In January, a new forum member posted a series of questions about others’ writing habits. It’s a great survey, but I’ve missed the opportunity to respond directly to that thread. So I thought this would be a fun addition to the blog.
When do you write?
I’m a night owl. I’ve found that I do my best creative work after everyone else has gone to bed. It’s really the only way to guarantee I won’t be interrupted. Interruptions kill the creative flow so easily. Thus, I try to get started after dinner. Some nights, this is around 7pm, but other nights, I don’t start until 9pm. I force myself to stop around midnight, so I can fall asleep at a not-so-indecent hour.
How long do you write? Do you set an alarm?
I don’t normally set time limits or alarms. If I’m trying to fit writing into a different part of the day (say afternoon because I know I’ll be busy that evening), then I may block off a specific length of time and set an alarm. But otherwise, I try to go for as long as the inspiration lasts.
I’ve found that in order for a writing session to feel satisfying, it needs to be at least an hour long. If I don’t feel especially inspired that day, I’ll sometimes set a “soft” alarm using my music. I’ll play one of my favorite instrumental albums and write only while that music is playing. If I’m too lost in the flow to notice that the music has stopped, awesome. If my creative energy has petered out by the time the final song ends, that’s okay too.
How did you make the habit stick?
Here’s the thing. I don’t have a writing habit per se. Right now, life is telling me that hard and fast routines will not work by throwing my family curve balls every month. The lesson I’ve learned over the past few years is that life = change. All that you can do is adapt to life’s demands.
What I’ve done since college is observe my cycles of energy throughout the day, pay attention to when I want to do certain things, and then build a kind of schedule around that. Thankfully, I’m self-employed, so I get to decide when to work, when to write, and when to do other stuff. As far as writing is concerned, I’ve learned that it needs to be one of the last things I do that day. All work, all chores needs to be done first, so then I can relax and let the words flow.
This might sound airy-fairy, but your body already knows what works best for you creatively. Listen to what it’s telling you, and then use that information to your advantage. Life hacking does work, people.
Do you sometimes have trouble making yourself get to your desk?
Physically, never. Because a lot of the time, that’s where I am all day. :P
In a metaphorical sense of getting down to writing, yes. Especially if I’m stressed, tired from a busy day, or it’s that time of the month and I’m in a funk because of it. Then again, I’m sure every writer deals with this to a greater or lesser extent. Music helps a lot in setting the right mood and sparking my imagination. Other days, I need to make a conscious effort to relax and release whatever emotions are clouding my head at the moment, either by incorporating them into the project or by journaling for a while.
But some days are just bad days. I sit there and nothing comes. After a while, I have to acknowledge that I don’t have it in me to create today. I need to be someone else’s audience instead. So I find a YouTube video to watch or a video game to play.
Do you guilt trip yourself when you do mentally wander off?
No, not really. That’s when I find some of my best ideas. Is it horrible for focus and actually finishing something? Absolutely. And that is my biggest weakness as a writer – I have a very hard time finishing the projects I start. That’s why I find deadlines and word counts so useful. I know from the start that my imagination can’t run outside of those boundaries.
Never, ever, ever feel guilty about failing to reach a goal, writing or otherwise. I’ve done this for years and it led me into a dark place that I never want to see again. I thank God that He gave me the strength to claw my way out of there. Failure is inevitable. Accept that. But remember that something is always better than nothing. Persistence will carry you a long way if you let it.
Writing isn’t for the faint of heart. The road is hard. There are traps and ugly monsters along the way who will gladly destroy you and your dreams. But know that you don’t travel alone. I’m still trying to figure this writing thing out myself. And I’m glad I’ve found LegendFire. These people have been such a blessing to my creative life.
Now it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Please share in the comments section below.