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Loose Change #5

So you want to be a writer, but find it’s hard to do consistently. This week we’ll talk about some ideas to keep your commitment to the craft of writing on track. The fact is

So you want to be a writer, but find it’s hard to do consistently. This week we’ll talk about some ideas to keep your commitment to the craft of writing on track.

The fact is we kid ourselves. A lot. Thinking about writing is not writing. Writers think, “I have an idea. It’s a book about…” and we throw out a complex idea of a fifty part series about an interesting tool at Home Depot that transforms into a teenage-vampire-ninja-assassin or a new Marvel Comic toy that doubles as a Calvin and Hobbes Transmogrifier. We jot notes while out shopping, eating, driving, really everywhere and unfortunately anytime. “Uh, sorry honey, just give me second. I need to make a note.” But, many writers, like millions of people everywhere, have a hard time starting. Sitting down to practice is hard.

What? Practice?

Every wonder why Le Bron James, or Tom Brady make what they do seem easy? They’ve worked at their craft since high school, at least several times a week, and continue to practiced their sport as world famous professionals. Surgeons practice stitches and knots so their patients don’t leak after a procedure. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t just pick up his cello yesterday and Queen didn’t record Bohemian Rhapsody in one take. Musicians practice. Chefs practice. Ever watch The Great British Bake Off? The show encourages the contestants to practice recipes before filming begins. That Cannoli you love from a shop in Boston’s North End? Practice makes yummy.

Being a writer requires the same commitment as any other professional who wants to be good at something. There is no free pass, no excuse from the requirement of honing a skill over time by doing it over and over again. Do writers practice? Yeah we do. We write all the time to get better which means to get published. And you should write every day, too.

And whether you think so or not, you’re ready to practice your craft. You probably have a dozen small notepads, notebooks, Post-It Notes, or scraps of paper lying about on a multitude of surfaces in a multitude of places. And if you’ve already managed to create a writing nest or have a favorite writing table somewhere, it’s probably covered with layers of notes. They pile up quick and soon your space is cluttered with indecipherable squiggles.

Unfortunately, when you finally decide it’s time to write, the phone rings or the dog barks, or maybe it’s time for dinner. Maybe the better-half needs to know where that pair of socks is hiding. It’s different for everyone. Remember when you were a kid and did everything you could to keep from practicing piano? Or do your homework? We bring that into adulthood with us. If you have ever waited until the last day before an assignment was due before you finally pulled an all nighter to finish it, you’re one of us. Luckily, there are loads of ways to deal with this problem. Here are some to think about.

Writing Space and Time of Day: Check out this article by NY Book Editors at nybookeditors.com/2017/09/how-to-create-the-perfect-writing-space/. The article shows how writing locations and their setup helps writers establish productive areas. Let’s face it. Writers are like flowers and different flowers require varying amounts of sun and different types of soil. What works for Betty or John down the street may not work for you. Maybe you like to write at your kitchen table or on the deck. A coffee shop. The famous example is J.K Rowling sitting alone at a diner table, long-handing a masterpiece. NY Book Editors suggest having an uncluttered, bright space to invite free-flowing ideas. Whatever space is comfortable for you, find it. When you’ve established your space, determine the time of day that works best and write then. Many writers find they write better in the morning before the hustle and bustle of life gets in the way. Others like to write after the kids are in bed. Whatever works for you, find the time to practice. Then do it.

Daily Prompts: The staff at thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/ suggest “if you want to become a better writer the best thing you can do is practice writing every single day.” See, they use the word practice. Their site offers 365 prompts to get your creative mojo flowing. Each prompt comes with an additional ‘how to’ to help writers. Search for “writing prompts” online and you’ll find several sites. Prompts may not be your next idea for a book or other writing project, but they help stimulate your mind to think about how to put words on paper.

Break up your writing: Google “chunking your writing” and see what comes up. This theory of breaking big things into manageable pieces works with writing, too. If you have trouble sitting for hours at a time, write in half-hour chunks. Or forty minute chunks. You decide. Take a five minute break then get back to it. The small pause can keep the blood, and ideas, flowing. But keep at it. Pretty soon you’ll skip the pause and write in longer and longer chunks until you find your sweet spot.

Word Sprints: If you’re the type of person who can commit to writing on demand, this is for you. NaNoWriMo shoots for a 50K word goal — that’s 12,500 per week. Writersedit.com says their on-line sprints are a “writing exercise organized through Twitter. A call-out will be announced to writers, asking them to join in a sprint at a particular time of day and for a certain number of minutes”. You can learn more at writersedit.com/fiction-writing/word-sprints-win-nanowrimo/.

Every writer is a flower. I need lots of sun, plenty of water and a whole lot of space. That’s what I need. If you write better surrounded by books, folders and clutter, go to it. Maybe you’re someone who wants to write with music. Turn it on. If not, leave it off. Write in the dark with a single lamp? Or when the sun is overhead? Do that. Do you like to sit near a window? Curtains open or closed? Figure it out. One point everyone seems to agree on: the internet needs to be TURNED OFF.

Whatever type of writer you are, figure yourself out first. Then see what things work for you. After that go practice and make it happen.

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