Practical writing tips

The holiday crush is beginning (or might be in full force for some).   Some ideas to keep you on track with writing goals through the crazy season:

1. Get your pages in early.  Do it before you check email.  Before you watch the morning news. Before anything, if you can.  Try it for a week, and you’ll be amazed, I promise.

2. Limit email and Internet access.  I’ve been reading The Four Hour Work Week, and he’s narrowed email to Monday mornings.  Since a good portion of my email is social outlet and relaxing, this wouldn’t be realistic or even appealing to me, but I am making changes.  For quite some time, I’ve made myself do my pages before I let the world in, as Ray Bradbury says.  No email at all until I’m finished for the morning.  I notice when I travel that brief checks of email every few days is enough to keep up.  That’s illuminating because I check a LOT more than that at home.  Like four or five times a day.  It’s easy, right? Why not?

Because I’m using it to waste a lot of time.   I’m sure you have more discipline than I do, so you don’t need to cut back, but I’m thowing it out there for what it’s worth.  I’m checking only twice a day for one week, to see how it feels.  What I notice: I check and READ a lot, but responding takes a lot of time, so I end up only reading, filing emails into various files to be answered, then feeling guilty about how much I’m neglecting my correspondence, even with people I genuinely like and want to talk to.   

I’d like to get back to email-as-tool, rather than email-as-time-sucking-monster.

3. Set goals and reward yourself for meeting them.   Whether the goal is one page or ten pages per day, when you actually meet that goal each day, REWARD yourself.   Set aside some half-hour episodes of television you like to watch and use those.  Give yourself some time to read entirely for pleasure.  Have a truffle or a glass of wine.  (If you can keep it to one or two–otherwise, then you’re on another goals-reward loop, right? Hearts_and_stars)

4.  One of my favorite tools:  erasable whiteboards and calendars to mark your progress.  I use markers in many colors, as I’ve posted before, and recently, I found I love the reward jolt in seeing rows of post its in bright colors and shapes, like orange stars and neon green circles.

I had to start over on my hundred days, by the way, since I let outside events get in the way of writing 1000 words per day, every day (as per Carolyn See).   

Which is also a good lesson.  If at first you don’t succeed, try 100 more times.

Anyone else have a good writing tip for this very busy time?   

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5 thoughts on “Practical writing tips

  1. Christine

    Hi Barbara

    I read that book (or rather, three quarters of it) also. He lost me where he suggested the particular way that one could make a fortune. Quite frankly I suspect that the type of person who would follow this procedure would already be wealthy.

    The good thing about this book, for me, was that it really set me thinking, rather than getting me to follow the suggestions.

    I think that most people who are constantly diverted by mobile phone calls, texting, emails and immersion on the internet actually want diversion. It is very hard work to sit still and not be doing stuff. Silence and what lay inside it can be very disturbing. So what better way to avoid it than filling your life with noise. I notice how aggravated I get when I am not busy with something.

    And people lately seem to feel the need to be in constant contact. With young folk, I am sure this is more about the need to fit in and to be seen to be in demand, but I am noticing that more and more of my middle aged friends are doing this also. Drives me crackers having dinner with grown ups, and they feel the need to take calls or make a quick text.

  2. Christine

    PS, Thanks for that good writing advice.

  3. Heh, I JUST blogged about this yesterday. And here I sit, reading blogs instead of doing my writing today. 😀

  4. Barbara, I like Dorothea Brande, “Becoming a Writer.” She’s the person who first convinced me of the morning pages.
    She wrote “Becoming a Writer” in 1934, my copy was printed in 1983 and it’s still in print and on the shelves today. It’s a slender volume that contains timeless, down to earth writing advice. She’s very concrete and practical, not focusing on nuts and bolts of how-to-write, but on the way writers work and think and how to train yourself to do that better. She talks unashamedly about things like “the artistic coma and the writer’s magic” –isn’t that a fabulous phrase?
    It was so long since I’d read her book that I’d forgotten a lot of it, but I started rereading it recently and it’s wonderful.

  5. Christine, texting during a meal drives me crazy. I mean…really?

    Julie, GMTA!

    Anne, I love that book and it’s been years since I read it. Thanks for reminding me.

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