I have a confession: I haven’t been writing for the past two months.
I’m afraid that writing slid to the bottom of my priority list as I graduated high school, committed to Smith College (GO SMITHIES), and visited Washington D.C. as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. To be completely honest, even when I do have a few moments to type, it doesn’t feel like I’m a “real” writer. Sometimes I get lost in advertisements for “writer retreats,” expensive programs in exotic locations that promise peace and quiet for your craft. If only I could go to Rome/New York City/Paris, attend workshops with fancy published authors, and completely seclude myself from the world! Then I’d get some writing done!
All of that, is, of course, delusional.
You’re a writer because you write. Something gets written because you put the work in. That’s something I had to relearn today, as I spent five hours rewriting the first chapter of my book.*
As part of Camp NanoWrimo, I’ve committed to working on my book five hours every day. You don’t need to spend $5,000 to learn more about your craft and get real, solid work done. If you have $5000 lying around, please go do it! Send me a postcard from Paris. I’ll only be a little jealous, I swear. But it’s also possible to create your own “writer’s retreat” at your own home!
*WHY YES, you did read that correctly. I’m completely rewriting my book.
Again. Sometimes it feels like I’m not making real progress, since I’m constantly restarting. But I want this book to be the absolute best it can be, and it’s only after two and a half drafts that I think I know what the book is actually about. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in hearing more about my projects in writing update posts! The amount of work left to do in my novel is paralyzing when I think about it abstractly, but when I’m actually writing, I’m just excited by the possibility of what it could become.
1. Claim a Day & Defend it
President’s Day is my favorite day of the year. Most holidays are inherently social events; I always spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, etc. with family and friends. But my school gives us Monday off for President’s Day, and that’s my day alone. Find a day when you don’t have many responsibilities. A day when you’re off from school or work, or an evening that you haven’t promised to anyone. Decide THAT is going to be your writing day. And then defend it.
People will ask you for favors. Friends will want to hang out. Tell them you’ll see them the next day. As J.K. Rowling once said,
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.
If you want writing to be your job, treat it like real work.
2. Block Out Your Time
I use my daily writer planner to schedule my time out hour by hour on writing days. I plan my writing days the same way I outline my novels: I create a firm series of events so I never have an excuse not to be doing something, but I give myself permission to stray if I feel inspired. For example, I may schedule my writing time to be from 9 to 12, but if I’m on a roll, I’ll ignore when my planner tells me to stop. Having a schedule helps me prioritize what I want to get out of each day. There’s something about putting a commitment down in writing that makes me more likely to do it
3. Make Time to Read
Would you try to build a car without a manual? Or, you know, ever actually seeing a car? That’s what writing without reading is like. Like trying to build a car without ever having ridden in one. Fancy writing classes and workshops are incredible, and if get the chance to participate in them, definitely go for it, but your best writing teacher is a book.
Reading a good book reminds you of how to structure a paragraph and weave your themes into your narrative. A bad book reminds you of what not to do. There’s no way to lose! If you can make time to write, you can make time to read. Support your fellow authors and better your own writing.
4. Find a Writing Community
I think one reason that writing events seem so appealing is because they offer a sense of community. Writing is, in its very nature, a solitary craft, and it can feel isolating. But there are plenty of free ways to connect with other writers! Research if there are any writing groups in your area. Sometimes libraries or literary nonprofits host these. If there’s not, you might consider forming your own. It could be helpful to have an outside perspective on your work. Book clubs, poetry readings, local literary magazines, online forums, and social media can also help connect authors and make the process a little less lonely.
5. Breaks and Motivation
Finally, don’t overwork yourself. If you need a break, take it. And if you need something to help you make the final push, allow me to offer up a list of my favorite motivators:
- Watching an episode of your favorite show (My personal fave is Project Runway.)
- Online shopping (Especially on ModCloth)
- Taking a walk while listening to some good music. (Taylor Swift, King Princess, and Lorde are my summer soundtrack.)
- Think of holding your published book in your hands
- Think of someone else holding your published book in their hands. Think about how your writing might just be what they needed to hear. (This one works every time for me.)
Thanks so much for reading. Are any of you participating in Camp NaNo this year? How do you make time for writing? Any tips for productivity? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest , Etsy, and Instagram.