creative writing community, craft and inspiration
On January 7 and 8, The Writers Circle held three Resolve to Write sessions facilitated by TWC Directors Judith Lindbergh (in South Orange) and Michelle Cameron (in Summit), and TWC instructor Lisa Romeo (in Montclair). Below Mally Becker, who attended the Summit event, shares her experiences and thoughts about getting their writing on track in 2017. This is the second in a two-part series.
And I confess. There are days I spend more time thinking about writing than working on my damn project. Do you hear the frustration in that sentence?
But in the high-ceiling’ed space of MONDO on a cold Sunday afternoon, I let my mind go quiet as I listened to TWC director Michelle Cameron and the eight-or-so writers attending this year’s Resolve to Write session.
Michelle pushed us to examine our goals, our lives, and even our temperaments. Prodded by her questions, my perspective shifted just enough during the two-hour session to identify my biggest challenge: Me.
Somewhere along the way this past year, I lost the playfulness of writing. I focused on the business of publication. I set goals I didn’t meet and mislaid the creativity and occasional joy of storytelling. No wonder I put off placing my posterior in my desk chair. I stopped having fun.
Frankly, I’ve set writing goals in the past: I’ll write for three hours a day; I’ll write five pages a day; or, I’ll “win” NaNoWriMo.
But Michelle’s gentle questions made me realize that my big-picture goals were so generic they were almost bound to crash of their own weight. Here’s the alternative approach she recommended:
Step One: Define the project(s) you want to work on this year.
Step Two: Define the obstacles that hold you back. Is it finding the time to write? The isolation of writing? Self-doubt? The need to learn more about plot structure or another aspect of the craft of writing?
Step Three: Add the details. Brainstorm specifics to meet the challenges you’ve defined. To get us all started, here are some suggestions from Michelle:
Find time to write – Analyze your day. No doubt your dance card is full. But there are 168 hours in a week. Somewhere in your day, you can find 15 minutes to write, maybe 30 minutes or more, if it’s important enough to you.
And face it. You may need to jettison one of your activities to write. Can you let the housekeeping go for now? Can you write on the train while you commute? Maybe download an app to temporarily block social media, if that’s your downfall? You get the point.
Create a realistic routine – A writing routine needs to take into account your schedule and, if possible, the time of day when you do your best writing. Michelle knows whereof she speaks. With a full-time job and young children, she finished her first novel by setting the alarm each morning for 4:30 AM to safeguard her early-morning writing time.
Improve your writing environment – Everyone’s different. Do you write most comfortably in isolation or with people nearby? One author I know writes for three hours every weekday at a local fast food restaurant. Another visits a shared office space, like C3 Workspace, to do her writing twice a week. Carve out the space you need.
Play on the page – I especially needed to hear this. If a project feels “stuck” or tight, as mine does, invent a conversation between two characters outside your story, or go online to choose a writing prompt and play. (I picked up The Writers Circle’s Story Magic playing card decks for additional writing prompts.) “And remember,” Michelle said, “you can’t edit an empty page. Just write, even if you think you have nothing to say.”
Step Four: Create your personal writing prescription. Now that you have a bird’s-eye view of what you want to accomplish, your challenges and how to meet them, set manageable goals. How many minutes per day or week can you realistically write? What actions will you take tomorrow, this week, within six months to meet those goals?
One of my challenges is the absence of a routine, which makes it less likely that I actually sit down and write. My optimal time to write is early afternoon, and I like to write alone with people nearby. So I’m committing to write at my local library two days a week for 90 minutes and for 30 minutes a day at home for three additional days. (If I spend more time writing some days, so much the better.) And yesterday I purchased a space heater to make the cold bedroom I use to write more comfortable. I also signed up to attend a lecture tomorrow night on FBI procedure for mystery writers.
Now the challenge is to stick to the plan and keep my writing resolutions.
Mally Becker is TWC’s Outreach & Development Coordinator and recently completed her first novel.