Find Writing Time
The basic goal for any writer is that you must write. You must write regularly, and often. The notion of a writer’s block no longer exists when it’s tied to the job market or a pay check, you know? Fortunately, I’ve gleaned a few lessons from fellow writers – one being my dear friend Natalya, who is also a contributor to this blog. This post is a piggy back to Nat’s blog on time management, which you can read about here, where she goes into far more detail on the techniques that she uses to manage time and to stay on track. Totally worth a read!
For me, just because I don’t roleplay often, does not mean that I am not always writing. As a graduate student in the social sciences, writing academically is a job requirement, and once I graduate, I will be in the “publish or perish” world. What this means is that my “value” as an employee is judged by how many high impact publications I make every year in my field. Hence, between my exam papers (the last one is due on October 1), I try to make room to write extra – and I often submit my research papers to journals in my field for publication! Here’s some things that I do:
Establish a daily writing goal: First off, my days start with a goal. A basic goal is to write at least 1000 words on paper each and every day. Now, this could be notes, it could be memos, stories, observations, etc. The idea though, is that writers write, so you must accomplish this goal EACH DAY. It’s sort of like leveling up in a video game. Each time you don’t hit that goal, the guilt takes a lot of HP from you.
Catch the butterflies: I’m a bit of a ditz, and my ideas simply flow a lot of times, so I have to be portable! Ideas can come at any time, so I try to have something on hand to catch them. Here’s some of the things I use:
- iPhone – I record my thoughts (especially when I’m on a run and can’t stop to write).
- Notepad – Here’s the one I use. It’s a little pricey, but the hard cover makes it portable anywhere.
- Evernote – This is a free program that can organize your ideas. You can also have it synced to your phone, so you can capture pictures, embed voice files AND write all in one place. The best parts? You can sync it to your devices, AND you can search.
- Scrivener – I write in “circles,” usually never beginning to end, but starting in the middle and working out. Scrivener is like an electronic binder – it can keep all related files together. In fact, most of my writing goes into Scrivener. Then, when I’m ready to submit anything, I can easily export to Word for formatting.
- Bathtub crayons – Writing on shower walls with soap crayons beats soggy pieces of toilet paper with blurred writing…
Find a writing buddy: I have a grad group on Facebook that I must “report to” each week. There, a bunch of fellow grad students and graduates share their weekly goals, as well as tools to help everyone succeed. We encourage each other, and it makes us accountable. My bestie, Nat, is also my sprinting buddy – she and I hold each other accountable for our goals, and it helps a lot that we check in with each other throughout the day. You can find writing buddies on many different e-sites. One that I enjoy is writing.com. For some of my short fictions, I can “vet out” editors from this site, and get some great critique!
Writing Sprints: In Nat’s blog, she talks about sprints and the Pomodoro method. Sprints are when you set a timer for a set amount of time (usually 25-30 minutes). Then, for that amount of time, you simply WORK. No distractions… you just do straight up work. Then you break for a few minutes, and sprint again. Nat and I sprint almost every day except on weekends. We can hammer out maybe.. 6-7 sprints a day, if not more. But what’s nice about it, is that even if we aren’t able to make our goals, necessarily, we know we’ve made progress. Also, a sprint makes us hyper aware of what we have been doing for the sprint (yes, I’ve had to confess to Nat after a sprint that I honestly did NOT write, and instead, made myself the most delicious snack ever – I’ve done that…). The goal isn’t to punish yourself or the other person if they don’t make it (unless, like, I know Nat will be very firm with me if I don’t get to writing my last comprehensive exam), but it’s to keep us productive.
Write. Just write: Lastly, just write. Hit that writing goal, no matter what. If you need to, feed your inner writing critic a giant NOPE sandwich with extra nope sauce, tell it to shut up, and keep writing. When you don’t write, you’ll feel the guilt of not writing. Don’t do that to yourself! Just. Write. I’ll tell you, most of what I write starts off as formless mind excretment. I think of it as a pile of mud plopped onto a page, and well, it looks more like a pile of poo. It’s the editing where the magic happens! You work with it, and sometimes it takes a LOT of work. But keep at it, and soon, you’ll have a masterpiece that you’ll be proud of.