every day.  Because none of the above matter one bit if you don't.

Which of the above are you guilty of?  Okay, maybe you don't want to confess publicly.  So which ones are your writer friends guilty of?

4

I’ve Invented a Writing Machine

Everystockphoto-nasa-space-64361-hJust for you, because I love ya, I've invented a new writing machine.  Here's what it does: with a long metal robotic arm, it reaches out, grabs paper and pen, and plops it down in front of you.  You can also program it to grab your laptop, tablet, or computer keyboard.  There's an optional feature that will, if you so choose, chain you to your chair for a set period of time.  

Here's the rub: that's as much as the machine does.  After that it is up to you to start writing.  This may be a bit of a news flash to you, but in order to write something like a novel, a short story, or a memoir, you have to … write.

Dude. Imagine that.

But, you know what?  We forget that.  Even I, who have been making my living doing this for years, forget that.  Lately, I've been very stern with myself.  I've had so very many important things to get done.  Manuscripts to read, a rewrite to finish, workshops to plan.  And so I laid down the law. There is no time for writing.  We must work.  And work hard.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Yesterday I awoke in a brain fog, staring off into space, overwhelmed by the week ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my pink journal which had been unopened for a couple of weeks.  I stared at it, with one eye squinting until it occurred to me….perhaps I should write. 

And so I did.

And it was exactly what I needed to do.

But my journal practically had to jump up and down in front of me to get me to open it and start writing, which is why I'm inventing the writing machine for all of us.  Because it's one of those crazy paradoxes: when you're blocked in your writing, the solution is to write. 

I think what happens is that we crank ourselves into perfectionist mode.  When I'm not writing, it starts to seem like this big impossible thing that I can't do because I start imagining that every word I write has to be stellar.  But if I can just get myself to write one word…and then a sentence..and then a paragraph, I remember:

  • All I have to is put words on the page.
  • I don't have to write well.
  • I can write crappy sentences
  • Nothing has to make sense.

Because once I do put words on the page, things start to flow.  Ideas form and spill off my fingers. Crappy sentences straighten themselves out.  Scenes begin to write themselves. And I am writing.

So, yeah, that writing machine should be going into production soon.  In the meantime, I've got the next best thing here.

What do you do to get yourself to write?

6

Wednesday Within: Notes to Self 2015

(With thanks to the Kath Eats Real Food blog for the inspiration. This is one of an occasional personal post I started doing last year.)

Self, this year I would like you to remember: Bloc_note_paper_266924_l

–You really do have time to write Morning Pages every day and they will get ideas flowing and set your day up for success. 

–Working on the WIP novel immediately after Morning Pages will make you feel good about yourself and your life all day.

–You're not the CEO of a major company.  There is no email or phone call that needs answering before 8 AM.

–Protagonist is not spelled protaganist, the way you always spell it.

–And furthermore, seperete is actually spelled seperate.  Really, it is.

–Writing a novel "is like reconstructing the whole of Paris from Lego bricks." Amos Oz.  Remind yourself of this often.

–While we're on the subject of Paris, remember on bleak days that there's a sojourn in the city of light in your near future.

–When you think there's something wrong with a scene–there is.  Figure it out.

–Speaking of which, you know more about your WIP than you think.

–All you have to do to start is just open the file and look at it.

–Yes, you will get through the middle.  You will.

–Remember how much better you feel when you get up every 30 minutes!

–Stretching every morning will make you feel much better.

–And so does drinking lots of water. Plus, when you drink a lot of water, it helps you get up regularly.  Duh.

–Remembering to breathe fully makes you feel best of all!

–Do the most important thing first.

–The most important thing is, 9 times out of 10, working on your WIP.

–I give you permission to underline and make notes in your books.

–It is already starting to get light later and next time you look up from your computer, it will be spring.

No whining on they yacht.  You're one of the luckiest humans on the planet.

Okay.  Those are my things I want to remember this year.  (I reserve the right to add to them as the year goes on.) What are yours?  

Photo by brokenarts.

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How to Write More Than You Thought Possible

That title offers a pretty bold promise, huh?  But I really do believe that what I'm going to write about today will help you write more than you imagined possible.  What might this mystical thing that I'm going to write about be?     Gandhi

Are you ready?

Wait for it.

It is writing practice.  Also known as free writing.

We will define it, for the purposes of this post, as any writing that you do that is not strictly related to your WIP.  It is the writing that you allow yourself to write with abandon, that you likely do to a prompt, that you for sure do fast and without worrying about what words you are putting on the page.  It is, at heart, writing for no purpose.

I've been doing writing practice for the last week or so, inspired by a book I bought on a visit to one of my favorite bookstores.  The book is called Writing From the Senses, and it focuses on "using your senses as prompts."  I like the short chapters and the writing prompts at the end of each of them.  

But what I really like is the permission the author, Laura Deutsch, gave me to do my practice on the computer, and to keep it short, like 300 words.   I, like many of you I presume, have always done free writing by hand.  Don't get me wrong–I love writing by hand and find it very freeing.  But I also never took the time to transfer any of my handwritten free writes to the computer and lots of good stuff got buried in my spiral notebooks.

But Deutsch says it is perfectly fine to write on the computer.  And, yes, 300 words is plenty.  I find that these little short bursts on the computer act as warm ups that lead me directly to my current WIP and allow me to work on it with just as much abandon as I do the free writes. 

I find that this writing for no particular purpose other than to do it takes the pressure off, which allows the words to flow.  And once they are flowing, it is easier to get into the flow with your other work as well.  This, in turn, makes me eager to get to the page.

I am reminded of a quote I read long ago from Mahatma Gandhi.  (I don't have the exact quote and have searched and searched for it.  If you happen to know it, please send it to me.)  He said, in effect, that he had a busy day, so he better spend an extra half hour at his spinning wheel.  In other words, he's making the counter intuitive choice to take time to make time.  By taking longer at the spinning wheel, he knew he'd be much more centered and ready for the day.  

So, too, with your writing.  By taking time to do some writing practice, you'll be better able to make good progress on your current project, because you'll be centered and in the flow.

Some simple guidelines:

1. Start with a prompt, just because it gives you a way in.  I've got tons here on this site, or you can get books full of them, or you can consult the Google.  (For my newsletter subscribers, I also always include a new list of prompts each issue.)

2.  300 words is fine.  500 would be plenty.  

3.  You don't have to stay on topic.  Go wherever your hand takes you.  Let it rip, let it flow.

4.  Keep writing no matter what.  Its much better to get something, anything, on the page, than to stop and gaze off into space.

That's it!  Do me a favor and try doing writing practice and then move right into your WIP and see what happens.  

Do you have a favorite activity that encourages your writing?

 

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