January 27, 2014

Prioritize Your Writing

Woman Doing Chores And Not Writing
Image from Antique Images

    There are many things we as writers need to learn and overcome.  Many are the countless English lessons (or whichever language you write in).  Grammar, sentence structure, tense, POV.  There are many of these little lessons to keep us busy enough as we are learning our skills.  Some of the other things, however, will likely not be in an English text book or in your friendly copy of "The Little, Brown Handbook."  If you want to be a writer and live as a writer, you need to learn to manage your time and prioritize your writing.  There are plenty of people who will tell you or make you feel like there are more important uses of your time than writing.  What you need to know is that the best use of your time and what you want to spend your life doing is YOUR DECISION.  Let me repeat that.  What you do with your life is your decision.  No matter how many people tell you you need to "get a haircut and get a real job" 1 this is your life and you need to live it for yourself.  If that means writing and you haven't made writing a high priority it is time to do so.  I do not just mean deciding that it is a priority.  I mean taking actions in your life and making changes in your routine to make writing a part of your life.  A large part of your life.

    How do you do this?  Well it is not easy.  You will probably need to change the way you think about writing.

     I participate along with hundreds of thousands of other writers each November in NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo is a great way to "justify" taking time for writing, but afterwards how do you justify how you spend your time?  This is entirely up to you.  But in truth if this is what you want to do with your life then there shouldn't be a need to "justify" taking time for writing.  It is a matter of not just telling yourself that this is important, but truly believing it in your heart and mind and expressing that openly.  People who care about you will care about your goals.  They will be encouraging and supportive of you pursuing your dreams.  So if you start to take yourself seriously and are open about this with others you are less likely to be encouraged to "do other things instead."

Image from The Graphics Fairy

    Not everyone will be so encouraging.  Some people will think your determination is just a faze.  Some people will say, "I'll believe it when I see it."  Some people will openly encourage you to give up on (insert comment of your choice here.)  Others may be more underhanded, offering poisoned words of encouragement.  Telling you they will support you but don't expect you to succeed.  Some will not mean to be discouraging, but have heard the cons of writing so often that they don't see the positives.  It is easy to unknowingly internalize the notions that you can write later or that you really need to be working on something else.  There are so many messages and thoughts like this that a whole post could be dedicated to it.  The first thing to do is to sit down with yourself and think (no meditate) on what YOU want out of life.  Do you want to write?  Take your time and do not rush.  Do not let the words of others fill your head and sway your opinions.  But neither make a decision simply because it goes against those voices.  Remember: Take your time.

    If you have decided that yes you want to make writing a major part of your life then you need to face the internalized notions, negative self-talk, and automatic thoughts that will get in your way.  This applies for many things in life, not just writing.  If you want to be a photographer, artist, entrepreneur, or camp director you may need to wrestle with the negative self-talk.  Do not confuse these poisonous messages for your inner guidance.  They are lies that we have internalized and repeat to ourselves over and over again mercilessly.  We all need to stop.  The folks at Writing Excuses covered a topic not so different from this in their episode, The Internal Heckler vs. The Internal Editor, last October.  Or for some advice on combating negative self talk check out this Wellcast episode.  Automatic Thoughts  There is lots of great information out there on this subject.

Pen, Fan, Pearls

     Another thing you will have to do once you decide that you want to write is just that.  Write.  Everyday.  This applies to other skills too.  Practice everyday, even if it is only a little.  If you don't know where to start you could keep a  creative writing journal or get a collection of writing prompts.  The key though is to practice everyday.  This will help build your writing into a normal habit or routine.  And if you feel like you just don't have time to write there is a plethora of advice out there.  Really look at your day and look for any down time or find tasks you really don't need to be doing.  Could you be writing then?  Could you get up just a little earlier and squeeze half an hour of writing into your morning routine?

     Don't wait to be a writer.  Make it a part of your life now.  Respect yourself and take your goals seriously.  Start your writing today.  Examine your priorities and make the changes you need to.  There is lots of advice out there from published and working authors.  You just need to look for it.

Other helpful articles and podcasts
Challenging Negative Self-Talk
Urgent vs Important: Prioritizing Writing Time When You Have No Time
Writing Excuses Episode 16: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard
Writing Excuses 8.52: You Think You Don’t Have Time to Write, with Mette Ivie Harrison

Writing Exercise:  Free Writing On Your Blocks

    For this weeks writing exercise give yourself at least ten minutes.  Sit down to your preferred or most readily available writing medium and just start writing without stopping, editing, or censoring yourself.  The question you need to look at in this exercise is: What is stopping me from writing?  Go into detail.  Get those things out of your head and on the page where you can step away from them and analyse them.  Don't worry about writing for an audience.  This is just for you.

1 Get a Haircut by George Thorogood & The Destroyers


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