Make Writing A Priority
This week, I return to the subject of making writing a priority, feeling I’ve done the prerequisite excavation of my own writing life and where it has gone awry to have the credence to write this.
Make writing a priority. This was the tip I gave in an interview earlier this month, as part of the virtual launch of Absolute Xpress’s Thieves and Scoundrels Anthology, when one of the ‘audience’ asked how I balanced all the different things I do in life.
As I discovered last week, sometimes you need to stop and take a reality check to ascertain if writing is still a priority in your life and if you discover it has fallen off the radar, it is time to get back to basics.
First up, you need to admit to yourself writing is an important part of who you are. Just as oxygen and water are needed to sustain your physical body, writing and other creative pursuits are needed to sustain your inner realm.
Many of us spent years as closet writers (or perhaps are still there), afraid to come out and brave the harsh light. Maybe your dream of writing was ridiculed when you were younger. Perhaps you were given a harsh and unjust critique from someone. Whatever the reason to hide and allow other things to take priority, it is time to come out – even if it is only to admit it to yourself.
For those who have lost the way (like me) it is OK to admit this, and to begin the journey back. And reminding yourself writing needs to be a piority is good place to start.
‘Life’ will always vie for your time, energy and attention though. And you need to aware of this. In order to write you need to carve out time to write. And it doesn’t need to be to the detriment of your job, your family or your friends. In fact, you will find when you start taking time out to write, you will be happier, calmer and easier to get along with!
How do You Make Writing a Priority?
Evolution didn’t happen over night – it happened in tiny incremental movements and this is what you need to aim for, rather than revolution. I offer
1. Choose one morning/afternoon/evening for your ‘writing time.’
Choose a time which can be just your’s and your writing’s. Carving out time can often mean forgoing something… an hour or sleep to get up or go to bed later, time with the TV or in the company of video games.
Friday night started out as my writing night. It coincided more or less with me giving up alcohol which meant to I wasn’t interested in sitting around with my partner and flat mate drinking, chewing over the fat of the week. Friday was also football night, so no one really missed me tapping away at the keyboard.
This has moved on to Tuesday night and I now participate in the Australian Online Marketplace Writing Races. It means asking my partner to get my son ready for bed and my son to forgo me reading him a story before bed. It is only an hour but in what has become a hectic professional life, it is a good grounding.
What you should focus on, is the time you set aside being for downloading stories. The actual process of writing is just the tip of the iceberg. Much of the plotting, character development and such can be done in our head, as we’re commuting to work, working in the garden, cooking dinner or doing the laundry. Motherhood was the best training ground for me as a writer in using my actual, physical writing time efficiently.
2. Commit to Write Something Every Week
Write something every week for public consumption. This can and often, goes hand in hand with point number one.
My favourite writing communities swing into action every Friday. Here at Write Anything we have [Fiction] Friday, set up with the specific intention of getting writers writing every week and is intended as sharing at a first draft level. JM Strother’s #fridayflash is a growing communities of writers, showcasing their writing via Twitter and most stories are of a second or higher draft level.
Part of my commitment to Friday night writing came from [Fiction] Friday and the impetus to produce something every week. Many other writers can trace their writing origins to contribution to some type of weekly writing meme. Tony Noland talked last week about how #fridayflash contributed to his writing practise and Emma Newman’s Split World stories for #fridayflash were the impetus of her committing to spending a year and a day in this world as foundation writing for her next round of novel writing.
Many writers use [Fiction] Friday as a five minute writing exercise and everyone has five minutes to spare. There is absolutely no excuse not to write something every week… and this is something I am reminding myself.
And when you have weekly down pat – you can consider making writing a daily practice.
3. Write collectively
When I wrote my revelations post last week I was amazed at the number of writing colleagues who rallied with similar stories and support. It made me grateful for belonging to a wonderful group of writers. Only writers really understand what it is like to be a writer, and they can offer support and encouragement when friends and family may just shake their heads and wonder. They can assist you in keeping writing a priority.
Writing is said to be a lonely occupation but it doesn’t need to be in the 21st Century with technology which connects people across the globe.
Joining a group of writers can help keep you on track with your writing goals. Your writing group can be an online one or a group which meets face to face in your local area.
A writing group which meets monthly or fortnightly brings with it a deadline and an impetus to write.
For the past two and a half years I’ve been meeting with the same women in a wonderful apartment above the Brisbane river. These meetings have kept me honest to my craft, producing work, having it critiqued and discussed. They also keep me focused, reminding me recently they see a slew of first drafts but rarely see where they end up.
If you can’t meet with writers in your area, there are plenty of places to meet writers on line and form online writing groups. Many groups spring from involvement in online writing exercises or writers sites/forums.
Another form of collective writing is collaborative writing. Annie, Paul and I fell into writing Captain Juan by pure accident in 2008. It became one of the most active and productive areas of our writing lives that year. Annie and I have often joked it is our ‘writer’s candy’.
4. Treat Yourself as Client
When you work for someone else you tend to go to great lengths to ensure you meet deadline, create amazing work and generally, keep the happy client happy by being (sometimes) at their beck and call. So why don’t you treat yourself as a client?
This line of thinking came to me during a particularly gruelling publishing project, where I slept little, worked long hours and put everything else on hold in my life. One of my twitter followers wrote: “I was thinking, I should tell myself (my book’s) for some one else, I bet I would get it done faster…”
I always get things done faster for someone else. I never slack off on writing this column and when I wrote for another website I would often get up at 5am to have it written – fitting it into my weekly schedule that way. I’m not sure about you, but the only time my creative writing takes this kind or precendence is during November.
This is my current challenge to self, to find ways to honour myself as client.
5. Make Monthly Writing Goals
Creating a set of goals each month keeps writing a priority in your life. They don’t have to be extravagant goals – simple goals are best. Use the writing memes, writing groups and comnpetition entries as a frameworks for your writing goals. Setting goals keeps in the forefront of my mind what needs to be worked on not just each month but each week, and allows me to best utilise and budget my time. This is one way we can treat ourselves as client.
Benjamin Solah commented last week that he’s submitted more pieces of work for publication in the first half of this year than for all of last year and contibutes this in part, to his monthly goal setting (and keeping!)
One Last Thought
For the longest time I’ve considered life as a balancing act, but last week I gave this up as a metaphor for how to live. Instead life is jigsaw with many pieces which do eventually fit together.
It is your job to squirrel away the pieces which relate to your writing life and make it a priority to find their place in the puzzle. The art of jigsaw relies on a number of qualities, but the two which resonate most with me are resilience and persistence – two things I learnt from hundreds of hours of piecing together rhododendron bushes, palatial lawns and medieval castles. The right fit exists but it isn’t always easy (think of a hundred pieces of blue sky) but it is always worth it in the end. And once you’ve finished, it is time to embark on a bigger more complicated one armed with the lessons and experience you’ve gained.