By Bethany Perry
There’s so much advice out there about writing.
A lot of it is obvious. For instance, I read an article yesterday that suggested two things about how to write. One, sit down (optional). Two, write. Yes, two is required.
Thinking about writing is not writing.
Reading advice columns like this one is not writing.
Doing all the things I am about to relate to you is not writing.
Writing is writing, period.
Honestly, however, just because reading about writing is not writing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, I think (and I’ve read) that continuing your education in writing is essential to growing as an author. So let’s get on with it.
I keep a writing journal
Yes, I got this suggestion from another article. Yes, it has worked for me. I modified it to meet my specific needs. What I do is, I write down things like what time I sat down to write and what time I finished, my beginning and ending word count, if my football team won or lost, whether or not I’ve had caffeine recently, the days this year when I lost two good friends. Why do this?
It helps me see several things. It helps me keep up with productivity, AKA my word count. It shows me what affects my productivity. Death absolutely does, I knew that. But the time of day does too. I write best at night. That’s just how it is. I’m too easily distractible during the day. I’m a night owl. Makes sense I’d be more able to focus the darker it is outside.
Knowing when and how I’m most productive gives me a better opportunity to be at my most productive. And when I’m on, I’m on. I only get about an hour on an average day to write. When I do it at my most productive time, I can crank about 1k to 1500 words regularly.
But there’s more to that story.
I listen to music with headphones.
After I work all day, spend time with the kiddos and the boyfriend, the munchkins go to bed and I write. But the boyfriend is a night owl too, sometimes the kiddo wants water or whatever, the dogs bark, you know, normal house stuff.
So when it’s time, I put on my headphones and go to my writing place. Instrumental music is best because it’s been proven that your language center cannot decipher two inputs at once. So if I listen to music with lyrics, maybe my brain is working on those words instead of the ones I’m putting down on the page. Even if those aren’t the words I think I’m focusing on, I might not be able to instruct my brain to do otherwise without some effort of will. That affects my productivity. I don’t want that. So for me, it’s instruments only or instruments mostly with some wordless vocalizations. And then I sink into my little world of words.
I have a routine
If you have kids, you’ve probably discovered that routine is wonderful for keeping them happy. They might complain about it, but if things are presented to them in the same way each day – breakfast at 9, lunch at 11 followed by a nap, snack at 2, dinner at 6, bedtime at 8, for example – I’ve found things go so much easier. They know what to expect and when, and they are comfortable within those boundaries.
Funny thing is, I’ve found adults are the same way. I might complain about going to work every morning at 6:30, especially since I’m a night owl, but without that routine, I get a little lost. Routine soothes me. It’s the same for most of us, so I’ve read.
So when it comes to writing, I have created a routine.
Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind. After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)
Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind.
After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)
The water is boiling! Great. I put in the tea and set the timer for steeping. It’s at this point I go to my writing place. I turn on my lamp. I power up my computer. Bust out my journal. Fill in the journal. Beep! Tea is ready.
All these things, in the same order, tell my brain it’s time to write. On to the next step.
Turn off the internet
This is not a joke. This is not a maybe. This is a must. If you live alone, you can turn it off altogether straight from the router. If not, you can turn it off on your computer.
Place your phone in another room. Or at least out of arm’s reach. Just get rid of the internet. Research is for another time. Checking your facebook is for another time. Reading about writing is for another time. You don’t need the internet to write. Even if you use a cloud based service, you can save offline and upload at the end of your time.
Ah, here we are. Now is the time. I plug in the headphones, start up my music, put the screen in front of me, and write.
So there you have it. I’ve added my voice to the proliferation of voices that tell you how to do this writing thing. But here’s the thing about it. This is what works for me. Take what you like, leave the rest. Find what works for you! That’s the way to truly be successful at getting that writing done. Writing is just as personal as anything else you do, and how you do it is up to you.
But however it is you do it, I hope you have fun doing so.
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Bethany grew up in the South, transplanted to the West, and has visited just about anywhere in between. She’s got a day job, and a family, and at night she writes and writes and writes. And sometimes in between, she writes. She enjoys traveling down the road of the macabre, but mainly in order to discover the beauty hiding within the human spirit when it is pushed beyond normal boundaries.She has completed, finally, after all these years, two novels. She is currently working on editing the second for future publication and is neck deep in writing the third. She has published some poems in literary publications and has several works of short fiction published online.