It always seems to be one thing or another, doesn’t it? Either the list of holidays, meetings, kids’ swim lessons, family birthdays, vet appointments, etc. stretches out erratically into eternity, shattering any hope of a regular schedule, or escape from behind a desk is impossible, never allowing for a life outside of those created for fictional people, fearing that a routine once lost is lost forever . . .
July is going to be full of fun How-To ideas, but they all rely on the same self-knowledge.
Establishing a personal writing rhythm takes time, balance, and courage. The first step is often the toughest in any endeavor worth the undertaking, and writing is no exception. A writer will benefit immeasurably from a brutally honest look at him/herself as a person. By evaluating strengths and weaknesses, work ethic, and preferences, a lot of hassle eliminates itself. Working with the grain of your personality weaves writing throughout your entire life instead of your work squeezing out your friends, family, and every ounce of sanity. The results will look different for everyone.
Start out with some basic questions.
- What annoys you? What are your pet peeves? What comforts you?
- Are you handy in a tight spot, think on your feet? Or does the idea of acting without a plan make your blood pressure skyrocket?
- How seriously do you regard deadlines (yours or others’)?
- What/who can you say no to? What/who can you not say no to?
- Are you ruled by head or by heart? What inspires you? What crushes you?
- What do you value? Freedom, order, simplicity, adventure, harmony, justice, solvency, relationships?
The more you know about yourself, the better the chance your chosen methods have to meet your needs, stretch your weaknesses, and employ your strengths. Apply your preferences when considering what writing practices you’ll utilize.
- Organized? Plan everything. Split your time between outlining, researching, and writing.
- Go with the flow? Free write to warm up your gray cells before moving into your main project.
- Like lists? Set a minimum amount of time or word count that you have to complete each day.
- Feel adventurous? Write in your head. Spend plenty of time turning the words and ideas over while you’re working out. Great for working out or repetitive day jobs.
- Stall when starting? Stop writing each day in the middle of a scene and make notes about where you want to pick up the following day to avoid having to start from scratch.
- Looking for inspiration? Make a playlist of music that represents your characters. Read books that have a similar tone to your narrative voice.
- Full schedule? Save every idea. Carry a pocket-size notebook or make memos on your phone.
- Love crowds? Eavesdrop covertly for snippets of dialogue.
- Can’t say no? Enlist the help of a buddy and have them set your deadlines.
Writing happens anywhere and everywhere. Just because a routine doesn’t look like a classic depiction of a body hunched over a clacking typewriter in a smoky room that hasn’t been cleaned in three months doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t writing. That method works for some, not all. So unless becoming a hermit is on your bucket list, you can still have a life and be a writer.
Everyone runs into sticking points now and then. Tips and tricks can be found everywhere, but I don’t want to “trick” myself into writing. Knowing who I am sounds rather simplistic, but intentionally spending time learning about myself allows for a much healthier relationship with my work. If my writing practices are based on an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses, developing a natural rhythm will have a better chance at success.