creative writing community, craft and inspiration
On January 9, The Writers Circle held two simultaneous special events to start of the new year: Resolve to Write – one in Ridgewood, hosted by Co-Director Michelle Cameron, and one in Montclair, hosted by TWC Founder and Director Judith Lindbergh, ably assisted by TWC instructors Stacey Gill and Lizzie Foley. The sessions turned out to be both practical and inspirational. Here are some valuable lessons from both events.
by Stacey Loscalzo, Ridgewood Location Manager
I make all the classic New Year’s resolutions. Each January, I eat healthy greens, make my bed every day and go to sleep on time. This year though, I want to tackle something decidedly more fun. I want to find more time in my life for writing.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I can’t quite see how. I am in that season of life filled with carpools and volunteering, being buried beneath piles of laundry and helping with math homework that is far past my comfort level. I am parenting two tweens and day after day, I neglect to set aside time for myself. I always plan to write after I complete all my other responsibilities. And guess what? I never finish all my other responsibilities.
Yesterday, I joined other writers to learn from The Writers Circle Co-Director, Michelle Cameron. Michelle shared that she wrote and published two novels during the same busy season of life that I am currently living. If she could do it, I decided that it was worth hearing what she had to say.
I will never wake up at 4:30 AM to write, as Michelle said she did during her parenting years. Rising early or staying up later–I got tired even hearing the words. And I’m not sure I will allow the dishes to pile up in the sink. This is another suggestion that just doesn’t sit right with my perfectionist soul.
I will, though, resolve to write in the small moments of time. Many of us in the room admitted that we wait for the perfect writing environment. We wait for a clean and quiet house with hours of time stretched before us. And then we admitted that it will be at least a decade before that opportunity presents itself.
Michelle showed us, with simple writing prompts, the beautiful and powerful words that we could create in just ten minutes. I’m sure each writer left with a different piece of advice, but this was mine. I will no longer wait for long, uninterrupted time to write. I will write during the ‘in-betweens’. I will create during the ‘waiting.’ I will write when I do not believe I have time. Because I do have the time. I just have to resolve to write.
by Mally Becker, TWC Outreach & Development Coordinator
About ten minutes into the Montclair session of Resolve To Write, I felt as if someone had handed me a cool drink of water when I hadn’t known I was thirsty.
“Kill perfection,” TWC instructor Lizzie Foley began. “Have you heard the expression, ‘Perfect is the enemy of good?’ When it comes to writing, you will never reach good enough when you aim for perfect. The creative part of your brain shuts down in response to fear… the fear that your writing won’t reach your expectations, that tells you you’re not a writer, that you’re too slow, that it’s too late, that writing isn’t for people like you. Kick perfection out the door!”
Don’t we all know this: that there’s no such thing as “perfect” in writing or in life? Then why do I forget it when I sit down to write or (shudder) reread what I’ve written? It was just the message I needed to hear.
“You can’t control whether you’re going to write beautifully on any given day,” TWC Director Judith Lindbergh continued. “You can control whether you sit down to write. People ask whether writing can be taught. Ultimately, writing teaches you when you show up in front of the page.” In a sense, this requires giving up a sense of control and letting the story and your own creativity lead the process.
The TWC instructors know how tough that is. “Writers are control freaks,” Stacey Gill said with a grin. “After all, they are trying to create their own worlds.”
The most important advice they gave was to identify a regular time for your writing. “It doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. I could never do that!” Judith said. “Pick whatever time works best for you. And it doesn’t have to be a long stretch of hours. You can do a lot in ten minutes or a half hour, if that’s all you have.”
Ironically, setting limits to writing time can be productive, too. Lizzie cited research that the most prolific writers don’t let their work take over their lives. They write every day, but balance writing with family, exercise and “real life,” and generally contain their writing to a specific amount of time.
Coming out of Resolve to Write, I realized that I’d need two types of writing goals this year. One will set a “big picture” objective of finishing revisions on my draft novel. But my day-to-day writing goals will require a radical change. I’m going to ditch page and word counts for now. Instead, as Judith, Lizzie and Stacey recommended, my 2016 resolution will be to write for a set amount of time at least five days a week.
Judith closed by reminding writers to be kind to themselves. “Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your objective one day or if your writing doesn’t quite meet your expectations. We may not always reach our daily writing goals, but we will get closer if we go after them, word by word, day by day.”