Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*
Yeah, I know. It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave. Because, NaNoWriMo. You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.
And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.
But I’m telling you that you must. That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile. And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:
Go to a writing event. Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees. But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them. I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way. Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.
Join a critique group. This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work. We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work. You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.
Go to the bookstore. If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores. But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books? Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever. And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.
Have a writing retreat. Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January. It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul. Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write. Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat. Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up. Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season). Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.
Take a writing workshop. There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college. They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes. Check with your local writing group. Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors. Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September. (You can read about this year’s adventure here. I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly. But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)
Take an online class. Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this. And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world. But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too. There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January. Again, consult the Google.
Do something fun and forget about it. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off. Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge. Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery. One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.
So, how about it? What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?
*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do. And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.
Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):