making time to write

Taking Time to Write

Everyone talks a lot about making time to write, but do you take time to write?

I have a lot of transition points throughout the day, times when I'm segueing from one project to the next, or switching from being out and about to sitting at my desk, working.  At these junctures, I often find myself clicking onto my yahoo home page to mindlessly scan the sites I have collected there.  Or I'll write a quick email. It is a brainless, restful transitional activity.  And judging by the long emails and instant messaging conversations I have with people who I know are at work, I'm not the only one who uses the internet in this way.


All fine and good, when used in moderation (like all things, dammit). 

The problem is that it is so very, very easy to get carried away.  One innocent headline on your news reader leads you to another story you just have to read.  You tell yourself it is an important part of your career to stay up-to-date on current events.  Right, but do current events include whether or not Lindsay Lohan is in jail? I think not.  You remind yourself that in your position it is very important to stay in touch with people.  Yes, but do those people expect you to answer their emails instantaneously?  Of course not.

I know, I know, you've heard this a million times before.  But try taking a look at it from a slightly different lens.   What if, instead of indulging engaging in mindless activity when you have a bit of downtime, what if instead you turned to your writing?  What if you kept your current project open on your computer, or your journal at hand, and when you had a minute, you re-read the last paragraph you wrote? Or edited a sentence or two, or wrote a few lines based on a prompt.

What if you actually took the extra time you have throughout the day and used it for writing?

Many's the time I've read of writers who claim to have written their books in small chunks of time here and there.  The poet and novelist Darnell Arnoult tells of the years she was working full-time and raising her children, and how she would sit in the car and write while she waited for them to finish their sports practice.  Out of this, eventually, a novel grew. 

Start taking a look at your down time or your transition points.  And don't discount what value there is in taking time to look at your writing.  Even if you only have five minutes, reading over your work keeps it alive and fresh in your mind.  It helps you to establish that magical momentum.  And it will keep your subconscious pondering connections and ideas to contribute.


I think the reason we don't take these little bits of time throughout the day is because we're tired, and dealing with our writing takes energy.  But get into the habit of it, and soon it is the opposite.  Your writing habit will energize and refresh you, much more so than surfing the net.   And besides, wouldn't you rather reach the end of the day exhausted because you gave it your all?  Because you used every minute, because you threw words at the page every chance you got, because you remained engaged with your writing–and thus the world–throughout the day?  I know I would.

How do you take the time to write?  Or if you don't, do you have any ideas for how you can?

Cultivating the Mental Energy to Write

Thinker_statue_rodin_233683_l How does one coddle the mental energy to write?

Ah, that is the question, is it not?

As I wrote in my post last Thursday, energy for writing is different from energy for other activities, because writing is active and engaged.  (As opposed to say, TV watching, which is passive.)  And sometimes, in the crush of our daily lives, it is difficult to find this energy.

I have a few tips for finding it.  But first, let me say that you've probably seen these tips before.  They really aren't anything new, and I know I'm doing nothing more than reminding you about them.  But here's why we all need to be reminded of them: because they work, but only when done consistently.  Damn.  Sometimes I hate that word, consistent.  It is the bane of we creative types' existence, because we like to think of ourselves as free spirits.  But really, it is consistency–as in putting your ass in the chair and writing regularly–that fosters creativity. 

So, consistency fosters creativity, yet we need to find the mental energy to be consistently creative.  Here's how:

1.  Meditation.  Oh, lord I rebel against this one.  So much so that I've never really managed to create a consistent meditation practice of any duration.  However, I get so much out of it that I return to it again and again.  And so I guess, in a way, that is a consistent practice.  It really does help to center and clear your mind, if you can force yourself to do it.

2. Journal.  This is one I am consistent at.  I never go anywhere without my journal and I generally write in it every day, even if it is just a brief note about an idea or something I've seen.  Some days I'm scribbling madly away in it.  You can do Morning Pages, Active Imagination, or just sit down and write.  It seems counter-intuitive to spend precious writing time working in a journal, but it actually helps me to get the dreck out, clearing the decks for the "real" writing.

3.  Repetitive Action.  Do something that involves repeated motion.  Sewing, knitting, weeding, mowing the lawn, hammering nails.  I don't know what it is, but the soothing action of doing the same thing over and over jogs the mind and gets ideas going.  

4.  Artist's Dates.  Julia Cameron recommends these.  Find something you love and go do it, by yourself.  Swing in the park, go to the art supply store, buy crayons and a coloring book and color…whatever you like to do and don't allow yourself to do on a regular basis.  I have to admit, I don't do this often.  But every once in awhile I realize it has been quite some time before I've allowed myself and artist's date and go off on one.  I come back feeling like my brain has been washed, rinsed and dried and is all shiny and clean.

And, here's the bonus point, one I've only recently realized is incredibly effective:

5.  Practice Being Less Judgmental.  Sigh.  I know, I know.  Judgment is a writer's stock in trade.  Right?  Well, not really.  What I'm talking about here is the kind of knee-jerk reactionary judgment we make every day, over and over again.  And particularly, I'm talking about the kind of judgment that is so ingrained in us we've made it into a story.  What I'm finding as I do my best to look at how I judge, is that if I stop myself from going into the story the world opens up.  And then there is room for ideas, and creativity, and even awe to come in.  And I still have to work on it practically every second of every day.  But the struggle is worth it.

Okay, let me hear it from you–how do you cultivate your mental energy?