This spring I’ve been working steadily on my novel and also on eradicating the weeds in my garden, but I don’t feel that I’ve made enough progress on either task. The weeds are green, so if I look from a distance, they’re barely noticeable. The lack of words on the page is harder to ignore. I have a lot of control over my schedule, so why can’t I find more time to write?
One of the biggest reasons I get stalled is the fear that my work isn’t good enough. When I’m feeling that way, I’d rather do almost anything than work on my current project. (Even scrubbing the shower or cleaning the oven seems appealing.) There are plenty of writing tasks that don’t involve actual writing, so it’s easy to accomplish something during my writing sessions without adding to my page count, but at the end of the day, I can’t deny that I’ve wasted precious time.
I’ve heard the same thought echoed by so many writers and it helps to know that I’m not alone. I still need to fix the problem, though, so I went looking for advice from one of my favorite writing teachers.
I bought a copy of Midge Raymond’s new book, Everyday Writing: Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life, and I signed up for her class at San Diego Writers, Ink. Both were filled with practical advice.
This small but mighty book fits perfectly in the pocket of my netbook sleeve, so no matter where I write, I’ll be able to take it along for inspiration and a variety of helpful writing suggestions.
The first half of the book is a series of short chapters centered on making the most of your writing time, like How to write when you’re not really writing and How to meet your writing goals.
The second half is packed with prompts for every occasion. Most involve writing, but some simply provoke thought so that the time you spend waiting (like standing in the security line at the airport or sitting in the dentist’s chair) can enrich your future writing sessions.
The class was just as beneficial as the book with advice tailored to each student’s situation and exercises that encouraged us to reflect on our own writing time. Two of the exercises we did were particularly enlightening for me.
We wrote out detailed descriptions of our daily schedules and I discovered that I don’t have as much control over my time as I thought. Many of my responsibilities are scheduled during the morning, my most productive time of day, and unfortunately, I can’t move those activities. So although I have the time I need to write, my free hours are often in the afternoon when I’m less alert.
Midge suggested that I make those afternoon writing sessions more stimulating by creating rituals around that time, like brewing a favorite flavor of tea to drink while I write. She also suggested rewarding myself with a treat and I love having an excuse to eat a piece of chocolate at the end of my work time.
Another useful exercise was to write descriptions of a good writing session, a mediocre one and a bad one. By comparing the elements of each, I could see clearly what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that I absolutely must start with a pen in my hand and do a quick warm-up prompt to get my brain in gear. I also realized that my internal editor is still sabotaging me. I’m going to try tuning her out by shutting off the monitor while I draft a scene. I’ll find more typos when I go back in to edit, but those are much easier to fix than a blank page.
I’ve taken great classes from Midge Raymond on topics ranging from setting the scene to editing a manuscript. This latest class was equally invaluable. If you have the opportunity to work with her, don’t hesitate. And if you’re not lucky enough to be able to learn from her in person, Everyday Writing is a great substitute. Treat yourself today.