Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carving out a Writing Niche in your Life

‘If you wrote one page a day, in a year you’d have a novel’, was the sage advice my great-uncle gave me when I discussed my desire to become a writer. At the tender age of twelve this sounded obvious, perhaps even insulting to my intelligence (its hard to be twelve). However, in my twenties, I find myself thinking about this simple statement more and more.

One page. Everyday. It’s not too much of a commitment to make. It’s perhaps a half hour at the computer/notebook pouring my thoughts out onto the page. I’ve been known to waste a half hour trying to decide what sort of take-away I fancy.

Before I got married I lived in a small untidy apartment by myself. I used to assign myself a magic word number to attempt to write to. Sometimes I achieved my goal. Mostly, I felt disillusioned. After I got married I realized that everything had changed. I had to share my time, my space, and my life with someone else. Cooking a half-hearted dinner and then plopping down to write in front of the computer was no longer an option. I had someone who actively wanted my company and as a result I had to adjust my thoughts on how to plan writing into my life. It took me a few months, but I managed to devise a plan that has worked for me thus far. Its ever evolving…so watch this space!

1. Make a date to write: Ok, some of us may not have time to write everyday. Sometimes we are just too busy, but if you want to write you should do just that. No one can write your story for you. Block out time in your planner to commit to your work. If you feel overwhelmed by the different projects you are working on then block out specific times to work on each project. This should help you streamline your efforts.

2. The amount doesn’t matter: Ok, sometimes I feel like if I’m only going to be able to write a paragraph it’s not worth the hassle of powering on my computer. However, that paragraph is a lot better then the alternative, no paragraph, or a paragraph locked in your brain.

3. Scribble: Many of my friends are compulsive scribblers. They jot down ideas for poems, stories, and process art sculptures, in the most bizarre places. Never be afraid to assault a napkin and put your ideas on paper. Just don’t forget where you’ve put them and offer them to a friend.

4. Go for a walk/get outside: During a brief period while I was unemployed I found myself with far too much time on my hands and a complete lack of creative ability. I wanted to make the most of my glutinous afternoons off to write and apply for jobs, but couldn’t find the inspiration. So, each day around 4pm (the saddest time of day for any job hunter as you realize you haven’t been given a job and will have to wake up the next morning and do this all over again) I went for a walk through my neighbourhood. It was the dead of winter and the days were still pretty short, but I remember noticing all the life and beauty that surrounded me (not the mention the amazing sunsets). The cold, and the natural stillness of that time in my life helped me to sort through my ideas and clarify the story I was working on. By being outside and away from my computer I was able to get the perspective I needed to find something worth writing about.

5. Write something short: My husband always suggests this when I get stressed out about lacking ideas/time. He's got a point. If you write something short, a poem, a short short story, or a prompt you can complete something. Sometimes completing a project is all it takes to give you the confidnece to get to work on something else.

6. Think of Writing as Archaeology: This thought always inspires me. Writing is a process of digging. It’s a process of uncovering a story that only you have to tell. It’s about bringing something hidden to the surface and then showing it to the world. Letting it breathe new life again.

Remember its not about a magic word count, a page count, or any other tricks you might concoct to help you endure the your battle with the blank page. In the end, it’s about the archaeology of the story, the world you create which will get your butt back into that chair every time.

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