Last night, my husband and I were watching a stand-up comedian on television. Pete Holmes elicited big laughs from his bit about finding moments of joy, which, fitting for a writer, referenced Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. “I see joy everywhere,” he said as part of the bit. Right then and there, I set my writing goal for the summer: to see joy everywhere in my writing. Continue reading
Tag Archives: writing life
Rainy days are usually the days that I get some of my best writing done. I don’t like being wet unless I’m swimming or soaking in a bubble bath, so I tend to avoid the outdoors when the skies are grey and weepy in favor of some guilt-free hours with my manuscript. There’s just something about the soothing sound of the pattering raindrops on the roof that brings out my creativity. But it’s been raining at my house for three days straight now, and I’ve barely written anything because of this: Continue reading
Imagine a cabin. Or a stone cottage. Imagine the only sounds you hear are the wind whipping through the trees and birds chirping. Imagine the fresh, earthy smell of the woods after a storm. Imagine solitude. Imagine writing without interruption. Now, imagine you’re wearing a cardigan and rocking a stern pout. You know, the look that implies you’re giving your story a good scolding. You smugly sip coffee and celebrate your own genius. Sounds like a fluffy dream, right? A little too perfect. A little too staged.
But before you write this fantasy off, hear me out. What I’m proposing can be doable regardless of what is going on in your life. I’m talking about literally carving out vacation time to focus on writing without interruption. Namely, doing a residency or going on a retreat is what comes to mind for most people, but if that is not an option there are other ways to find solitude to write.
The point is to get out of the house! Get out of your familiar space, which is teaming with distractions. Laundry can wait. And the dishes for that matter. If you have a job, you’ll likely have to get creative with your time. And if you also have kids, that can be an added challenge. In this case, ask you partner or a friend for an hour of solitude and then run like mad for the door!
If you read Poets & Writers, the March/April issue had some great suggestions for alternative writing spaces. If you have the time, but not a lot of money, P&W suggests going camping, or begging to borrow, at no fee, a relatively isolated space from a close friend (a cabin, houseboat, submarine. O.K., that might be a little extreme). They also suggest just writing outside. Take a hike and write when you reach the top. Find a nice tree at the park. Go to the library. Or if you have a shed, hide out in there. (Though in my own experience, I’ve found still being present on my own property counterproductive, as small creatures can still find me. And do. Even with the doors to the studio locked!)
There are always bus rides (hail, Jeff Zentner) or train rides if you are fortunate enough to live near one. Though the latter might cost you a pretty penny. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to write on a train. And there’s also the perk of saying you birthed your story on a train.
However, IF you are in a place that you can take several days or weeks to yourself, I highly recommend a residency. Some are just weekend long retreats, others a month or longer. There are countless writers and artist colonies all over the world. Short spurts of isolation to write are great, but once you get on a role, if can be very difficult to stop.
And, yes, they cost money!
But don’t write of residencies for monetary reasons. Many writer’s colonies and retreats offer fellowships that you can apply for. In fact, Rivendell is offering fellowships, funded through the SAF, for parents of children 12 and under. For those who don’t meet this requirement, Rivendell also has other fellowships available for first timers. (If you can’t tell from this post and my last, I absolutely love this place! Hence the PR. Though, let it be noted, all the gushing is my own unpaid enthusiasm.)
Whatever way you decide to “get outside” is one step closer to consciously choosing writing. Henry David Thoreau “went to the woods…to live deliberately…”, and I am certain he was onto something.
This is the last week of Write by Midnight. My record this month hasn’t been perfect, but, despite numerous family obligations and unexpected responsibilities, I have managed to get up early most mornings and write. I really think I’ve established a habit. Hooray!
But an extra thirty minutes a day, while extremely helpful, won’t get my novel polished and published any time soon. So, as the month comes to a close, I’ve been considering ways to maximize my scarce writing time.
One method I’ve been experimenting with is “mental writing” while I’m engaged in other necessary tasks that require my body but not my mind. You know the ones I mean: washing dishes, folding clothes, walking the dog. I often end a writing session with a problem that I must solve in order to continue. Rather than use my precious writing time to stare at my computer screen and try to figure out what I need to write next, I use my mental writing time to work through the problem so that when I sit down at my computer again, I can dedicate the time to actual writing.
The time I spend outside or exercising seems to be the most effective, and there’s a long tradition of writers using long walks to work through narrative issues, but any time I can squeeze in some extra thought about my own story is helpful. As a result, even if I’m not writing for longer stretches, the time I do spend writing is more efficient.
How do you maximize your own writing time?