Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writing Time/Writer's Discipline

Most writers love to write -- why else do it? It's not like anyone who tries it can easily make a living at it, so you need to love it, but life doesn't always allow for doing what you love. For most of us, it's necessary to carve out the time and convince ourselves that we deserve it.

Once you've done that and you have your writing time scheduled in your daily routine, do you stick to it? If you've got young children or a demanding job that can pull you away from any routine you set up for yourself, or even if you've just got an already pretty full life, it's not that easy. Fact is, it's not that easy no matter what, in my opinion. Not until it becomes an addiction of sorts.

Jeff Davis (The Journey from the Center to the Page) is a great teacher and writer whose class I took at the Taos Writers Conference a couple of years ago. He gave us a tip for sticking to a writing schedule. He said a good friend of his, who lived down the road from him and who is also a writer, kept tabs on him. Jeff would get up in the morning and do his yoga and go to his writing desk and at 6:00 a.m. the telephone would ring -- it would be his friend calling to ask if he was writing. No getting to it later, or another day, that phone was going to ring every morning. The message was: find an incentive to get you to stick to your discipline.

I decided to adapt Jeff's system. A writing buddy of mine and I set up a regularly scheduled telephone conversation every weekend. (She lives in a different state, btw. It doesn't have to be someone down the road.) We report to each other --with complete honesty -- on what writing progress we've made on our projects during the week, and we pledge to each other what we will do in the coming week. When we started doing this, our pledge was fifteen minutes a day, five days a week. We figured no matter what else was going on, we could find fifteen minutes. Now we're at an hour minimum.

This system really works. It's amazing what saying it out loud to someone will do for you. I managed to find those fifteen minutes -- no excuses -- and, surprise, surprise, once I did, I started writing at least that long each day, even if the writing seemed like nothing but dreck. Fifteen minutes became an hour or more, and after months of doing that the most amazing thing happened -- I developed a sort of 'writer's muscle'. Try it, you'll see. You'll have strength and stamina to write longer and longer the more you do it. It will feel natural. And if you miss a day you'll feel bereft! In other words, it becomes kind of addictive. Thank you, Jeff!


1 comment:

  1. Great suggestion, Linda,

    I am so happy that you are giving yourself that time. It is so important to write everyday.

    I certainly give myself a few hours at least. Usually a lot more these days. I have so many writing projects that I need to do.

    Keep up the good work!