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The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Developing a Daily Writing Habit (or, How I Make Myself Crazy)

I once wrote an essay comparing my compulsion to write with an addiction, like alcoholism. I'm not sure now that it's that extreme, but in some sense I still can't NOT write. My problem is getting some control over the compulsion, to not just "binge write" when everything builds up. For years, off and on, I've tried to develop a daily writing habit. After all, most of the great writers, including Flannery O'Connor and Ernest Hemingway, had one. So I guess what I'm saying is, if I'm gonna be an alcoholic, I want to be the kind who drinks a fifth of whiskey a day, instead of the kind who goes on an awful bender every month or so.

I've tried different things, and most of them work for a little while, before something disrupts my schedule and I fall off the wagon (and here my metaphor breaks down, because the correct term would probably be 'climb onto the wagon'). When I think about it, there are very few things that I do "on schedule" of my own accord. It's just not part of my personality to be consistent.

There are things that I've found that help me:

1. Keep track of my accomplished daily writing goals with stickers or smiley faces on the calendar. At heart, I'm still five years old.

2. Write on Mondays. I give myself the weekends off, and if I don't make a resolution on Monday to get back into the swing of things, I'm prone to give myself the whole rest of the week off, too. Monday sets the tone for my whole week.

3. Do some writing that doesn't accomplish anything except to get the 'blah' out of my system. Right now, I'm doing three longhand handwritten pages a day, in the morning, just freewriting whatever is on my mind. It is called "morning pages" and is a technique from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. I've also done similar timed freewriting excercises from Natalie Goldberg's books. Doing writing that doesn't have to accomplish anything seems to clear the small nagging things out of my thoughts when I go to do my real writing.

4. When I've been not writing for a little bit, sometimes a change of scene helps jolt me back into it. I go to a restaurant or the library with the express intention of sitting and writing. I take my notebook and a pen and sit down and write for half and hour, or whatever. This is also something Natalie Goldberg recommends, although I had to get over a little bit of self-consciousness the first few times. I've also gone with my husband in the truck with the express intention of it being sort of a rolling writer's retreat. I don't go in the truck most of the time because after a very short period of time, it gets to be REALLY BORING. When I get bored, I go back into the sleeper and write. It's bumpy, though.

5. Sometimes reading about writing will get me excited about writing again. If I'm not careful though, I will substitute reading about writing for actually writing.

6. Talking about writing with other writers (Yay writing group!) makes me feel like a slacker or a poser if I'm not writing much, so I usually go home with a renewed desire to write.

How does everyone else trick themselves into writing? Or is it just me? I feel sometimes like my inner child is the one who writes, and I am a parent always getting on her case.


Solard said...

Alcoholism = a pretty darn good analogy, the negative connotation aside. Love the tip "Write on Mondays" -- great, as I tend to be a post-week-end blower-offer, as well.

I'm constantly coralling the inner 12 year old too (mines older than five cause I enjoy grown-up Rock and Roll music ;-)! I usually end up feeling as if the inner 12-yr-old is winning, especially when it comes to my writing habit. (you can find her in my many misspellings, and uses of 'me and so-and-so's Hee)

I don't know if it's a trick, per se, but I carry something to write on and something to write with everywhere I go -- that way, I'm always prepared for the muse when it shows up.

MadeByAmanda said...

Yeah, I carry a small notebook in my purse most of the time, and a pen. When I end up waiting somewhere unexpectedly, I try to use the time to write instead of fume.

Robin said...

Great post Amanda. I understand, as we all do, that your "compulsion" to write is more an addiction and an "necessary" thing".

It started with my if 3rd grade the first time the teacher called me a "storyteller" and I though it was a good thing! It was a Great story by the way~~

I need to work on discipline.