….but we are all fabulous.
Teaching finished for Easter on Friday and I have earmarked 2 clear weeks of this Easter vacation to sit and write an 18,000 word book chapter which I had been thinking about and writing intermittently for a while but which is now in need of some serious sustained attention.
I have struggled to work on it in short regular bursts, lacking either the motivation or perhaps the self-discipline to sit down and write for an hour every morning or afternoon and instead relying on blocking out significant chunks of time. Inevitably however, those days I set aside acted like a vacuum, attracting other work or avoidance activities like ornaments gather dust (on the bright side I wrote a journal article as one of those activities, but still…).
So, it got me to thinking. How do other writers approach their writing?
The Write Practice (see blog links below) suggests 4 strategies: scheduling time in, giving something else up to make time for it, making a physical space for it in your home or associating a ritual with it, and timing yourself even just starting with 15 minutes. What I liked about this post was that under scheduling it in, they acknowledge the pitfall that you can schedule it in but often writing is then nudged aside for other meetings or activities. They state that scheduling only works if it’s accompanied by an attitude adjustment whereby your writing is prioritised as being as important if not more than other activities.
Other suggestions include writing before you do anything else – do an hour’s writing in the morning before you do any other work, oh and make sure you don’t check your email before that – or your Facebook page, Twitter account, the news or whatever – in fact unless needed for your writing research, don’t log onto the internet at all… (this is where my discipline needs work!).
If morning isn’t your thing, find a time that is. If writing at home isn’t working, change your location. What about taking your laptop to a local library or coffee shop? I’m not sure how well that would work for me but I intend to try it when I start my 2nd chapter (oh yes, this is just the 1st of 4!).
I read somewhere that Prof Henry Roediger advised his graduate students to set a timer and just make sure they wrote for a time period, let’s say an hour, every day. Soon the word count builds up and it’s the starting each day that is the hard part. You can always refine the words later.
Avoid saying yes to things you don’t want or don’t need to do which take valuable time away from writing.
Stopping is as important as starting – if you write all day for 2 or 3 days and then don’t look at it again for another month, progress will be slower than remembering to take time away from your desk and doing something fun and/or active so that you can come back the next day with enthusiasm.
Consider what the REAL reason is behind why you are struggling to make or find time to write. Is it something you really want to do (see John Scalzi’s ‘whatever.scalzi’ below for some tough love)? Have you broken it down into manageable chunks or are you thinking about the finished article? My “I’m writing an 18,000 word book chapter” mantra has been often repeated by me and to my own detriment – it felt increasingly like a huge mountain to climb. Working on small topic-based sections each day helps to make the task less daunting.
Oh and a friend of mine reminded me that if you are waiting for that magical moment where you feel inspired and you have lots of time and everything flows out of you – don’t! You just have to sit down and start NOW.
Lastly, before I consider what famous authors do, I liked this quote from ‘makealivingwriting’ (blog below): “Runners get out every day and run. Writers make regular time to write, because it’s impossible to go on living without getting those ideas out of your head. And because we know it’s another muscle that has to be exercised a lot to get working well.” Since I aspire to both running and writing, this struck a chord with me….
What about famous writers?
The Paris Review interviews with authors are well worth reading for inspiration: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews. The art work alone is making me consider subscribing!
Cover from The Paris Review, No 210, Fall 2014
This is what Ernest Hemingway said during his interview: “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.” http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4825/the-art-of-fiction-no-21-ernest-hemingway
This blog has pulled some quotes from famous writers together: http://daringtolivefully.com/tips-for-writers-from-writers
Maya Angelou said: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”
Some blogs about writing: