The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
You know, it’s hard work to write a book. I can’t tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic.
Some people don’t have habits. “Which people are those?” you ask. None that I’m aware of, but it sounded like a good way to start this post. You know, start with pretentious poignancy.
I have the weirdest writing habits on the planet. Well, maybe not, but at least on my block, right? I used to be able to write nearly everyday. I had a job that afforded me free weekends, holidays off, two weeks at Christmas, spring break, and summers off. Jeez! What job was this, you ask? Teacher! But, since the State of Texas cut me (thank you so much for that), and I’ve worked in a bookstore since (this really is a joy), my writing time has been cut in half. No, wait. My writing time has been cut way more than half.
In fact, now my schedule is so erratic (we’re talking retail management here folks), it is difficult to find time to write. The transition has killed me. Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but hell, you know what I mean. So, I’ve had to be pretty creative to get in some writing time. How do you do it? I’m glad you asked.
First, it’s too tough for me to write after an 8 hour shift of being on my feet helping older luddites learn how to use their newly purchased e-Reading devices. Patience is a virtue, I think. My mind is Jell-O, my legs ache, and my feet are usually on fire. This is reading time! No joke, after a long shift, I read. My mind can be Jell-O but I am able to focus on the words on a page. That’s not too taxing. Not as taxing as trying to work over my fatigue and pain and attempt to create.
So, on the days I’m off, I get up, get on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes, eat breakfast, rest a bit, then jump in front of my computer and go! Also, if I work a night shift, I get up, eat, and use the morning hours to write. Now, if I can do that, given that I work a 40 hour week on my feet, and still find time to write, what’s your excuse?
Second, believe me when I say it takes effort to use the little bit of time I have to actually park my ass in front of a blank screen and create. My brain, at first anyway, wants to do anything other than be creative. It wants to work on my blog, check my e-mail, listen to music, watch a movie, anything but create, anything but work. However, if I make myself work, usually after ten or so minutes, my mind begins to sync itself with my creative juices and the words begin to flow.
This really does take discipline. It takes drive. In reality, I sort of bribe myself to work. I set small goals to write at least 500 words and then I reward myself with a break to do as I please. Now, if I’m on roll and those 500 words turn into 750 words and I still feel the creative juices flowing and soon I’m pushing 1000 words, I keep on trucking until I can no longer squeeze any material out of my thick skull. At this point I’m in the zone, so staying in the zone is key. If you’ve ever written for any length of time you know when the zone arrives. Nothing can take me from the zone. That’s right, nothing! Of course I’m not in the zone right now so don’t expect too much from this post.
Third, and last, I always carry with me a pen and some paper (well, a Moleskine to be exact). Even when I’m at work. If something comes to mind, my pen and paper are moving at the speed of write (Ha! Get it? The speed of write? I know it’s corny). Carrying around pen and paper is crucial for any serious writer. I mean seriously, you never know when ideas will strike. I was in the Boy Scouts. I had to memorize the motto.
I also journal in my Moleskine. Of course this causes sparks in my mind which in turn can spark a fire under my ass to write. Journaling seems to be pretty important. Well, it is to me. It allows me to record thoughts, ideas, experiences, complaints, events, etc. I’ve used many a journal entry in my short stories and novels, so hey it works for me.
These are my habits; the good ones anyway. I’ll leave you to guess what my bad habits are, but try not to go overboard okay? These habits fit me, so if they don’t work for you the complaint department at my house is always closed. You’ve gotta get your own habits to be an effective writer, try and test a few (drinking can help as well). And, if you don’t have any writing habits then you fall under the “or Not!” part of my title. You can just go and have fun while the rest of us work for free (or chump change as the case may be). Cheers!