Writing Habits

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?

Do the Most Important Thing First

Clock_clock_262668_lI've not harrassed myself people about this for awhile, so as 2015 starts, it seems a good time. And, there's a hashtag going around on Twitter so its hard to avoid. (Of course now that I've gone to look for it, I can't find it.)  And, most importantly, I truly, deeply, madly believe in this concept.

The concept is, of course (as my three-year-old grandson says), that you get up in the morning and do what's most important to you the very first thing.  This likely means you will need to set your alarm (unless you are like me, whose eyes pop open at 5:30 no matter what) to get up early enough to accomplish whatever is most important to you.

For me, the most important thing is writing. Always has been, always will be.  I am at my best all day long if I've gone straight to the page when I get up (with one quick detour to the coffeepot, of course).  Lately I've been writing morning pages for 20 minutes or so and finding them nourishing and energizing.  Most days, they lead me straight to the computer and the file of my WIP, allowing me to bypass my email and social media without a thought.

But your most important thing might be yoga or running, as my neighbor Sheila does every day, or meditating, or, I don't know–fishing.  Or crocheting.  Or weeding the garden by moonlight. Or art journaling.  Or playing piano.  Only you can decide.

And the point is, what you do doesn't matter.  But you will find that if you are doing what is most important to you first thing, it matters a lot.  Because you will start the rest of your day knowing that you've already knocked off what you want to do most.  No worries or stress about when you will actually get to it.

This is life changing.  People say this about things all the time, but this really, truly is life changing. If you commit to only one thing in 2015, commit to this.  You'll thank me at the end of the year, after your novel is written, your garden has bloomed all summer, or you've crocheted a hundred sweaters.  

Here's what Austin Kleon has to say on the subject:

"What I usually recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for a couple hours on the thing you really care about. When you’re done, go about your day: go to school, go to your job, make your family breakfast, whatever. Your teacher or your boss or your kids can’t take your work away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today."

(The article this was taken from is about doing something, anything, towards your most important goal every day.  Its worth reading.) 

I could go on and on about this, but I'm not going to.  Because the thing is, you just need to do it. So, off you go.  Enjoy!

 Here are other posts I've done on similar topics:

Inspiration for Writers: The Morning Ritual

Morning Routine

Writing Every Morning

Do you have a morning routine, something you commit to each day?

Photo by vierdrie.

 

Do You Pay Attention to the Physical Aspects of Writing?

Writing is hard mental work, we all know that.  But it is hard on your body physically as well.

Yeah, right, you say.  All I do is sit in a chair at the computer all day. Morro-strand-stretching-98145-h

And that is exactly why writing is so hard on you–because it is not good for you to sit all day.   Not even one little bit good.  Our human bodies were made to move, and our ancestors moved all day.  But we don't.  We sit in a chair all day and our bodies don't like that.  Studies have shown that even if you run five miles after work, if you sit all day, you're not healthy.

I've experienced this first-hand over the last couple of years, with an ongoing knee problem that I'm finally getting some relief for.  Turns out its not about the knee at all, but rather very tight muscles in my hip and sacrum area.  Chiropractic and laser treatment, along with icing, daily stretching and yoga, is making a huge difference.  

But in the course of my chiropractic treatments, I've realized how stiff and tense my neck and shoulder muscles are.  I was so used to them feeling this way, it took my chiropractor asking about them every visit for me to realize–wait a minute, my neck is sore.  And my shoulders are stiff.  And they feel like this all day, every day. (Having had two children without any anesthetic, I have a high threshold for pain.)

I have plans to live until I'm 100 years old, in good physical and mental health, and I also plan to continue writing all those years–so I've got to pay attention.  I've been following my chiropractor's orders and researching ergonomics so that I can live and write for many more years.  Here's what I've found helps so far:

Stand up every 15 -30 minutes.  This one is tough.  You're writing away, the words are flowing–the last thing you want to do is stand up and move away from the desk.  But I find I feel much better at the end of the day when I do this.  Set a timer, if you must, but once you get it in your head, you'll remember.  My rule is, if I think I should stand up, I need to. So I do it.  And then I stretch or wander around for a minute.

Drink a lot of water.  My chiropractor says 70 ounces a day.  Yep, 70 ounces. This helps with muscle inflammation and trust me, it also assures you will stand up often–because you'll have to, to use the bathroom.

Develop an arsenal of stretches for your neck, shoulders, and back.  Have a regular practice of this and also do them throughout the day.

Check your posture.  Since I've started to pay attention, I've noticed a bad habit: I jut my neck forward and hunch my shoulders up.  It's no wonder my neck hurts.  Now I work to keep my head aligned with my body and if I do sit forward, I angle my whole body.  We all develop strange habits as we work–check to see if you have any.

Look at your computer set-up.  According to this physical therapist, your computer monitor should be at eye level.  Arggh!  Mine is several inches below.  Gotta work on that–its probably causing some of my neck strain, too.

Consider a stand-up desk.  I know I can't stand at my desk eight hours a day but I'd like to be able to stand for thirty minute or hour-long stretches throughout the day.  And so I'm ordering this nifty little laptop cart that also doubles as a stand-up desk.  I'll let you know how it works out!

Make sure you have good lighting.  Eyestrain can be a source of headaches, as I'm sure you know. Beware of glare on your screen, and make sure you're working in a well-lit room in the evening. Some experts recommend glancing away from you computer every 20 minutes or so–gazing at anything green is especially restful.

Ice is your friend.  Get thee some ice packs and keep them in the freezer for the times when you are stiff and sore.  Ice reduces inflammation and will make you feel better–especially on a hot day.

Okay, those are some of the things that are helping me, and I admit my efforts are a work in progress. I have to constantly remind myself to stand up, to stretch, to look away from the computer screen and give my eyes a rest.

Do you have any other recommendations for good writing ergonomics?  Please share.

 Photo by mikebaird.

My Mind is as Dry as the Desert

(Brief aside: you know how you can remember the difference in spelling between dessert and desert? You want more of dessert, and thus it has two of the letter s in it.  My seventh grade teacher, Charles Nakvasil, taught me that.  He owned movie theaters after he quit teaching.) Desert-arizona-summer-47866-h

Last week I was out of town.  This was not the usual kind of travel I do, to writer's retreats or workshops or conferences or meetings with clients.  This was for fun only.  My nephew graduated from Pepperdine law school and two days later got married in Malibu.  Yeah, he's kind of nuts.  Runs in the family.

We, all of us, went to the wedding. Kids, grandkids, the whole shebang. Long-lost brothers and sisters-in-law.  Stayed at the same hotel, congregated for breakfast, hung out by the pool, like that.  We spent a day in Santa Monica (on the beach!) and wandered around the Venice canals. And then, when the kids went home, my husband and I played tourist, taking the best Hollywood star home tour ever, and wandering along Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Stars and Grauman's Theater.  You gotta love all that.

And now, I'm home.  Have been for a few days.  Came back to appointments and laundry and family duties and tons of errands to run, as one does.  

But I haven't done a lick of writing.  

I've not written down a single idea.

Taken even the tiniest note.

I can't seem to land on anything.  My brain is full up, that's for sure.  But nothing is coalescing.  When I think that I should sit down and write, I can't seem to remember any of the projects I was working on before I left.  (Um, that would be the novel, and the two stories, and the idea for novella.)

I can't connect with anything.  My brain is as dry as the desert.

And, of course, I know the antidote for this.   Say it with me now:

Write something.  Anything!  Just put words on paper! 

And so I will.  Because I'm familiar enough with the creative process to understand that this happens sometimes, and while it's often important to just go with it, as I have been, it is also important to break the spell at some point with activity.

In other words, writing.

It's gone on long enough, and so I shall get to it.  Because if I don't get to it, the Not Writing may become a habit, and I can't allow that to happen.

What about you?  How do you break dry spells?  Leave a comment!

 

***For fun, some other posts I've written about southern California:

 Here's a post I wrote about attending a party on the Venice canals a few years back.

A post on why travel is good for your writing.

A letter from L.A.

A post titled, Ah, L.A., in which I discuss how its illegal to be anything but thin and blonde and tan there.

There are no doubt more, but that's all I can find for the moment.  Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!

 Photo by Wolfgang Staudt.

In Training for Writing: A Dozen Ideas

 

RansomnoteEvery night after dinner, I do a little work and then by 8 PM you'll find me cozied up on the couch beneath my favorite quilt, ready to watch the Olympics.   The Winter Olympics are my absolute favorite, so I've been in heaven since they started last week.

These athletes inspire me.    Ski jumpers, snowboarders, downhill racers, figure skaters–I watch them contort their bodies and think, I'll never know what it feels like to move like that, but it sure is fun to watch someone else do it. 

The other huge benefit is that it makes my job look easy.  Really easy.  (And it is, something we'd do well to remember on those days when the words aren't flowing so well and we're wringing our hands over writer's block.)

On the surface, we writers have little in common with Olympic athletes.  (Stop laughing–I know even the comparison is funny.)  They exercise their bodies, we exercise our minds.  They are super-fit and we are…well, I'll speak for myself here, but let's just say sitting at the computer all day is not the best recipe for fitness.

However, there is one arena in which we can compare ourselves and that is with our training regimen.  Olympians train hard for months out of the year, and when they aren't training in their specific sport, they are lifting weights, running, and keeping themselves fit.  And we writers train, too.

Right?

Um, maybe not.  Because who has time for training when there's real writing to be done?  When there's only one hour in the busy day in which to find time to write  that hour, by necessity, must be devoted to one's beloved WIP.

Well, hold on a minute.  Training for writers is not such a bad idea.  Just as Olympians rely on it to create muscle memory in their bodies, so, too, can we utilize the idea of training to facilitate ease and flow in our writing.  (And, if you are a beginning writer, you might focus solely on training until you have a few gazillion words under your belt.)  Think of training for writing as warm-up exercises, or practicing scales, or hitting a tennis ball against the wall five thousand times, or…you get the idea.

What follows are my suggestions for training.   Train for 5-15 minutes a day and see if it's helpful to you. If so, keep doing it.  If not, ditch it.  The idea here is to loosen up and have fun, get your fingers flying across the keyboard or page.  Train first thing in the morning, before your writing session, when you have a few minutes to spare, on your coffee break. Do what works, is my motto.  

1.  Free Writing.  The classic.  Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and move your hand across the page without stopping.   Don't worry about following any particular train of thought, just write. To engage in free writing, the following are useful:

2.  Prompts.  These are one-line starters that are either random sentences (Snow fell, covering the shoulders of her green coat), or sentences that make you think (Write about a time your character felt sorrow).  Write your prompt at the top of the page and have at it.  You can find prompts  under the Punch for Prompt tab, or by asking the Google.

3. Use your thesaurus or dictionary.  Open to a random page and choose a word.   See how many different ways you can use it in a sentence.  Or combine it with another word, make it into a sentence, and use as a prompt.  

4.  Write morning pages.  First thing in the morning (okay, you can get coffee) write three pages.  It's free writing on steroids.  Just write.  Get your yayas out.

5.  Write poetry.  Write bad poetry.  Write good poetry.  Play with images and symbolism in the poetic microcosm.   Even if you don't consider yourself a poet, you can learn much from arranging words this way.

6.  Write flash fiction.  300-1000 words, a complete story with all the usual elements.   Keep it loose, keep it easy, keep it fun.

7.  Keep a stash of writing exercises handy.  There's some on this blog–just scroll down and look in the left column under "Pages."  And you can also ask the Google for help with finding more. Here's a page that has some interesting ones.

8.  A to Z.  Start at the top, with A.  Write as many words that begin with A that you can think of in five minutes.  Then choose a couple of those words, make sentences, and write.  Or just use the word itself as a prompt.  Add to your list as you go throughout your business. The next day, move onto B.  (If you like to be contrary, you can start with Z and work backwards.)

9.  Make ransom notes.  Recycle old manuscripts by cutting them up into sentences and words and pasting those together.    Make these into a story or use them to kidnap your neighbor's dog or rob a bank.  Kidding!  

10.  Keep a God box.  I don't know where the name for this came from, but it's a box full of stuff. Like cool things you pick up in your travels–ephemera from trips or a night on the town, fun little things, found objects, bits of jewelry.  Open the box, pick an object, and write about what the object evokes.

11. Practice description.  Grab your journal, or your computer.  Close your eyes.  Now open them.  What's the first thing you see?  Write about it as if you're describing it to an alien from another planet who has none of the same references you do.

12.  The sentence game.  Write a sentence.  Now use the last word of that sentence to start the next sentence.  See how long you can keep this going.  You can also do this with first words of sentences.

Okay, these ought to keep you going for awhile.  Do you train for writing?  What are your favorite training routines?  Please share.

Photo by theloneconspirator.

Getting Back To Writing

I was out of town last week and I didn't do any writing.  (Yes, you read blog posts while I was gone. I had them scheduled ahead of time.)  I didn't even have my computer with me, which was shocking even to me.  I never go anywhere without my computer (except to France, but I wrote on my Ipad while there).

I knew ahead of time that I would be in meetings and working on reports unrelated to writing while gone and so I didn't  attempt to write.  I was so busy (and then brain dead at the end of the day) that I didn't even think about my writing.

Which was fine.  Then I returned home.  And my brain refused to connect with any of my creative writing projects.  It was as if they were just gone.  The current novel I love?  Couldn't remember what it was about.  That short story I've been working on?  Hmmm, remind me who the characters are again?

But, in the words of none other than the Dude himself, this aggression will not stand, man.

And so I set out to get back to my writing.  Here's what I did:

I re-read my work.  Fortunately for me, my critique group meets this week and I needed to send a chapter to them.  So that became my entry point–re-reading the chapter I'd written before I left and doing some light editing on it.  Oh, that's right.  I remember what's going on here.  From there, I got interested in how I'd envisioned the plot and I re-read my scene list.  And made some small changes.  And from there, I remembered a new character I'd thought up and wanted to create a dossier for–and whadda you know, I was writing.

As I re-read, I took notes.  I love notes.  Notes are my best friend.  I think they should be yours, too.  Notes prime the pump.  They get story ideas going.  They reconnect you to your work. Notes are amazing.  Take lots of notes.  They will lead you back to your writing.  (It is worth pointing out that I take notes by hand and I think you should, too.  This is part of why they work–because you're utilizing a different part of the brain than when you are on the computer.  Or at least that's what it feels like.)

Finally, I did research. What writer doesn't love research?  It can be the best procrastination device ever.  But in this case it helped me get back to my writing by delivering some interesting litle tidbits that sparked ideas.

So that's how I got back to my writing this week.  These are simple techniques you can use any time you've been away from your writing for awhile, or if you are experiencing the dreaded writer's block.

So, tell me–what do you do to get back to your writing after being away from it for awhile?

 

 

10 Foundational Writing Practices

Work-174946-mMy church is currently featuring a series on foundational spiritual practices and as I listened to our minister a couple of Sundays ago, I started thinking (as always) about writing.  What, I wondered, would I consider to be foundational writing practices?  I pondered and made notes on this for a few days and this blog post is the result.

What do I mean by foundational practice?  I mean the activities that will insure you a successful and inspired writing life, one that will keep you productive and make you happy. (Because I am convinced that if a writer is writing, the rest of her life can be falling apart and she'll still be happy, or at least deeply satisfied.)

So, here goes–my list of the ten foundational writing practices I think are vital to your life.

1.  Write every day.  Something, anything.  Even if it is for five minutes.  Committing to this has the potential to change your writing (and you) in a powerful way.

2.  Follow the writing process.  Let her rip!  Write a shitty first draft in which everything you got at the moment is glumped onto the page.  And then rewrite and revise it until your manuscript is a glowing jewel. 

3.  Read as much as you can in your genre–or any other genre, for that matter.   If you're not reading you shouldn't be writing.  Period.  You've got to get the rhythm of words inside you in order to be able to spit them out onto the page.

4. Study craft.   Read the experts so you can master the fundamentals–and then go beyond them.  Read writing books, writing blogs, and any article on craft you can get your hands on.

5.  Keep a journal and/or an idea book.   Journaling and morning pages are wonderful tools to develop ease and flow in your writing.   But sometimes when you're wrapped up in your WIP, you don't want to take time for journaling.  That's cool.  But at least keep a journal of ideas.

6.  Learn the fundamentals of grammar and spelling.  But don't obsess about them, either.  You've got to learn the basics!

7.  Connect with other writers.  Okay, I know you're an introvert and would rather spend hours at your desk.  But the rewards of connecting with other writers are immense.  Nobody gets a writer like another writer, period.  And these days you can connect online and never have to leave your desk.  Except you also want to consider:

8.  Move your body.  Sitting at her desk all day makes Mary a wide girl.  It's really important to move those bones–walking, running, yoga, something.  

9.  Calm your mind.  Pay your hard-working brain some attention, too.  Spend time in meditation, or prayer, or even just take a few deep breaths to clear the cobwebs out throughout the day.  This will help with:

10.  Stay positive.  This is a tough business.  You're going to get bad reviews, rejections from editors, crappy emails from people who don't like your work.  If you maintain a positive mindset, it is easy to say, f–k it when this happens.

Okay, those are mine.  What are yours?  

Photo by clarita.

How You Can Gain Weight While Writing!

Chocolate_stack_snack_239996_lIt's everyone's goal to gain a little weight, right?  Well here's the good news: your writing practice can help you with weight gain.  It is so effective that it is akin to a magic pill for weight gain!  How can you make the magic happen?  Below are some top ideas gleaned from many years of trial and error experimentation (I did the work so you don't have to.  No need to thank me.)

 1.  Reward yourself with food.  Grab a brownie when you've reached your word count.  Better yet, grab two.  Or put ice cream and chocolate sauce atop your brownie and make it into a sundae.  

2.  Snack while you're writing.  But please, no fruit or veggies!   An open bag of cheetos is a good starting point.  Or try chips, kettle corn, M and Ms, Hershey's Kisses.

3.  Frequent fast food joints.  You don't want to take time from you work so your best bet is to hit McDonald's or Wendy's where you can grab a burger fast.  Add french fries to your order for bonus pounds.

4.  Fuel up with sweet caffeinated drinks.  Starbucks has a good area of these–lattes with sweet flavorings added, mochas, and when it gets warmer–Frappucinos!  Be sure to ask for whipped cream and an extra drizzle of sweetness.  

5.  Drink pop all day long.  If coffee doesn't float your boat, you're going to need something to keep you going.  Soda pop is a great idea for this.  The regular ones are loaded with sugar, which is a great attribute, but even the diet versions goof with your metabolism and help you gain weight.  It's a win-win!

6.  Don't exercise.  Forget your morning yoga routine–get right to your writing.  Afternoon walk? Uh-uh.  It won't add pounds and it will take you away from your writing.

7.  Don't get up regularly.  It is far, far better to get so engrossed in your work so that you sit for long hours without ever getting up.  

Those are some practices that have helped me with weight gain. Do you have any to contribute?

Photo by Whizzy.

Shhh! Here’s the Secret to Prolific Writing

WhispersPlease welcome guest poster Jessica Baverstock to the blog this morning and read her wise words on getting a lot of writing done.

by Jessica Baverstock

 I'm sure just about all of us have witnessed the Tortured Writer Syndrome. Perhaps we've even experienced it personally.

The syndrome begins with a bit of writer's block, some rubbish first draft material, a savage critique or just some good ol' white page fright.

It then grows into the expectation that writing is a difficult, thankless task that requires many hours of hard work with inevitable disappointment at the end.

Eventually this syndrome can even turn the best of writers into a martyr to their craft as they face weeks, months or even years of frustration, without ever feeling the wonder, excitement and exhilaration of what it truly means to be a writer.

Where Does It All Go Wrong?

The process starts getting all twisted when we do too much thinking and not enough actual writing.

Instead of starting our day with a freewrite to get the words flowing (and get the rusty first 300 or so out of our system before we get down to business), we worry about what we're going to produce today.

We start wondering: What am I going to write about? Will it be any good? Do I have anything worth writing about? Will anyone want to read what I'm writing anyway? Within three or four sentences we've completely lost our motivation, stopping up our natural flow with so much negativity that it takes a phenomenal effort every day to overcome it.

Then comes the inevitable writer's block and other woes of the writing life which become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe writing is hard, then it most certainly will become so. Words have power, especially the ones we use on ourselves.

So many writers are in this rut, that they are in the majority – posting, tweeting and talking about their difficulties – when the writers who are prolifically enjoying their writing life are too busy writing to respond.

How do I know?

I'm one of those prolific writers. When my words are in full flow, it's easy to write over 1,500 high-quality words in an hour. I sit down to my computer each morning with a relaxed but expectant attitude.

I feel like Sharon O'Brien who said, "Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."

So what's the secret?

How Can You Loosen Yourself Up and Making Writing Fun Again?

Here are a few points to get you back on the road to an enjoyable writing life.

• Get the bilge out early. Start your day with a journal entry or a freewrite. If you're in any way nervous about what you're going to write, then set 15 minutes on a timer and pour your thoughts onto the page. Once you've got them out of your head, you'll be amazed at how much lighter and more confident you feel.

• Lower your expectations. You don't have to sit down at your computer and write a best-selling novel. Start writing something true – about yourself, or about life in general – and keep writing that truth until it turns into a narrative and that narrative finds a protagonist and then that protagonist goes on a journey. Allow the words to flow wherever they want to go. When you're finished, then go back and decide what to do with the end result.

• Enjoy the process. Putting words onto the page should be a cathartic experience. It's best done regularly, daily if possible, so that the words literally flow out of you. At the end of your writing day, look for one thing you especially liked about what you wrote, even if it was just a sentence or a word. Carry that positive feeling with you through to your next writing session.

• Ask for help. So many writers struggle with certain aspects of their writing. Don't let this hold you up. Get yourself a writing coach, a creativity coach, an editor or even just a good book on the subject. Invest in yourself. Show yourself that your writing is worth the extra time and effort. An outside perspective will usually pick up on where your problem lies – and you'll often be surprised at how easy the fix is.

• View your writing life as a journey. You're never going to know it all. Even the most experienced writers are still learning and honing their craft. Rather than looking at writing as something you will be graded on, view it as the narrative of your life. As you grow and change so will your writing. Get your story written now so the next story can appear and surprise you.

What about you? How do you keep your writing relaxed and fun? I'd love to read your comments!

Jessica_0551_cropped_sml (1)Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity's Workshop where her Creativity writes in purple text. She offers creative coaching for writers. You can read her latest book De-Stress Your Writing Life for free as she blogs it over the coming months.

How To Not Get Writing Done

Frustration_cranesbeach_ipswich_1173445_hThe other day I was looking for something on my computer.  (I spend a fair amount of time doing this.  I probably need to get my files a bit better organized.)  And I ran across an old guest post I wrote a few years ago, the title of which was something to the effect of, Taking Responsibility For Your Creativity.

Back then, I thought that was quite the concept–that we have a responsibility to our creativity.  And I still do, because it’s true.  If you’re a creative person–if you have a book or painting or song or movie inside you longing to burst out–you have a responsibility to bring that creative project to the world.

And yet so many of us don’t.  We just don’t.  Because….well, just because.

Because it’s hard.

Because it takes thought.

Because we’re scared.

Because we’re lazy.

Because we’d rather watch TV.  Or drink wine. Or do something, anything, other than writing. 

So for all of us you, today I have a handy-dandy guide about how not to get writing done.    I think you’ll find it very helpful.

1.  Fill your day with meaningless activities like surfing the internet.  Or watching a reality TV show.  Or getting drunk. Or arguing with your spouse.  The choice of activity is yours–just make sure it is not fulfilling, wastes time, or damages your self-esteem or health.

2. Multi-task.  Whatever you do, do not focus on one task at a time!  C’mon, we all know that’s the best way to get your writing done.  So do not do it.  Open as many tabs on your browser as you possibly can, make sure your phone is always near by and turned on, and while you’re at, turn the TV or radio on, too.

3. Expect perfection.  Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to splash words on the page in wild abandon.  No, far better to agonize over every word.  To second guess every word choice.  To circle back around and edit everything one more time before moving on.  And let’s face it, working this way you won’t ever get to move anyway.

4.  Judge your work. This is especially important to do while you are in the process of writing. It will shut you down faster than anything, and that’s what we’re after here!  Be sure to tell yourself how awful your writing is, and also mock and jeer at the way you put words together.  Bonus points if this is done in the voice of your highly critical third-grade teacher.

5.  Do not worry about studying your craft.  Don’t read books about writing. Don’t visit other blogs on writing, and never, ever hire a coach.  This means no reading, either.  Don’t read books similar to what your writing (novels if you are writing a novel, memoirs if writing a memoir) because reading is a fabulous way to teach yourself to write.  And we wouldn’t want that to happen.

6.  Talk about your project as much as possible.  Tell everyone you know all about your project.  Relate every single aspect of it, over and over again.  This is helpful because talking a book out almost certainly makes it impossible to write it out–you’ve taken all the air out of it.  Good on you!

7.  Whatever you do, don’t meditate, pray, do yoga or walk.  Or any other baseline activity that might calm and center you and thus enable writing flow.  Instead when you get frustrated, just get more frustrated.  When you’re depressed about your work, don’t even attempt to take a few deep breaths or change your mindset in any way.  Uh-uh.  That might get the words flowing again, and we can’t have that!

Those are my sure-fire ways for not getting any writing done.  I bet you have some good ones, also.  Care to share?

Photo by sandcastleMatt.