It’s the last Friday in the month so we are mixing things up a little. This week’s Take 5 Friday is a 5 question interview with writer Daphne Gray-Grant, a.k.a.The Publication Coach.
Daphne has just released her second book Your Happy First Draft which guides people through her system for writing quickly and effectively – with minimal stress!
Many thanks to Daphne for taking time out of her launch week to answer a few questions for us.
Read below for a glimpse into her writing life.
Where and when do you write?
I spend much of every day writing from my home office in a loft at the top of my very tall house, with a distant view of English Bay in Vancouver. We were lucky enough to have bought the house more than 28 years ago before the price of Vancouver real estate became patently ridiculous. I have a treadmill desk that allows me to write while walking, a practice I find easy (which seems to astonish many people) as well as both encouraging and inspiring.
Do you find yourself compelled to write or do you have to coax yourself into it?
There’s a little bit of compulsion with some coaxing required as well. But one of the tricks I’ve found that makes a huge difference for me is to SEPARATE the various tasks of writing. So, for example, if I’m writing a blog post, I never decide on the topic the same day I need to write it. Instead, I’ll settle on the topic on a Monday. I’ll do some researching for it on Tuesday. I’ll think about it some more on Wednesday. I’ll write it Thursday morning. And I’ll edit it on Friday. Doing these different jobs on different days leaves lots of space around the edges and seems to make each job ever so much easier. At least for me.
What are your obstacles to writing and how do you get around them?
Sometimes I have so much work for clients that it’s hard to squeeze in my own writing. When that happens, I give myself a stern talking-to and remind myself that what’s “important” always needs to come before what’s “urgent.” This concept comes from Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). While his approach might sound woefully uncreative or too “businesslike” for writers, I’ve found it’s a very wise principle that ensures I actually accomplish what I want to do. I’m at my desk by 6 am most days and when I’m working on a book, I do that first, before email, and for a minimum of 30 minutes, no matter what other crises are threatening to derail my plans for the day. The book is important. The other work is “only” urgent.
What practical advice do you most often share with other writers?
No question, I suggest to everyone that they stop editing WHILE they write. This terrible habit — also known as “editing on the go” — slows down your writing and tragically increases your own self-doubt. I wrote that way myself for more than 40 years and when I finally broke the habit, I more than doubled my own writing speed. I’ve helped some clients triple theirs. I have various techniques to help people achieve this goal. My favourite? I suggest they write in 3 pt. type. This typeface looks a bit like mouse droppings, but while you can see that you’re accumulating words you can’t read them! And if you can’t read them, you certainly can’t edit them. People sometimes resist my suggestion to make this change but they often change their mind when I explain the benefits of postponing editing until later. If you edit WHILE you write, you’re doing the work at the worst possible time. You are too familiar with it. You’re totally lacking perspective. You’re far more likely to make more of a hash of editing than do anything useful. Write first. Take a break. Go back to editing later.
What non-writing activity do you do that most helps you with your writing?
I’ve been a big walker all of my life, even as a child. (I tell that story in my recent book Your Happy First Draft.) I walk not just for exercise but also for the chance it gives me to think and reflect. Before I had my treadmill, I’d go for several walks a day in my neighborhood, even in the pouring rain, so I could take my ideas out for a walk before writing them down. I still go outside at least once a day but it makes me extra happy and productive to be able to write while walking.
A final note from Daphne: I know the book is expensive and I want to encourage anyone who can’t afford it to read through my site. There are hundreds of thousands of words available there, for no charge whatsoever.