Good Sunday, and I hope you’ve had a good (and productive!) week – around these parts, I’ve had a bit of a lazy week, and haven’t really made much progress on anything this week. It hasn’t been a particularly difficult week, and I haven’t been overly-busy, I’ve just lacked motivation to get much of anything done. I’ve had my works-in-progress open and have looked at them several times, I’m just a little stuck with plot progress. Add to that the fact that I ran across a market that I have a good feeling about for the novel that I wrote 20 years ago, and I’ve been revising and editing that old piece at the expense of progress in the new pieces. Add to that a slight bit of guilt about not working on new stuff, and I’m, well…stuck. So, with that bit of knowledge, I don’t really have any sort of substantive word count to report this week.
I wrote last week that I’ve been thinking about lists lately, and to that end I’ve come up with a “to-do” list for writers. Some of it’s a bit subjective; you can take what you need and leave the rest, much like a lot of things in this career that we’ve chose for ourselves. So without further ado…
To-Do List Item 1: Find Your Comfort Zone
This can be physical, mental, or some combination of both. For me, I work (whether that be writing, doing homework, or any other type of work) in a big, comfy chair in front of my television in the middle of our den. Most of the time, the television is on, and my husband is in the room with me. My pets – the cats and the dog – make regular intrusions into my space (the dog uses me as furniture quite often). I’ve often thought about purchasing or building an office space outside my house – like a she-shed – but the thing that keeps me from making the leap is the comfort factor. If I had a separate building I’d be away from people (read: my husband) and I know that I would never use it. I wouldn’t want to be in that little building all alone plodding away. I’d be nowhere near my comfort zone.
To-Do List Item 2: Settle
Once you’re in your comfort zone, try and settle your mind and focus on the task at hand. There are so many things going on around us all the time that it’s super-easy to get distracted. I quite often fall into this trap much easier and much more often than I like to admit; I go to look up one thing, and the next thing I know I’m flipping around the internet like four-year-old on a sugar high. That’s why in the first sentence of this entry I used the word try – because it’s something you really have to put some effort into. It’s worth it in the end, though, because you’ll be much more impressed with your own work and the amount and quality of work you produce.
To-Do List Item 3: It’s About Time
Okay, so – confession time. I don’t do this, and I should. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received over the years that I’ve yet to heed is that you should set aside time to write. Whether it’s an hour every day or a block of time a few times a week, dedicate time to writing and do your best to do only that. Don’t check Facebook, don’t do research, don’t watch television – heck, don’t even answer the phone if it rings – just write. Don’t worry about self-editing as you go, just get words on paper. I 100% agree with it, and I think it’s the best habit a fledgling writer can create for themselves. Personally, I have too many bad habits to establish this one really good one. I’ve worked hard on trying to trying to dismantle the bad habits one-by-one over the years, but it’s a long and painful process. I can’t stress enough that scheduling a dedicated time to write is exceptionally important and worth the time it takes to develop the habit.
To-Do List Item 4: Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
This might seem counterintuitive, and that I’m going against the advice in Item 3, but you’ll save a mountain of self-editing and revision time if you identify where your problems lie, and if you also identify what you’re especially good at. As an example, I know that my description game is strong; it’s very easy for me to describe setting and action, and on occasion, people (I tend to let the reader picture characters in their own way rather than lock in a physical description of a people). I also know, though, that I can sometimes take description a little too far, and I have to know “when to say when”. I also know that I tend to overuse the word “enormous”, and when I’m tempted to use it I have to weigh whether or not it’s the most appropriate word, or if I can find something that works better in the situation. By knowing my strengths and weaknesses, I can grow stronger overall as a writer.
To-Do List Item 5: Settle (Part Two)
For each time you sit down to write, have an idea of what you’re going to write about. If you’re like me, you always have more than one project bubbling at any given time. When you decide that it’s writin’ time, pick one. Just one. Work on it for the duration of your writing time, and dedicate your thoughts only to that. This is another one of those list items that I have trouble with because I often keep at least three projects open most of the time, not to mention the file for any MFA assignment that I might have coming due soon. I’m a bit scatterbrained when it comes to my own projects; I tend to be all over the place (see Item 4) when I’m working, and I know that I’m weak in my ability to settle. It’s a habit I’m working hard to develop, and something that I can’t stress enough.
This is only the beginning. The writer’s to-do list is something that is ever-evolving and ever-changing. Do you have items to add of your own? What are some of the items that you would deem absolutely necessary on a writer’s to-do list?
One last thing… A colleague of mine, Natalie Wisdom, is doing some super-fantastic work at her blog, “The Broadway Pause”. I HIGHLY recommend that you take a look and give her a follow. The stories she’s presenting are fascinating, and her pieces are informative and well-written:
Have a fantastic week, everyone, and I look forward to hearing from you all!