The Writerly Habit

This blog is about my struggles to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Creative Non-Fiction

So I sat down last night, trying to think of things I could write about for articles. At first, I couldn't think of anything. I figured I didn't have much life experience that would translate into freelance article writing. Then, after a few minutes, I couldn't stop. I came up with four pages worth of topics and only stopped because the sun was coming up. I couldn't sleep so now I'm up again.

There is such a huge market for articles the possibilities are endless. Think about past life experiences: where did you work, got kids?, how about religion, or the military? My husbands favorite subject is politics. What are the things that you are an "expert" in? And if you need a little additional help, just released it's yearbook edition with a great article on finding sources for interview.

I guess I just didn't realize how much I know about different things. For instance, I want to publish an article on easy vegan recipes but I also want to do a series of articles on paganism. If you, after reading this, still can't think of something, whip out your handy-dandy writer's market guide. If you don't have one, get one. They really are a great investment. There is even one for short story/novel writers. While you're at it, pick up a copy of The Fourth Genre. My creative writing teacher used excerpts in class and it is the standard textbook for creative non-fiction.

Word to the wise, if you buy the writer's market buy them on Amazon. If you buy both you get free shipping and it cost you around $30-$40. At Borders, they were $29.95 each! Check out the carousel at the lower right of the page for other recommendations.

Old Colorado City Writers

I've just joined the Old Colorado City Writers' meetup group. I'm pretty excited about it. Already, from the first post I read, I was linked to a website where I can post my work (a local website). I encourage any other Colorado Springs locals to check it out.

I also found this wonderful coffee shop I can't wait to visit. It's Agia Sophia, looks right up my alley. It's 2902 W. Colorado Avenue. They have great hours, a gorgeous interior, and free wi-fi. I'll be there later this week so I hope to have a review and some pictures to post.

In the meantime, my writing is going ok. I've been in pretty low spirits lately, as my life moves back to the cubicle world. I've also realized how poorly written some of the genre books are that I have loved for many years. It depressed me to have that taken away. It's no fun to dissect a book. You'd think, it would make me happy to realize that even poor writers can get published. If they can tell a good story, that's what matters. So why not be happy about that? I doubt my ability to tell a good story. That's right. Good ol' self doubt. Imagine how much more work we'd all get done without that nagging voice in the back of our minds.

I thought I was really behind, turns out I'm not really. I've been writing a little bit extra every day so I still need to do about 8.5 pages to finish my notebook by the end of the month. In the future, I wasnt to fill one notebook a month. Problem was, I started mine mid-month, because I didn't want to wait. Guess I learned my lesson there.

Checking In

So I started my ten page a day habit on Sunday. The pages were easy that day. I used the "Writer's Book of Days" for a prompt. On Monday, I didn't have much oomph. I wrote about four pages and just couldn't muster any more. I was bored with the prompt and irritated. I felt pretty bad, like I had already failed. I wondered if I had set myself up for failure, so I could place the blame elsewhere. Yesterday, I went to my sister's house and I'm happy to say, I did my ten pages plus finished up Monday's pages. I feel a lot better now.

I spend a lot of time writing about writing. My notebook isn't just for fiction, it's for exploring the process. For figuring out what is blocking me. I discovered a lot about myself yesterday and why I stopped writing for so many years. Now I'm getting back to basics. I'm reading a Mercedes Lackey book and outlining the plot chapter by chapter. This is not so I can copy, but so I can have a clear idea of successful plot progression. I recommend you do the same thing. There's a big difference between reading a book for fun and studying it.

I am also setting up my objectives. For instance, I'm going to give myself one month to complete Patricia C. Wrede's fantasy worldbuilding questions. After that, I have two weeks to outline and plot my novel. Then finally, I will give myself a year and a half to write my novel. I'm shooting for two pages a day, five days a week. I'm not mathematician so I'm not sure how that works out in novel length. All of this, the wordbuilding and plotting will go in my notebook and count towards my current writing goals. I know two pages doesn't sound like much, but when it has to be a cohesive story, it is more than you think. In addition to the writing, editing, organizing and other elements go into it.

Maybe sit down this week and come up with a writing schedule. Then come up with a list of objectives. I'm getting ready to go to an 11-8 shift, which for me means that I need to be up by 9am to get my work on my novel done. Right now I get up sometime between noon and 1pm. Over the next two weeks, my goal is to get up a little bit earlier each day, probably ten minutes. It will suck being in bed before my husband gets home but sacrifices must be made if I intend to get anywhere. I want to stop wishing I was writing regularly and start actually doing it.

Setting a Daily Habit

Ok, we're getting back to our roots here. It's time to set a daily writing habit. There are many different kinds of goals that can motivate you, the trick is to find the one that works best. I like to have a set number of pages to complete. I bought a really cute spiral notebook and decided that I would fill it by the end of the month. In fact, every month I will be filling one. Now, we are already part way through the month which means I need to write 8.5 pages a day in order to reach my goal. Last night, I wrote ten without breaking a sweat. I'm going to try 10 pages a day for one month and see how it goes, after that I might change that number up or down.

For me, pages work. For you it could be a word count, or even just writing for a certain amount of time. For years, I convinced myself that I needed large chunks of time in order to get my writing done. That couldn't be further from the truth though. If you really look at how you spend your time, I'm sure you could squeeze some time in. I've written while in the chair at the dentist's office, waiting for my mouth to numb up so they could begin work. I've written on lunch breaks, ten minute breaks, and even between calls. I suggest you set a goal, an attainable one, and this will motivate you to find time to write.

As far as equipment, I prefer writing in a notebook. If you prefer using a laptop, that's find but keep in mind that it may limit you. I know in my old office, you could not use laptops so if I didn't write longhand, I couldn't get any writing done. Don't trap yourself by thinking that you have to have one set method. Try different things. The important part is to write and write consistently. Make appointments with yourself and keep them. I've been using my iPhone and setting an alarm when it's time to write. This helps remind me that I have something I should be doing and keeps me from getting sucked into a t.v. program. You can do this too. You don't have to do it more than a day in advance if you have a hectic schedule like mine. Right now, I'm looking for a job (actually I got hired today), running errands, taking care of the house, and visiting my family. That's too much for me to know more that 24 hours in advance when I will have time. The night before, I look at my schedule and fit it in.

Be sure to hold yourself accountable. If you blow off your appointments, forget about getting that novel finished and published. You've got to make some kind of commitment. I had convinced myself that my work left me with little or no energy to produce creative work. This was partially true, at the end of the day I had no energy. But what about first thing in the morning? Before my day was soured by asinine office politics? I could've easily gotten up an hour earlier and got my writing done. Finito. Really, don't convince yourself that you have to have a low stress job to be creative. Make the time, set goals, and reward yourself for achieving them. You can do this!

On a side note, I got hired by another call center today. At first, I was hesitant to take the job, thinking that my creativity would be zapped again. Then I realized that it was a choice. I could decide to get up and write. I could decide to write on my lunch break. Sometimes, writing is a welcome escape from a demanding job. I had just convinced myself that I could write and work where I was. This time around, I am going to do things differently. I will label myself as writer, and consider that a job that I have to show up for. The call center is simply how I pay my bills and afford the occasional weekend in a cabin at Buena Vista. That will be the wonderful thing about this new job, I will make enough to afford these kind of excursions.

So, if anyone is still reading this blog, please post a comment about your writing habit.

What the hell?

What the hell indeed. Well kiddies, it's been a long time since I've blogged. The reason? My soul sucking job at Carnival Cruise Lines. The good news? Their reign of terror is at an end. I am no longer employed with the company. Six years of hell. I'm so happy it's over. So what am I doing now? I'm journaling, reading, and trying to find myself again. I had stuffed myself into a very small box and allowed it to consume me. Now I'm back on track...finding out what is really important to me. What I want to do with my life.

I plan on following the This Time I Dance method. I'm going to get a job that I don't have to invest myself into. I have an interview tomorrow waiting tables. I also had an interview at another call center, I did really well but don't think I'll take it. I just don't want to wear a headset for another six years.

I've been selling a lot of stuff on Amazon and taking care of the house. At first, I was really worried about losing my job. Then I found out I get to cash out my 401k and pay off my car and a credit card. This means I can make it on less than minimum wage! Wooh!! No more call center work. I realized that the whole reason I got into debt was that I hated my life so I would buy things I didn't need to try and make myself happy. Then I ended up owing so much that I was trapped there. It's been a pretty good week. I haven't gotten any writing done (except for large amounts of journaling) and that's ok. I've been respecting the fact that I am tired and my creative well is dried up. I've been resting and watching old movies.

So, expect to see a lot more postings from me in the near future. I've reorganized my writing group, Pens of Fury, and even have a letter to the editor up for review with the Writer's Digest. Things are definitely looking up. Next week, I'd like to spend an afternoon people watching in a park downtown. Sounds like fun.