Friday, June 20, 2014

How Do I Write? Let Me Count the Ways...

This seems to be a topic I blog about from time to time (see Tackling the New Year or Overcoming (Writing) Adversity for more recent treatments), but I think that's because my methods are constantly changing. I think the way a writer gets himself/herself to write is a personal experience, and it is one that takes a lot of trial and error. For me in particular, it seems to be a constantly evolving process.

I've been to the workshops that tell you that you MUST write regularly, consistently, and daily. In theory, I probably agree with them; in practice, that's impossible for me.

My life is chaotic. I have a lot going on. Here's a brief sampling of my list of responsibilities:

  • Wife
  • Mother of 2 VERY active little boys
  • Full-time English teacher (with all of the lesson planning, prep, and grading to go with it)
  • Vegetable garden
  • Active church member with its associated activities
  • Stampin' Up (crafting) demonstrator
  • Any other project that comes along
Obviously, some of these activities take greater priority than others, but that's kind of the point. It's a balancing act. My husband has frequently suggested I drop some things, and I actually have. But what remains on my list fulfills such different and important parts of me and my personality that I honestly don't think I could give any of them up.

So back to writing. When does that happen amidst everything else?

Answer: whenever the heck I can make it happen.

One of the best things I heard in a conference was that I can give myself permission to NOT write. And that I need to find a schedule that works for me. I can tell you that what works for me probably won't work for you. But keep at it until you find your perfect combination.

Here are the things that are currently working for me and the advice you should take from them:
  1. I've been trying to wake up before school to write early in the morning. I'm not a morning person, and getting up when it's dark is exceptionally hard for me. But I can usually make myself get up about twice a week for a half-hour before school starts. That's not daily, but it's a whole lot better than not at all. Anything is better than nothing.
  2. As I mentioned above, I'm a teacher, so I'm off for the summer. I'm implementing a one-hour quiet time for my children in their bedrooms each day after lunch. That gives me a good hour of uninterrupted, silent time to work. That is rare in my house. Find a way to focus on your writing.
  3. I work best in the morning before the tasks of the day wear me out. But trying to balance that with sleep and early priorities is difficult sometimes. Some people write best before bed. Find the time of day that works best for you -- and be open to the fact that it may not be when you thought.
  4. Believe it or not, my critique group really helps me keep writing. We meet every other week, so I always have a consistent commitment to keep my skills honed. And it is an outside pressure that sometimes guilts me into doing something, even if inconsistently. Find some source of accountability to contribute something.
  5. This past year, I discovered that I need to write "seasonally." No, that doesn't mean I only write once every few months. I realized that I have less time to dedicate to my writing during the school year, so I write shorter works. I've really gotten into short stories and flash fiction. This allows me to feel some sense of accomplishment, even when I can't put as much time in as I'd like. In the summer, when I have slightly fewer things fighting for my attention, I can focus more on my novels. If you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or stagnant, try something different.
So here's my best advice: figure out what works for you and do it. If you keep writing a commitment for yourself, and you keep coming back to it, then there's no reason to feel guilty about what you "aren't" doing. Do the best you can for your situation and be comfortable with that. I've learned enough about the writers who are cranking out stories left and right to know that basically writing is the ONLY responsibility they have in their lives. Some of us just aren't that lucky. But that's okay because at least we're still writing.