A few weeks back, we shared some great tips from Writers’ Program instructors on how to make time for your writing. Have you put some of the tips to use yet? For those of you still hungry for inspiration, our instructors share more of their insight—for both creative writers and screenwriters alike!
CREATING (AND CHANGING) YOUR HABITS
Don’t despair—adapt! A way to earthquake-proof your writing routine is to make it flexible enough to withstand unexpected shifts in your non-writing life. Maybe mornings cease to be available—then shift to writing in the evenings, or at lunch times, or during your toddler’s naps. Instead of writing for an hour three times a week, settle temporarily for half an hour twice a week. Find a new writing rhythm that fits changed circumstances.
You need to carve the time out of something, and I would suggest giving yourself a day a week to be completely unwired from email, texting, and the phone. Experiment with being undistracted and see what it does for the thinking and the writing.
—Anna Maria Hong
When you’re single and unattached, you can write anytime you feel inspired. But once you have a family and responsibilities, scheduling your creative endeavors is a vital habit. I force myself to wake up earlier in the morning when I can focus on my work. It doesn’t mean you turn it off afterwards, since life is full of ideas. The creative part of your brain is on 24/7, but for uninterrupted focus and productivity when you have a family or a demanding job, either write early in the morning or late at night when everyone’s asleep.
THINKING AND THE UNCONSCIOUS
While writing is a conscious, deliberate activity, there is also a strong unconscious component. I take certain steps to increase my unconscious mind’s help in the process, so I can make better use of what might be a limited amount of writing time. Shortly before I fall sleep, I remind myself where I left off and what I’ll want to tackle next in the book. I address any questions I might have and tell myself the answers will come to me before I settle down to write. As I drift off, I visualize myself seeming really engaged in my writing, not frustrated because I don’t have enough time. With this technique, I can often make better use of even small amounts of time because I find myself back in the book faster, which allows me to write even on an overly-crowded day.
I make writing a part of my everyday life by thinking as a writer—by being alive to detail and to nuance so that I become more observant. The physical act of sitting at a keyboard can only happen if I’m already THINKING or experiencing my world as a writer would. It’s looking at experience with a kind of subterranean focus, looking for “nets” or story or connections in everything.
MOMENT BY MOMENT
When I was starting out, I thought I needed a full uninterrupted day with music and a pitcher of iced tea to write. This never actually worked very well, but I was convinced. Then I got out of college and became an office temp. I had no choice, either I was going to figure out how to work in little snatches of time at a different desk every day—or I was never going to write. I discovered a secret in plain sight: you only write one sentence at a time, one moment at a time. So focus on that one moment. What has to happen? What do we need to know? Write that down, even a bad version of it. If you focus on just one sentence about one moment, all sorts of things will flash into your mind. Write ’em down. There it is: you’re writing. Even if you only have fifteen minutes. Is it ideal? No. But slowly, surely, you will amass a pile of moments. You can look at them, figure out what’s missing, and what’s in the wrong place. Then you’ll have a draft. You can do this on the bus, at lunch break, or before everyone wakes up. Just don’t do it while driving.
I think getting away from formality can be very helpful to a person who wants to write. One doesn’t need to sit down with a great sense of ceremony–“Now I’m going to sit down for a year and write my novel”–but can, instead, snatch a few minutes here and there in between other responsibilities and make great progress.
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite).