Solving the Mystery of Writing Step #2

In a previous post, found here http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4064 we discussed Solving the Mystery of Writing and Step #1 Finding Your Voice. Today I’m continuing my 6 Steps for Writing Success with #2 Make Writing a Priority/Write Every Day

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to make a decision based on the importance of this goal. Are you willing to give up something to attain this goal? Are you willing to sacrifice? As mentioned before, many people want to write a book, but only a scant portion of those are willing to give up their free time to buckle down and do it and then keep working to get it published. You don’t have to give up your life and become a hermit and live in the woods by yourself, but you probably will have to rearrange how you spend your time.

For me, I’m choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t watch much TV and I’ve learned to complete tasks quickly. I’m a stay at home mom with four young children and I like to garden, sew, make cards, attempt to keep a clean house, teach my six and nine year olds piano, and complete my church callings. I also help kids with homework, cook/prepare three meals every day, blog, promote my books, dabble with my website, READ, do laundry, change diapers…you get the picture, this is nothing new. But where do I find time to write? I have to create those writing windows because writing is a priority for me.

If writing is important enough to you, you’ll make a space for it in your busy life. If not, then ten years from now you may not have finished that book you started. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want. If it isn’t, then decide where your priorities are and move on to the next step of this writing tip.

Write Every Day
You’ve probably heard this before. You must write every day! Well, guess what? I don’t always get to write every day. In fact, last week I didn’t write anything on my new novel because I worked to finish up another revision on a different book. Does that mean I’m suddenly going to fail as a writer? No, it means that life has been a bit crazy and I’m working back into the groove of writing daily. The point I want to make here is that if you miss a few days of writing, don’t consider yourself a failure. Turn the computer back on, pick the pen back up and begin writing. You will hear so many rules in writing and sometimes I think people get bogged down by the rules and feel insecure if they’re not doing everything “right”.
Yes, you should make a goal to write every day. When I’m working steady on a novel, I feel a compulsive need to write every day and I can’t stop thinking about the thread of the story and where I want it to go. Often, my characters haunt me to finish their story and I’m compelled to run back to the computer and type out a few more lines. I love meeting my goal of 2,000 words a day, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t happen because that doesn’t do me any good. I also allow myself a day off here and there. I don’t work on my novels on Sunday, instead I try to focus on journal-keeping and family history, but it’s amazing what that bit of writing exercise does for me!

So for this part of the tip, I’d like to suggest that you write every day or work on your story five days a week at least, be it research, outlining, revising, whatever–just work on your writing every day. If you can’t do that, stay positive and ask yourself what is possible for you at this stage in your life. The most important thing to remember is that every book is written the same way–one word at a time.
Writing is hard work! I wish you the best and encourage you to discover and complete your goals. Good luck!

How do you make writing a priority? How do you motivate yourself to write?

About Rachelle Christensen

I’m a mom of four cute kids—two girls and two boys. I have an amazing husband, three cats, and five chickens. My first novel was awarded Outstanding Book of the Year from the League of Utah Writers and was also a 2010 Whitney Finalist. My second suspense novel, CALLER ID, was released March 2012. I was born and raised in the rural farmlands of southern Idaho and I like to work over my tiny piece of field AKA garden each year. I love reading, running, singing and playing the piano. After graduating from Utah State University, my husband and I moved our family to Utah County. Visit my blog at www.rachellewrites.blogspot.com to learn more about upcoming books.
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7 Responses to Solving the Mystery of Writing Step #2

  1. Wm says:

    I outline what I do in a series of posts on my blog:

    This is me getting serious

    Getting serious: inaugural quarterly report

    Six month writing goal report

    The short version is:

    I set a goal of 4,000 words of new fiction and 8 story ideas every month. That’s a very modest goal that isn’t going to help those who want to write epic fantasy novels, but it works for me since I’m focused on the flash fiction through novella range.

    There are disadvantages to this approach, but it works for me (or has so far) because it gives me flexibility to reach the goal, but is a finite goal. So one week perhaps I have three short writing sessions and hit 1,000 words. Another week, maybe I find myself being able to block out two-three hours and kick out 1,500 words or more. And if life just gets crazy I can go 3, 5, 7, 10 (but not more than 10) days without writing (even if that makes me cranky). The ideas goal is important because it keeps me engaged in moments when I only have time to jot down a note or two.

  2. Mark Penny says:

    I’m more of the write-by-inspiration type. However, for the last two or three months, I have been trying to work on fiction more or less daily. I have two or three writing journals (one for “secular” fiction and poetry, one for “Mormon literature”, one for “essays”). Sometimes something will demand to be let out immediately (usually a poem, sometimes a piece of flash fiction) and I just grab a moment—between classes (ten minutes to three or four hours depending on the schedule) or while a student is working on something independently—to get it out. It may take a few stolen moments over the course of the day. On a more regular basis, sometime after family scripture time and the ceremonial putting of the children to bed, I grab whichever journal I’ve got something for and knuckle down for ten minutes to an hour, sometimes a couple of hours—like last night, when the PoV character wouldn’t stop talking, even though I’d packed up the journal and was set to give my conscious a six-hour break. Evening work is usually longer term, the stuff that can take days or weeks.

    I read somewhere recently that writer’s block may often be a symptom of a hyperactive drive to write rather than an inability to find ideas. In other words, for whatever reason, you are trying to write when, for whatever reason, you should be doing something else. The only experience I’ve had that remotely resembles writer’s block is getting to the point in a novel where I just didn’t know what was next. I had plenty of other ideas to work on—in fact, when I’m writing regularly, I quickly build up a backlog of ideas and usually end up with a dozen or more initial fragments I hope to continue developing someday. My current backlog stands at about 30, I believe. The problem with the novel resolved itself when several other ideas turned out to converge in one universe which held the explanation for several unexplained phenomena in the story I had temporarily abandoned. Now I just need time to get back to that novel.

    Finally, I think of writing as a broader process of which pushing the pen or tapping the keys is just a part. Daydreaming, note-jotting and research are also parts of it.

  3. Scott Parkin says:

    Everyone has their own challenge. I think deciding what you want to accomplish then doing something every day to reinforce that decision is the key.

    For some, it’s writing at all—formalizing a thought and putting it on (real or digital) paper. If you struggle to commit a thought to media, then any written word is good enough to address the blocking issue. Write a blog (public), a journal (private), a letter, review (even capsules on Amazon or GoodReads), blog comment, personal history, or random thought (I keep a folder of random thoughts for no particular reason; latest entry was on choosing to not hear things while asleep and that odd moment as wakefulness approaches when I make the decision to open the sensory ports and let sounds in). The daily discipline of formalizing a thought in written form (even if only a single paragraph) will help you practice the art of realizing ideas.

    If you don’t have ideas, consider reading. Read fiction and decide how you would tell the story (or even just a scene) better…then write it. Research an idea (I recently spent a few minutes researching the origins of the phrase “hoist on his own petard”) and write something (synopsis, story start) not only on what you were researching, but something unrelated that you discovered while researching a primary topic. Try combining those two (apparently semi-related) facts in your story start or idea file, then play the question game with where the possibilities might go. Let the research/analysis loop carry you toward a completed story idea (then write it; unproductive research is just another avoidance technique, where productive is defined as generating words in a manuscript).

    If word count is not your challenge (as mine is not), then focus might be a problem (as mine is). There may be ten things you could write in a day, all of them useful (or at least interesting). Decide what your goal is (writer, critic, public personality) and write something that reinforces that goal *first.* I completely derailed my own fiction writing by becoming an email list and pop criticism junkie—lots of writing, but none of it fiction. In my case I was avoiding the novel(s) I knew I needed to write, but whose sheer length intimidated me. Sadly, the only way through that is to confront it and write words of fiction (preferably every day) even when the task seems gargantuan or you’ve managed to build a wall of fear or uncertainty (I recently wrote the story I would have submitted to Monsters and Mormons if I had been paying attention and hadn’t let the deadline pass without realizing it).

    All of which reinforce the idea of committing regular and consistent effort to advancing on your writing goals—if not every day, then most days. If you feel guilty because you missed a day, then use that energy to get you up a few minutes earlier so you can write (something) the next morning before other concerns draw your mind and effort. It’s good when a day seems incomplete because you didn’t get any words down.

    And as with everything, good habits will beget results which can then further fuel commitment to do more. But it starts with small effort regularly applied. Or so it seems to me.

    • Mark Penny says:

      I get a lot done a bit at a time.

      • Scott Parkin says:

        Yeah. Chip away on a consistent basis and the big task becomes manageable. And sometimes the momentum (and excitement) builds and it becomes easier to spend more time—and thus finish.

        I get bored quickly, so sometimes I keep three or four projects open at once and rotate among them to keep interest up until I get critical mass on one of them and do the deep dive (I tend to have an initial inertia that I have to break through; once I get moving it becomes hard to stop).

        Find what works for you and use it. If you’re not sure what works, consider experimenting with different techniques.

  4. I agree. So many of the great things we have accomplished happened because we worked on it a little at a time–chipping away. Making good habits is really the foundation of getting things done for me.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’d like to know when you DO find time to write Rachelle–you are sooo busy!!!

    I do as you suggested in this post. I stay involved in writing some way every day. I love the days I critique for my partners, and I feel I learn a lot from studying their awesome skills. When I’m finished with my critiques, then I start reading blog posts about writing, plus reading the writing books I’ve recently purchased. Those get me going. By that time I’m back into my story, and then my critiques from my partners start coming in. I read them and make the changes that need to be made. Then I get busy writing and working on my next submission to my group. By the time I get it finished and ready to email, I’m ready for a break!! I see friends, work on church assignments, clean and declutter, go out and have fun, read a fun book. Then the cycle starts again when I start critiquing for my critique partners. It’s a good thing!! Critique groups keep us on track!

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