The gift of writing can feel like a burden at times. The weight of creativity overwhelms if there’s a deadline looming, or writer’s block has kicked in. I used to wait… a long time for my passion to find me. When days turned into weeks, or months, or more, I knew I had to take charge. This is when the concept of “writing on demand” was reborn in my mindset.
As a teacher the idea of on-demand writing is all about prompts and timing. Prepping students to take what they’ve learned and double-time their abilities into a neat box, topped with a bow. There’s no passion (except for the occasional student who enjoys a challenge).
Challenge. That’s when it hit me. I would have to think of my daily writing habit as a challenge. There are many online sites encouraging daily writing. At a writing conference, I was told to try for 1,000 words a day. That worked for me in the summertime, but once school was in session, I didn’t have the time to put out that many words each night (especially after a long day). A writing group I belong to recently encouraged just 100 words a day on Wednesdays. I think this slow crawl would be a mighty long stretch to get your book published, but I do see the value in setting a habit (which truly was the point). Every bit of advice I’ve ever read about improving yourself as a writer is to write more.
So, I put myself out there (for accountability) and laid down the gauntlet. I created myself some deadlines. I kicked off with a bang, writing a poem every day for Tupelo Press’ 30/30 Challenge. What an intense experience writing daily, like I had never done before. Thankfully, my month was in February, so I escaped with twenty-eight poems instead of the full thirty. I was more than exhausted in the end, but I had never learned more about myself as a writer before plunging forward in this way.
Eventually, after that, I created this website, and every Wednesday began posting a poem on Steps In Between. I’ve been building my “Wednesday Whims of Poetry” page for about nine months now. This means I must at least write every week. But, my habit quickly evolved into daily writing. As the Tupelo Press challenge was meant for raw daily writing with the understanding revisions would come later, Wednesday Whims was more permanent. This was a published format for my work. I couldn’t just write weekly because my motivation didn’t always cooperate. Life snuck in stealing my attention to other necessities.
I must write daily, even through distractions.
I must fight through moods, emotions, attitudes.
I must write even when I do not feel like writing.
It must become chore, a requirement before closing my eyes at night, a mandate of my own making. I compel myself to write at least something every single day. That doesn’t mean it has to be good. Much of it isn’t. But I write it anyway… because another challenge I’ve discovered I enjoy is creating a pleasing poem out of rubbish. And it takes some mighty piles of bad poems to make a good one.
Who said writers aren’t athletes? My attitude in writing is full on game-mode. I suppose it helps that my son is an athlete, complete with pregame prepping, meditation, and healthy habits for him to at least offer his best at every game. His team doesn’t always win, but he always attempts to deliver his heart. I can at least match his focus in sports with my writing. I can set myself up with a routine to get my head into the game long before the big day.
I have my writing desk set up in my bedroom (one day I will hopefully have an office), surrounded by inspiration art, candles, and a low-light lamp for effect. I don’t do anything else at my desk, except write. Bills are paid at the kitchen table. Emails are handled on my living room sofa. Only writing occurs at my writing desk. I can’t enter my bedroom to go to bed without passing by my desk. So, I make myself sit down. I open anything… a blank document to create a new poem, an older poem that needs revising, the manuscript I am re-writing. Or, I might research poetry presses to see about sending out completed poems I feel need to reach a bigger audience than my little website. No matter what I do in those few minutes before bed (or longer amounts of time on weekends), I do something that will move my writing forward.
I keep this daily writing habit to keep me in play. Health experts say to keep moving our bodies for a stronger, longer life… and so this is my analogy to keep my writing moving forward. I just have to do it, like brushing my teeth or washing my face. It began as a challenge but found its way to a habit. It’s simply become a daily dose of writing on demand, like my taking vitamins.
By Celaine Charles
Writing Advice: Something New
Find an older piece of writing (if you haven’t burned it already) and pull it out of that confidential “bad drafts” file. Read it, try to keep a straight face, and hunt for gold. Find a line, a paragraph, a piece of dialogue, a character trait, or a stanza you think you could work with in a different way. Can you pull out your found treasure and set it into something new?
Can you make a poem out of several different parts of the draft, maybe pulling out words here and there? Can you take a character out of your story and plop her into a new world with a new antagonist? Is it possible to rewrite a page of the bad draft (since you are now looking upon it with fresh eyes) into something more colorful? Can you choose one page and try?
It might not pan out into something usable, but on the other hand, it could develop into something wonderful. And, if anything, you’ve awoken your senses to acknowledge your own work with new eyes. You went into the experience to find a gem amongst the stones, so your expectations were hopeful. You weren’t looking at the draft as a whole, but only to find those small parts. I think breaking down your search clarifies your focus, and you have a better chance of identifying your better parts that call to be salvaged.
Try it and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear back about long-lost treasures found and turned into something new.
https://gailpickeringblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/keep-moving-forward/ (Keep Moving, MLK)
http://janetconner.com/product/writing-down-your-soulon-demand-course140-00-instant-access/ (writing down your soul)
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/201536152051485684/?lp=true (you might not write well every day…)
http://www.authorspublish.com/do-we-have-to-write-every-day/ (do we have to write every day?)
https://patrisearts.com/2012/03/12/womens-writing-group-forming-in-accokeek/ (Woman Writing, 1898 by Lesser Ury)
https://thewritepractice.com/writing-habits-make-writing-easier/ (How writing habits make writing easier)
Categories: Thoughts on writing...