There are writing practices, and then there are YOUR writing practices. If you were to jump on the internet right this second and Google “How to write a novel in three months” you would actually get hits, lots of hits, on this very subject.
According to Google, there are a heckuva lot of people out there with novels written in three months. And they are so proud of themselves, they’ve divulged their writing practices.
Great stuff to inspire us, but terrible advice to follow.
That’s because we aren’t built the same as writers, as individuals, as business people, as time managers — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: What works for one writer will not work for another writer in the exact same way.
You can quote me on that because I’ll stand by that belief till the cows come home.
Draw inspiration and motivation from other writers, yes, please, but reconstruct that information to fit you and your life and spirit circumstances.
3 steps to YOUR best writing practices
Step 1. Take a look at the fundamental writing forces of all writers’ lives. At work, there are a combination of external forces (those which you can shape and modify at will) and internal forces (traits resulting from life experience and natural yearning):
TIME – when do you write (duration/frequency)?
HABITAT – where do you write?
GOALS – short and long term
TEAM – your support system
PROCESS—what is your writing process, from story idea to concept to full-blown manuscript?
DETERMINATION – consider this philosophy: “If you’re more than 100% determined, you’re determined; if you’re exactly 100% determined, you’re slacking somewhere; if you’re less than 100% determined, you aren’t.”
SKILL – what you naturally bring to the table, and your willingness and effort to learn and grow beyond.
HEART – does writing move you, make you feel something extraordinary?
All of these forces are at play for every writer, but they are dependent on your intention, your overall vision. Intention is like the vehicle that carries you through your writing practices.
Strong intention = effective writing practices
Step 2. To gauge your intention for each fundamental writing force, ask yourself:
- What do I want to do?
- What do I want to get out of it?
-You may not intend to develop your skill, and stagnation or neutralization will be a result. How does this work for you?
-You may intend to set goals, but flail midway. What is happening to your writing practices now?
-You may not intend to write in a café on the weekends, but that’s where you end up. Is this productive for you?
Intentions can be good and bad; strong and poor; focused and misguided. They are built out of a combination of needing to act and wanting to get something out of it.
Of course, holding all of this together, the oil that lubes the gears, is your sense of fulfillment, or joy during your writing practices. No matter how productive or strategic you are, if you aren’t fulfilled, then you’re wasting your time.
Step 3. Perform what I call a “climate check” on your real-world and writer selves.
Make sure that, regardless of sales, word count, number of Facebook followers, you are happy, fulfilled, moving in a positive direction emotionally and spiritually.
Honestly, none of this is going to neatly or kindly or quickly sort itself out for you. Several rounds of trial-and-error might be in order as you try to figure out questions like:
- What time of day do I write most efficiently?
- Do I require a warm-up session before my creative center really starts cranking out the juicy stuff?
- Can I focus on my writing when the family is around?
- Am I willing to forsake my favorite TV show to write?
- If I don’t have a room to myself, can I at least get an hour to myself?
- Is my spouse going to understand why I have to set my alarm at 5 am to write?
- Should I set deadlines? Under what terms? What do I do if I miss a deadline? Or meet one?
I’ll stop there, as the Questions. Are Never. Ending.
Thing is, before you can really answer these questions, you have to know your real-world self and have a clear grasp of your real-world circumstances. Your real-world self may never have dreamed she would wake up to go write her novel at 5am, but your writer self would, and somewhere, the two have to compromise.
WHY are you a writer? What do you want to accomplish with your writing? The answers to these questions will actually generate threads of writing practices for you.
For example, if you say that you are a writer because you love to write, well, then, that is all about HEART. There is nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, to craft stories for your own personal pleasure.
Many people have learned, after jumping through hoops of character development, 3-act structure, and theme discovery that they just want to write. That’s all. They simply want to pull a story together that is dancing in their imagination and not have to worry about plot points and stakes and goals.
Finding satisfaction and joy through writing for your own pleasure is just as important as writing for an audience. But a writer who is writing for personal enjoyment will have different practices than the writer who is hoping to be commercially published. Of the two, the latter would feel more pressured to give up a night out with friends to work on a project.
How to get started on finding your best writing practices
Take each of the above fundamental writing forces (time, habitat, goals, team, process, determination, skill, and heart) and journal your current status, your intention, and your sense of fulfillment.
Let’s use TIME as an example:
-If you intend to write one hour a day, are you?
-If so, how does your intention make you feel? (Productive? Energetic? Positive? Encouraged? Or perhaps you are feeling neutral or not as happy with your time commitment as you hoped you would feel.) Even if you are hitting your intention, it’s possible you might not feel fulfilled or satisfied. When that happens, review your intended action step (in this example, writing one hour a day). You may have set the wrong intention.
-If you aren’t writing one hour a day, what can you change or shift in your life to allow for this practice?
Once you get a strong grasp of how you perform in all of the fundamental forces and what you DO to make them so effective, you have developed your very own system of writing practices.
Keep in mind that as life changes (emotionally, physically, or spiritually), that your writing practices will likely need revising. Checking in on things every few months or so will help you stay on track.
What are some of your writing practices? Do they stay consistent or are you changing them frequently to keep up with Life?
Have a writerly day!