blogging · discipline · General Writing · goals · storytelling · Writing and Family

How to Write (or Get Your Writing Done)

My Dream

When I was a kid and decided I wanted to be a lyricist, I had to be inspired to write  a poem or song.  Inspiration usually came from pining over my latest crush, or listening to country music songs, or dreaming about being a famous songwriter when I grew up.  Most of my poems and lyrics were about love and heartbreak, except for the poem I wrote about my dog, Tippy. I wrote sad poems all through my teen years.

I took a break from writing in my twenties, but picked it up again when I was in my thirties and going through a divorce. I often would not write unless I was inspired by my own emotions. However, I was in my mid-thirties when I decided I need to find a way to practice writing discipline.

My lessons in discipline started when I signed up for creative writing classes taught by a published author. She told us that to be a writer you must write. We were required to submit 2,000 words each week, I believe, as well as participate in shared critiques of our work with classmates. This new writing routine was no easy task, especially for someone- me- who had spent some many years convinced that inspiration created the writing muse. I learned a lot while taking those writing classes.

Say Bu-bye to Inspiration

Inspiration is all in your head. It really is. Saying all those years that I could not write without inspiration was just another way of saying I was undisciplined, or maybe even  lazy when it came to my craft. While inspiration can motivate action, it was holding me back because I was allowing myself to write only when I felt like it. The bottom line is if you let that muse lead you, you will not get very much of anything done.

There is an old saying that inspiration has paved many roads to hell.  In the writing word, inspiration has paved many roads to  dead-end streets with garbage cans full of words that have been thrown away.

Say Hullo to Discipline

Treat discipline as a verb. This means taking action to  write in a way to ensure that your goals are being met. For example, if you plan is to submit stories to magazines, you need to sit down and write stories. If you want to find work as a non-fiction writer, you need to find magazines or paid sources to pitch to, and then write those articles.

A schedule is essential for a writer. whether it be a half hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, or every ten minutes on the hour throughout the day.  Go to your special writing space, shut out all distractions, fire your word processor up and start writing.  Just do it.

Create Goals

Once you have a schedule down, what are you going to do with all those words you are writing? I suggest creating goals, such as finding homes for the pieces you write. If you pen short stories, why not find magazines that accept your style of writing?  Duotrope is a great database to search short story markets.  Writer’s Digest offers this list, and  The Write Life blog lists 23 quality places to submit stories.

If you want make some or all your money from writing, then search out the writer’s job boards for projects that might be a fit for you. ProBlogger, Bloggingpro, and Freelance Writing are three job boards I like really well. Pick projects suitable for you, pitch your skills, and take a chance.

You can also find online blogs, publications, or websites that you would like to write for and do cold marketing. If you want to learn more about how to do this, I recommend The Well-Fed Writer (I saw Peter Bowerman speak a few years back, and he knows his stuff) and this blog by Elna Cain. There are many other blogs out there by people who make income from writing.

Stick to It

Once you have said goodbye to inspiration, hello to discipline, and created your goals, you need to stick to the plan. This does not mean you have to write every day, or be prepared to write at any given moment. It just means you need to treat writing as if it’s work.

If you have a nine-to-five job, then writing time might be a few hours a week, or three or four hours on the weekend. If you work part-time, then your writing time might be four or five hours every day. If you want to make income from writing, you need to make time to market yourself and get the word out about what you do.

So, no matter what you writing schedule is, or what you want to do with your writing, the important thing is to stick to the plan and get your writing done!

 

Writing and Family

New Year and Renewed Goals

I always look forward to the New Year because it means Thanksgiving and Christmas are done until the holiday season gives birth again ten months down the road.

The fall of 2015 was particularly trying for me and my partner of 10 years. First, there were three fires in Lake County California, the Valley Fire being the worst because it rampantly swept through Middletown, Cobb, and Hidden Valley. Three people died and almost 2,000 structures, mostly homes, were destroyed.  We saw our friends’ homes destroyed, to where whole communities were desecrated and people lost everything and were forced into evacuation shelters.  While my partner’s home survived, he started having breathing problems.

Over the next month or so, my partner’s breathing problems intensified.  On October 4, a middle of the night emergency room visit resulted in him having open heart surgery on October 26 for an aortic valve replacement. Thank goodness, he came through with flying colors and was released from all restrictions five weeks later. Now, he is going full speed.

What these experiences were devastating and stressful, they were heart opening and life changing. I felt so much compassion for friends who had lost their homes, but joy that their individual spirit and lust for life continued on.  I experienced the strength of the entire county as people came together in community and helped each other out in all ways imaginable. During our medical crisis, people whose homes had been affected reached out to offer support to us.

These experiences also put my priorities in place. It was as if my problems were minute in comparison. I began to examine my own mortality and what I really want to do with the rest of my life, and especially how to rekindle my writing.

For several months I had been working too much overtime at work, which took away from my writing. In the fall I cut way back on overtime, and then in late December I decided I would not do any unless absolutely necessary. Finally, in January my boss changed our overtime policy, at which time I decided I would not ask for any further extra work because I wanted to spend that time on my writing.

I have been working on my novel more and now have a critique partner.  I would like to finish this work and submit it to an agent. I will be looking for freelance assignments and I will start submitting short stories again. I will make time to write every day and work on creating and building my freelance business. All this because writing is my passion.

I have never had such a dose of reality in life that has put my priorities right where they belong.

Happy New Year, and happy writing!