Don’t wait for just the big chunks of time to write. Use little chunks of time throughout the day: 15 minute breaks; 20 minutes here; even thinking about your story while you drive home from work counts. Those little chunks of time add up. When the big chunks of time arrive –say a whole Saturday morning with nothing on the schedule– use it. But if something happens and the Saturday morning gets interrupted, it’s okay, because you’ve been using little chunks of time. However, a regular time on your daily schedule –say, either getting up a half hour earlier to write, or writing an hour before you go to bed– can get you in the habit of writing on a regular basis. Then you take those extra chunks of time, both big and little, when they are gifted to you.
I’ve had some of my best writing sessions at a coffee shop, but I’ll be honest: sometimes I just hang out and surf the web. I’m procrastinating. I’m telling myself I’m waiting for inspiration but I confess I’ve gotten no writing done at some so-called writing sessions. Here’s an article that describes it from the viewpoint of a cafe’s employee:
Some blog articles on writing I’ve read lately:
- Daily Writing leads to better writing. Ideally, you’ll write every day . . .
- Seeing through your character’s eyes. Novelists are very familiar with the term POV, or point of view . . .
- How to write description that will delight your reader’s senses. NY Times Bestselling Author Nicholas Sparks writes to delight our senses . . .
- Show, don’t tell–using setting to deepen your characters. Social media is an amazing tool, and it is a wonderful time to be a writer, but, I am going to point out the pink elephant in the room . . .
- Breaking style. Writing (and editing) is both an art and a science, and the guidelines about producing prose are somewhat amorphous, for various reasons . . .
I use to teach creative writing courses to adults. The excitement the people brought to the class inspired me. They wanted to be there. They had great ideas. They sought ways to become better writers.
They seemed disappointed when I told them the Secret. I believe they expected me to pull out magic pills for them to swallow, like Morpheus gave Neo in the movie The Matrix. They could down the pill and suddenly they would be able to punch out the next best-selling thriller on their keyboards. If only.
“The secret of becoming a better writer is to just write.”
No, seriously. What’s the secret?
“That’s it. I swear.”
“Well, okay, write everyday. Everyday you can write, write. Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.”
I believe many people who don’t understand the writing process think it’s a talent or skill that some people are born with and others will never have. Or they think it’s magic. The truth is, everyone can improve their writing skills, but it takes practice.
I always use the analogy of comparing writing to any other skill like playing the piano or playing on a basketball team. My friend Ryan had a piano recital last year. He never practiced one day in his life. Never even touched a piano until the night of the recital. He performed excellently. Wait. That’s ridiculous, right?
Downtown, next to the building I work in, the city built a huge basketball arena. When the arena was completed and ready to serve the community for basketball games and concerts, everyone in my company was offered a free tour. The local university basketball team played their games on the main court surrounded by thousands of seats for spectators, but a whole wing of the arena was dedicated to just practice for the team. During the tour I saw a huge court in the sub-levels underneath the street where the team would work on their craft. The city and the university would not just let the team go out and play without practicing, right?
Writing is the same way.
If you want to improve your writing style, your writing craft, you practice. Just because you write something, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to see it. You write. And rewrite. And rewrite. Some of it will never be seen by anybody else’s eyes. That’s okay. Ryan hit many bad notes on the piano while practicing.
Maybe I’ve been teaching writing for over a decade to adults, college students and children, but I will never be the best writer I can be. I am always improving, but I will never arrive. To me, the journey is half the fun.
Once again I have over-obligated myself and have ended up teaching four nights a week–this in addition to my day job. My need to please is another topic for another time, but now I’d like to say how much I’m getting done on novel despite my busy schedule. I’m using the furious five hundred technique.
James Scott Bell recommends this method. The writer obligates himself to write only 500 words for that day. Nailing 500 words in one quick swoop is doable on a busy schedule. As Bell says it: “I have found that I can do 500 words in one, furious stint before my brain yells, like a disgruntled Teamster, for a break. So I stop, even if I’m going good. I get up, walk around, take deep breaths. This break may last only a minute or two, but it definitely recharges my battery. Then I’m set for another 500.”
Every morning at the coffee shop this week, I pounded out 500 words on my novel. Now of course it’s sludge, but I’m creating something that I can come back to and fix up. Getting it down in rough draft form is the first step and if I feel I have to write 3000 words that day, I may feel overwhelmed; however, if I trick myself into writing only 500 words and nothing more, I’ve made progress. If I happen to have time to write another 500, then great. Another 500, even better, and so on.
I’m at the coffee shop eating my oatmeal with walnuts, brown sugar and raisins. I’m thinking, “I want to write that blog entry on why I switched to writing my novel in first person.”
But first I have a class I start teaching tonight and I haven’t outlined the syllabus. I need to mulch the yard and trim the bushes. I need to update a website for my day job. Oh, and I have a video to edit for the same job. I could go on.
So if I’m suppose to be a prolific writer, why blog?
The purpose of this blog is to monitor the progress of my novel. I’ve written about singing in the shower and a trip to Nashville. So, focus, Andy, focus!
I’m thinking of starting a blog for different areas in my life: my graphic design; my teaching; my spiritual beliefs; my running and eating habits. That way this blog can focus on my novel.
I really intend to write more pithy blog entries for now on. And link to helpful advice on writing. Here’s one:
“Has this happened to you? You want to write some new posts for your blog, but nothing’s coming to you. You’re just sitting there, with those blank white pixels taunting you, until your eyeballs hurt.”
Oh, and that blog entry on why I switched to first person? I’ll write that this weekend.