Happy New Year! By now you’ve likely started writing the correct year on your checks so this is a good time for writers to commit to stronger work habits. Think of giving yourself a gift in the form of a professional commitment to your writing life. Acknowledging your dedication to serious writing includes setting goals for yourself which includes caring for your work habits and planning time to write. The writing life requires thoughtful planning and regular reinforcement, if you want to commit to your personal growth. So I offer a few tips that help me and perhaps something here will encourage and renew you. These ideas are not particularly original – writing guides talk about these ideas in many ways, but mostly it all boils down to these key elements.
|Photo by: Jan Bowman or Alex Dunn – (I forget)
1. Give yourself the gift of writing time. Find time – at least 10-20 minutes at a set time each day and write in your idea journal. If you don’t have one, buy one and get started. Finding time requires you to dance around the “significant others” in your life who need you, but it is possible to do this. Make a promise to yourself and honor it as you would an appointment or meeting. Don’t be discouraged if some days it doesn’t work out. Just do it the next day or the next. Get up half an hour earlier or go to bed half an hour later. Watch an hour less of television. Honor this time and tell your beloved “others” about your commitment and ask them to help and respect your need for this. Also set aside a larger block of time every week – at the very least – that you go through your journal and begin to notice patterns and ideas that signal the start of a larger writing project. And then begin. Set a reasonable time or word plan for each of those longer sessions and if you can’t meet that goal, look at what you were able to do – and set that as your goal – until you’re ready and able to do more. Know that your first draft of whatever you write is just the beginning. Sometimes you need to see what you’re writing in order to find out what it is you’re trying to say. That is okay. First Drafts are only beginnings.
2. Take a small pocket notebook with you as you go about your work, carpool, travels. Now and then you’ll see something that you will forget if you don’t make a quick note of it. Notice people and what they do. Shamelessly people-watch. Notice small moments of conflict and compassion. Or if you’re one of the totally wired people, dedicate a file/folder in your i-pad, i-phone or whatever electronic device that tries to rule your life. If you capture even a few brief words it is usually enough to spark a related memory later.
3. Set up a “clean, well-lighted” space somewhere in your world for your writing. Don’t pay bills or fold laundry or watch television there. Make it as inviting and efficient as you can, given your life and its obligations. Add all the needed tools of your craft whether you write with computer, pen or a Crayola Crayon in your favorite color. Don’t check your email or take phone calls in your space during your dedicated writing time. Be shamelessly guilt-free about this commitment to your writing. It is important work and if you’re lucky enough to be chosen for it, do it right. Remember it makes no difference where you begin, or if sometimes the fits and starts of life interrupt your day, BUT it is important that you proceed.
Find your own best work habits over time and make changes as you learn new things about yourself as a writer. Some people can get going on a writing project and nothing short of an earthquake will pull them away, but most of us need to impose some planned effort, some discipline or routine; once that’s established- you will not rest comfortably – if you haven’t done it. If you want to write, you can take this year to move yourself to that special place where you will not feel content without it, just like you will suffer some mild regret if you’ve not brushed your teeth or taken out the recycling can.
4. Remember that YOU control your time. And time wasted – on cell phones, emails, facebook, twittering or whatever else in the “connection” of the electronic world – threatens to absorb your time and eat your life. Think of digital demands as cute, but time-consuming distractions that will actually prevent your full commitment to writing IF you let them. These are tools for your convenience. Turn off the “pings” and “bells” of emails and messages while you’re writing. Or at least mute the sounds.
Finally, it helps me to remember that mean old Dorothy Parker said,
“Only a very mediocre writer is always at his (her) best.” — from the Portable Dorothy Parker.
This Entry was previously published on my blog as Entry # 33 with a different title on January 6, 2012. Since then, I have edited it, added information and repeat the gist of it here for readers as Entry # 123 for Friday, January 4, 2013 posting.
“The Care and Feeding of Your Writer Work Habits” by Jan Bowman was published in The Broadkill Review, Volume 5, Issue 6, January/February 2012, as an essay.
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2011 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: