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I write novels for teens and adults. Visit me here & on my website http://www.jenniferarcher.net

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing Class Wednesday: Making Writing a Routine

Yesterday when I met with my writing intern Allison, I mentioned that when people find out I'm a writer, probably at least 75% of them respond by saying they have a book idea or that they've "always wanted to write," BUT "I don't have time." I just bite my lip, nod, and smile. The thing is, I don't know many writers that didn't have a full load of other things going on in their lives when they started writing. In my case, when I started taking creative writing classes at night and began my first novel, I was raising two rowdy little boys, had a part-time job, ran a sideline residential rental property business with my husband, volunteered at my kids' school . . . and the list goes on. If you're serious about writing, you'll find a way to make it a routine part of your life. Here are some ways to do that. Some of these might have you rolling your eyes and snarling, "Duh." But you'd be surprised at the excuses people come up with, such as "I don't have a computer." My answer to that is, Neither did Hemingway.

What Can Serve to Help You Make Writing A Routine Part Of Your Life

  1. Pen/pencil
  2. Paper
  3. Computer recommended but not required
  4. A place. Everyone has a different idea of the perfect work environment: Home, a coffee shop, outside, inside, in a quiet place, in a noisy place. If something prevents you from having your ideal, make do with what you have. I once read about an author who, before he sold a book, wrote at work. He kept a spiral notebook in his desk drawer, opened the drawer slightly when no one was watching, and scribbled away! I don't recommend this -- especially in today's job market. If you have a job, don't do anything that might cause you to lose it! Make what you have work for you. If you don't have an office, use the kitchen table or convert a closet into your writing space.
  5. Try to set aside specific time for your writing if you can. If you can squeeze in time every day, do so! If not, even if you can only write once a week, decide when it's going to be -- for instance, Saturdays from two o'clock until four o'clock -- and don't let anything short of a catastrophe keep you from using it!   
  6. Try to find someone else who wants to write and get together with them periodically to talk about each other's progress, or even read your work aloud and critique each other.
  7. Read books on writing. A couple of really good ones that come to mind are Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and Stephen King's On Writing.
  8. Desire. You need to really want to write deep in your core in order to make it a routine part of your life. 
    • Is being a writer/ completing a book or story something you really want? Or do you just like the idea of being a writer?
    • Examine your motives. Are you are willing to give up or pare down on certain things in order to make time to write? Will you give up T.V. time, socializing, an hour of sleep? Is so, chances are the desire is there. 
    • Watch out what you choose to give up! Prioritize. Living a balanced life is important to your happiness and well-being. Time devoted to important relationships such as your spouse and children, your parents, close friends, and your health is too important to sacrifice to a large extent. 
  9. Determination
    • You will need to learn not to let setbacks or rejection (if trying to publish) devastate you so badly that you give up. It's part of the business.   
  10. Patience
    • Books don’t write themselves. It takes time and effort and patience to sit down every day in front of the page and work on getting the words down.
    • If you try to publish, the process of finding an agent and/or and editor takes time and can be frustrating and humbling. You'll need a willingness to listen to suggestions and do revisions. It takes time to turn an idea into a published story or book.
  11. Belief in yourself
    • In order to write, you need to believe you have something worthwhile to say
    • If you’re getting rejections from agents and/or editors, you must believe that you’re still "good enough" and continue to submit
    • If you do publish and you get a negative review, you have to remember that you are one of the few people who submitted a manuscript that sold, so that is a testament to your talent, despite the bad review.
  12. A willingness to learn
    • If you can’t take constructive criticism and use it to make your work better, you’ll have a tough time being a writer
    • If you aren’t willing to read and learn from the work of others, you may have a tough time being a writer
    • If you aren’t willing to take the time to study the craft and business of writing, you may have a tough time being a writer.
  13. A support group. (This ties in with # 6)
    • Writing is a lonely business. It helps to have a network of other writers with whom you can talk. Because only another writer can really understand what you are trying to do and the emotions and problems that go hand in hand with that pursuit
    • A critique group or writer group can help encourage you, point out problems in your work you aren’t seeing, point out strengths in your work you might want to emphasize. Warning: be careful about the members you choose to form your group. Trust is important. Chemistry is important. Finding folks who are honest but kind and encouraging and positive is important. Warning II: Critique groups are not for everyone. Some “don’t want another person's footprints on their work until it’s finished.” Some writers don’t find it helpful to only bring a few pages a week to a critique meeting. Design a group that fits the members’ unique needs and desires.
Writing Exercise

            Freewrite for ten minutes about why you want to write, or about what has been your experience with writing. What pushes you to write or what holds you back -- or both? 


alisa said...

Thanks, great advice (as always)....

Irma said...

a really good breakdown to understand and know if you want to write and be a writer..