practices of prolific and prosperous writer.

Have a Place To Go in Your Writing

When writing, it is important to have a place to go. 

For instance, Ernest Hemingway always ended a writing session in the middle of a sentence, thus insuring that he had a place to go when he started the next day.  I've relearned this lesson over and over again in my own work.  If I wrap up a chapter all nice and neat, the next day I flounder about as I start a new chapter.  But if I leave myself some room to work, things go much easier.  

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I've scheduled a writing session, usually first thing in the morning because that is when I like to write fiction, and come to it unprepared.  And it is dangerous, for me at least, to be unprepared because that is when the internet and email beckon.  (I have this bad habit of clicking over to my email inboxes or yahoo home page when I stop to think.  I tell myself it is to give my brain a break, but…you can be the judge of that.)

When I am unprepared for a writing session, I lack clarity on what it is I want to write.  And clarity is one of the most important things, in writing and in life.  (Clearing is actually one of the seven practices of the prolific and prosperous writer that make up my Writing Abundance workshop.)  Without clarity, I have no place to go on the page.

But clarity can be ridiculously easy to come by, at least the kind required to know where you going when you turn on your computer and get ready to write.  It just takes a little advance thought.  So here are my best strategies for having a place to go on the page:

1.  Make Notes Ahead of Time.  In advance of your writing session, go through what info you've collected and make notes, either of where you are at or what you want to start.  If you know you are going to be working on a character sketch for your new novel, make a few quick notes.  Your amazing subconscious mind will take what you've written and start working on more.

2. Read Your Work Over.  Re-read what you've read, the night before if you can.  (This works especially great if you are going to get up and write first thing.)  Reading your work over reminds you of where you are, so you don't have to reinvent everything during your writing session.

3.  Make Like Hemingway.  Don't write to the end of a chapter.  Stop a few paragraphs short.  You can even go so far as to stop in the middle of a sentence, like Ernie did.  This automatically gives you a place to go.

4. Carry Your Work With You.  When I'm in the full heat of working on a novel, I carry the little spiral that I use for notes around with me everywhere.  Not only is it at the ready if I have an idea, but there's something about the act of carrying it around that acknowledges the novel's importance and keeps it front and center in my brain.

So those are my thoughts on always being ready.  What are yours?  Comment away.  And keep the phrase, have a place to go, in your fertile brains because I'm coming back to it tomorrow.

Staying True

How do you stay true to the pure heart of what you are writing?Heart_notepad_cool_225358_l

The other day, in my Burning Questions post, I invited people to leave their burning questions.* Yesterday's post came from one question.  Today I'm going to answer another one, this one from Patty, who has a thoughtful blog you should check out.

She asked how she could get to the core motivation for her writing, casting aside all the things we do like comparing ourselves to others or torture ourselves with thoughts of the other things we could be doing.  And, I have an answer for that, though I will admit that it is one of the toughest things we writers have to deal with.  The pressure to compare ourselves to others or worry that perhaps we are wasting time are two of the most toxic distractions imaginable.

But I like to remember to separate the process from the product and remind myself that during the initial writing, my job is to focus on the process.  When writing, it is up to me to concentrate on the writing only, and let all the rest of that crap fall away.  There will come a time, all too soon, when worldly concerns will infringe upon you.  Then you will be taking your project to market, and that is when you can start thinking about how to position it in regards to the work of others, and so on.

But how, specifically, to maintain this focus on the pure, sweet heart of your project?  Here are some ideas:

Give The Whining Free Rein.  But only for a limited, pre-agreed upon amount of time, like 10 minutes.  But for that 10 minutes, let 'er rip.  Stomp around the house, sit and wring your hands, moan, sigh heavily, whatever your favorite is.  Worry obsessively about whether the book you're writing is good enough, or ponder all the things you have to do on your to-do list.  Then, when your allotted time is up, stop.  And get to your writing.

Agree to One Hour.  For this one hour, all you are going to do is write.  You are going to focus on your writing.  You are not going to worry about how to market the book you are writing, or wonder if you'll ever be good enough to land an agent.  If your thoughts stray to these topics, you are going to imagine these thoughts are on clouds, gently floating away from you.  And you are going to direct your attention back to your writing project once again.  In this way, you will stay true to your core motivation for one hour.  And then you can do it again for another hour.

Make a Deal With Your Critic.  Tell him or her that if she will just take a nap while you are focusing on your writing for an hour, there will soon come a time when you will need her help.  (That time will be when you start editing and rewriting.)  Note: your critic is not only the inner voice that tells you you're not good enough, it is also the voice that whispers: isn't it time to quit writing and see what they are talking about on Twitter?  Until you are done with your hour, the answer is no.

Practice these three techniques to stay true to yourself and your writing.  And let me know how they work out for you.  Or perhaps you have some favorites of your own?

*Note to Don: Alas, I don't have the answer to your Burning Question, much as I wish I did.  I have no idea how they get the caramel into the Caramel Bars.  But if you find out, let me know.