Yesterday I spoke about my struggle to write everyday. I had reached a point I admitted it was unlikely I would actually be able to write every day. Making that a goal was just setting myself up for failure. So I found a loophole.
As fiction writers we create, so I created a broader definition of writing. Putting words on a page didn't have to be the only way I could fulfill my daily writing. Instead of trying to write everyday, I gave myself permission to live the writing-centric lifestyle.
Here are some of the writing-related activities that I allow to count as my daily writing:
1. Marinating -- Okay, I think we've all reached at point in whatever project we're working on where it is counter-productive to put more words on the page. Sometimes we just need to sit back and think about it. I call this the "marinating" phase of the writing process. And maybe it sounds like a cop-out to say, "I didn't actually write today, but I sure thought about writing a lot." But for me at least, I have to do this fairly regularly. I often find myself in situations (stuck on a crowded train, drifting off to sleep at night, grocery shopping) where actually sitting down to write is not an option. But that doesn't mean I can't roll the story around in my head and work out some of the problems I've no doubt encountered recently. Some of my most productive writing sessions occur a day or two after a really great marinating session. So if I spent a good portion of time thinking about writing, I say I wrote that day.
2. The Business of Writing -- Writing is a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems next to impossible to tackle the other end of the job. . . putting work out there for the world to read. So I while I may not be logging a word count on days when I sit down to take care of the business end of things, I definitely count it as a writing day. Sometimes I may not be in the groove and I know I am just going to sit and stare at a blank page. These are the days I research literary magazines, submit stories, check on the status of stories I submitted awhile back, catch up on the writerly blogs I wish I had more time to follow, look for contests, research agents I eventually want to query, etc. Since doing all this feels more productive than staring at a page I know I can't force myself to fill, this counts as my daily writing.
3. Volunteering -- Now this one only counts when I am volunteering in a writing centered environment, but the days that I get to work with kids on writing skills are so inspirational, I have to count them as writing days.
4. Writing Groups -- I know there is a lot of debate about whether writing groups are beneficial or not, and I stand by the statement that it depends on the writer and it depends on the group. I am very fortunate to be part of two really great groups made up of some really talented writers. One of my groups focuses on short fiction and the other focuses on novels. I almost always come back from meetings feeling a renewed zest for writing, eager to revise or work on the next chapter. We have great discussions about writing in both groups and I feel that my writing has continued to grow because of their support and feedback.
5. Blogs -- This counts. Totally. Though ironically, writing a new blog post usually functions as a "warm-up" for a good session of fiction writing. Gotta get the writing muscles all loose and ready to work out.
6. Research -- If I need to learn more about a place or activity in order to make my story more realistic, spending time browsing the internet on this subject is a fair use of my writing time, despite appearances otherwise.
So the way my system works is that if I do any of the above things in lieu of writing, I am not allowed to feel guilty for not actually logging a word count. Now some of you more efficient, diligent, and less lazy writers may be sneering at me right now. Maybe you question my dedication if I don't actually manage to write at least a paragraph a day. And I I admit this system is going to work for everyone. Some of us need structure to write, others need freedom.
I implemented this system somewhere around the end of 2007, and you know what? By letting myself off the hook, something pretty amazing happened. . . I actually found myself writing more than ever. Writing wasn't a chore anymore because it was suddenly a very diverse activity that I could fulfill in a number of ways. The same year I started living the writing-centric life, I finished the first draft of a novel in just a few months time and managed to get three short stories published within a month. My productivity level has varied in the years since, but I am not sure that is different from anyone else's writing. We all have our massively productive periods and our slumps, right?
So I'm curious, how successful are you at writing every day? Or do you even try? Do you follow a schedule or do you let your muse dictate your productivity level?
Whatever method you follow. . . Happy Writing!
"You must write every single day of your life." -- Ray Bradbury
Ask professional writers what their advice is to those of us who are still struggling along and there is a very good chance that their advice will include some form of the above quote. We've all heard this before. You see it time and again in interviews with authors of varying levels of success. And I'm not going to argue. It is excellent advice. It is the easiest way to move forward on your WIP, to stay focused on your writing, and it is fairly simple advice to follow, right?
Sure it is -- especially if you happen to be single with no kids, pets, parents, friends, or any other living thing that might ask for part of your day. Oh, and of course if you are independently wealthy, therefore eliminating the need for an actual paycheck. Or if you just happen to not have any student loans or rent or mortgage or gas bill to worry about. Yeah, easy as pie. Just wake up refreshed every morning after a lovely night's sleep, open up the laptop and start pounding out the brilliant words.
Don't recognize yourself in the paragraph above? Yeah, me either. The fact is, that I would love to write everyday. It would be a dream come true, but some days it just isn't practical. And a few years ago while the ink was still wet on my MFA, and I realized that I needed to start acting like a real writer now, not merely a student aspiring to be a writer, it was very discouraging to repeatedly hear that the only way to achieve my dream was to find time to write every day. It was discouraging because it smacked of the truth and hinted at my impending failure. I was in a relationship that needed a lot of nurturing at the time, I was working full-time in a job that didn't pay me enough to address the bills that insisted on coming every month. I was living in a city where aside from my significant other, I had no family or friends. It seemed like when I did sit down to write, my heart wasn't in it. Depression was a familiar companion back then, as it had been most of my life. I felt I was just going through the motions, feeling that surely I was in denial. My life was only going to get busier after I got married, started a family, got my career in full swing. There were days when I was sure the only one who believed I could be a writer was me. . . and I wasn't so sure anymore.
The rut grew deeper over the next couple of years. And then things fell apart. My marriage ended hardly before it began. The path I had laid out for my life was suddenly blocked a big friggin' detour sign, complete with flashing lights. By that time, I was working a job that was rapidly becoming more dissatisfying daily, so finding myself single for the first time in a decade, feeling like a huge failure and wondering why I didn't notice when and where I'd lost myself along the way -- well all this was just frosting on the ol' loser cake.
But it didn't take me long to realize I still had the one thing that had been constant in my life for more than two decades: writing. I still wasn't writing every day. And I had to admit, that wasn't likely to happen anytime soon. I just wasn't wired that way, but despite the doubts that had been crowding my mind for the previous few years, I never did stop writing altogether. So I did what writers do best -- I got creative.
Stop back in tomorrow to find out how I found the loophole in the "write every day" advice and accidentally started writing every day.
Hey everyone! I know June has been a bit of a dry month here in the land of Happy Writing, but that is simply because my real life has been keeping me away from the computer, so the time I do get to spend tapping away, I have spent working on some new short stories. I hope you won't begrudge me that choice! But I actually have a mammoth sized blog post finished which I look forward to sharing with you later this week, possibly in two parts, with several other posts in the pipeline. So I have high hopes for July.
In the meantime, my good blogging pal Crystal recently tagged me in a game of Blog Tag, and I spent a good amount of time rolling around in my head whether or not I wanted to play. I know a lot of these little games circle around the blogging world and I can see how they potentially can be a lot of fun. I was actually pretty excited about being able to share one of my favorite songs and show off a picture of my cat in response to a couple of the questions/tasks. But ultimately, I decided I would pass on playing in this particular setting, mostly because I created this space to pretty much exclusively explore and discuss writing and writing related things. Answering questions about the last time I had chicken just doesn't seem to serve this purpose. I am also reluctant to "tag" others because, especially recently, I have not had time to keep up with various blogs the way that I want to, and it seems unfair to ask them to participate in a game and link back to me when I haven't been keeping up with their websites. I am not sure what the blog etiquette is for declining such games, but I don't want to be a spoil sport, so. . .
. . . many of you may be aware that I have another blog space that I created just for fun. So, head on over to Conversing With Cats if you want to play Blog Tag and see how Argie and Gus are enjoying their summer off so far. :)
Very early in our relationship, we had in fact only been dating about five weeks, my sweetie and I went to the Botanic Gardens outside of Chicago. We stayed approximately seven hours and took well over 600 photos between the two of us. It was hands down one of the best dates I have ever been on and in celebration of that first Memorial Day weekend we spent together, we've made a point to return every year since. This year, we had to hold out until Monday due to uncooperative weather, and it was extremely hot out, but we still had a fantastic time, as we always do.
While I very much enjoy going to the Botanic Gardens because it is a special and romantic spot for us, I also realized this year how much it reminds me of so many favorite books from my childhood. It's really no wonder that visiting places like this gives me a renewed zest for writing. So I thought I would share with you a few of my pictures from the gardens along with the books they bring to mind.
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