June Writing Tip 2: Develop a Writing Routine

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Thomas Edison

Maybe most of you have already seen or heard this quote. And yet, the idea of the lonely, toiling writer persists, which is not to say that writing is either hard or easy work, but instead that it takes concerted effort. After all, writing consists of writing and re-writing. Until, what you want to say, comes out right. So why not create a habitual routine? Why not, find a way to get better incrementally? How? some of you might ask. Well, the method is clear. Develop a writing routine and do your best to stick with it.

ImageFor some, the idea may seem stifling, or even restrictive. How do I know? you ask. Well, more specifically, I’ve been there. Done that. Busy staring at a piece of paper, waiting for inspiration. Or the muse to strike. Some days it came. She came. Placing something that seemed like a grand idea inside my head. Something that would get me going hop-pity skip, along a merry trail. Other times, she remained absent. Looking back now, I can recall those ideas that were carried through to completion, while others died on the page, suffering either from a lack of clarity or overkill, where I tried to make the story do what I wanted it to do, rather than listening to what the characters had to say.

The beauty though would be those that would bear new fruit. Those that in going over, would lead me to another more skilled creation. Looking back now, I can see that in my own infancy stage as a writer that one of the most important things that I lacked was a regular writing routine. Truthfully, I would wait for the story. Or come up with some brilliant title and then try to write around it. Not that there is anything wrong with either approach, because sometimes an idea might come in stages and other times it might be the whole. But take time, write it down. Get yourself accustomed to some sort of rhythm when you create. Say you grab a beer or a cup of black coffee and then settle down to write. Say, for an hour or two, between five to seven, after you’ve come home from work. Or if you do this full time, say writing  early in the morning and editing in the afternoon.

iwriter magesEither way, let your schedule be something you create for yourself, rather than something that is imposed on you. Put aside a block of time each day, only for writing. And when that time comes, you do nothing but work. Write. Even if at the end of it you only get down one good line. A paragraph or a page. Work all the time you work. Write all the time you write. And keep it. Even if the words don’t jive with you afterwards. In a week or two, something in it may seem salvageable. Or be exactly what you were aiming for.

And finally, try your best not to think of this block of time as regimented work. Free your mind. Allow yourself to be creative. To write without qualms. Yes, open yourself up to seeing things differently. With fresh eyes. Eventually the right words will come, with or without your help and you will learn that being a more disciplined writer is about allowing yourself the freedom to create.

So, until next Monday! Keep reading, writing and posting!

June Writing Tip: Defeating Writer’s Block 2

For anyone undertaking the craft of writing, writer’s block may be something you encounter ever so often, depending on whether or not you have established a writing routine. Say writing for at least an hour or two every day. Although I have grown more aware of what it means for me when my writing stops (for example more research needs to be done here or do take a break,) the effect can hamper your creative skills and lead you to discard work that may be almost done. (For times like those distance may be all that is required to get a fresh perspective and for others there are different techniques. Below I will discuss some of the methods I have used to combat this errant visitor, to promptly send him on his way.

Sometimes all that might be needed is a mood changer, for instances like these, listening to music can help you to get in the zone. To lay yourself bare on the page. Whatever your preferences, try various artists and see which ones work for you. Right now, I’m listening to Birdy’s Terrible Love. During the rewriting of The Way of the Seer, I cycled through Missy Higgins, Maroon 5, Greeeen, OneRepublic, Orange Range and Fun. Who do you use to tune in to the work and out of your environment?

At other times working with your hands might be the best way to get out of the funk. Simple things like gardening, painting, drawing or collecting seashells (for anyone who lives near the beach or is going on a trip) might provide the nudge needed. This method of stopping and doing something else may help your mind bypass the current plateau that has you stumped. After all, even when we are not writing our mind is engaged with the work. And stepping away may briefly may get us over the hump and let the ideas flow. On a few occasions, I have realized instances where my brain was prodding me to shift to a less demanding project because the one I was working on was making me extremely tired; and while I don’t propose to know either you or you body, I would advise you to get to know your body better. Learn its various cues, so that you can stop or switch tactics before you are both completely drained and swamped.

And if that doesn’t work, grab a good book and remind yourself about the things that you hold dear. Or care about. Things that we are all trying to achieve, be that writing a novel, screenplay, poem, play or short story. Go on an artist date, like the one suggested by Julia Cameron (in her book, the Artist’s Way) where you treat your younger self, the writer, painter, sculptor in you. Try to do something fun or escape, even if it is just for a few minutes in the day. Read a few line from a good book, perhaps one like the type that you are trying to write. See how the author uses words. Or how the painter paints her canvas, expresses her view of the world. Sometimes we forget that in writing our primary goal is to communicate well, with someone else; and this little pulling back and observing how someone else does it, can be the thing that flicks the switch in our brain. Makes us realize how everything else is possible.

However, if you find that you have been procrastinating for too long, gently force yourself to get back in. To continue the work. Telling yourself patiently, that it is okay to do bad work, as long as you write something. Anything. Get the juices flowing. Give yourself permission to fail, take the pressure off yourself if you have been expecting too much too soon. And relax. Do something fun, like go to a movie and then press on. You don’t have to know everything about where you are going, sometimes, like Octavia Butler said the routine will help you out more than talent. If you stick with it, day in. Day out. The momentum will keep you going. Your work won’t be halted. Remember you can get over this hurdle, you’ve done it before. All you need to do is to persist. Press on. Paint your picture. Write your story.

Until next Monday (June 9th) when I return with a post as part of Eye-Dancers’ Blog Tour: Meet My Main Character. So, until then, keep reading, writing and posting! And if you haven’t read Eye-Dancer’s piece, do check it out! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!