7 Ways to Keep Writing Every Day

7 Ways to Keep Writing Every Day

Gwynn and Ruth are on vacation for a few weeks. So we’re bringing back a couple of our favourite Top Drawer topics to share with new readers and to nudge long-time followers. The last two blogs explored finding time to write and finding inspiration. This week Gwynn’s April 2016 post rounds out the message with tips for writing every day.

Gwynn Scheltema

We’ve all heard the old maxim, “Write every day.” In the bogaiman quoteok Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Whether you believe in the 10,000 hours concept, or simple BIC [Butt in Chair], there is no denying that being a writer means actually writing—real words—lots of them.

“Write every day” is the number one piece of advice given by successful writers—and they should know. But it’s often easier said than done.

So here are 7 ways to keep you writing every day:

  1. Set aside writing time

paper-606649_960_720If writing is important to you, it needs to be built into your routine in the same way that you build in any other important activity in your life. If you need to schedule writing time like dental appointments, piano lessons, or hockey practice, do it. Think of writing as your “job” and block out set times like you would if you were going to work.

And perhaps once in a while treat yourself to really dedicated time on retreat, like Writescape’s Spring Thaw or Just Write at Glentula.

  1. Get buy in

Talk to your family and friends about how important your writing time is to you. More importantly, talk to yourself about honouring that time. Are you the one who gives up your creative time to do extra chores, or make way for what someone else wants to do? Ask yourself, “Would I take a day off work to do chores?”

  1. Know yourself

The right time to write is different for everyone. You know when you are most creative. If you feel guilty taking “family time”, get up earlier, or reserve after-bedtime time for yourself.

  1. Have a dedicated writing spacewriting-828911_960_720

If you learn to play the piano, you invest in a piano. If you play hockey, you buy skates and sticks and all the rest of the hockey paraphernalia. Yet so many writers believe that perching on the end of the kitchen table and clearing up when someone else needs the space is okay. It’s not. Claim a writing space that is yours. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, but it should be a place where you can be alone when you want to, and where you can leave things in progress.

  1. Get dressed and show up

While it’s comfy to write in your jammies, getting dressed to go to write lends a validity to the activity, like getting dressed to go to work. And as Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up”. If you can physically get your butt in the chair, then writing that first word is that much easier.

  1. Know your writing style

Stephen King says he writes ten pages a day; Hemingway wrote 500 words a day. Some writers set a fixed time—write for 3 hours. It doesn’t matter what writing goal you set for yourself, as long it is achievable, and doesn’t set you up for failure. Start small. Even 3 paragraphs done every day will get you further ahead than a full chapter not even attempted because it is too overwhelming.

  1. Use prompts, timers or ritualsteapot-574025_960_720

To make the transition from the practical world to your creative world, have a ritual: light a candle, play music, or make tea in a special pot. To get the words flowing, make use of writing prompts or timers or idea files. Anything that will get you started. Think of them as warm-up exercises.

From the picture at the top of this post, it looks like that writer channels Star Trek to get started. My writing ritual is to clear my desk, get a coffee and win three hands of solitaire. What’s yours? Share it in the comments below.

Other articles you might like to explore:

Strange Writing Rituals of Famous Authors

Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers

Sit Down, Shut Up and the Muse will Come.

First Impressions Matter

First Impressions Matter

Ruth E. Walker. I’m on LinkedIn which, in short, is a business-oriented networking site, a bit like Facebook for affirmations-441457_640professionals. You post your resume, awards and announcements. And people you are connected with (think “friends”) can endorse you on a wide range of skills and expertise. A while ago, I got endorsed for: creative writing, proofreading, writing, blogging and editing.

Yes. I do all those things. And I think that I do them pretty well. So what is the problem with being endorsed for them?

I don’t know the writer who endorsed me. I’ve never done any work for him. Not one edit. Not one single instance of proofreading. He’s not been to any workshop I’ve offered. Nor is he a member of any writing organization to which I belong.

So, I have to ask. What value are all those endorsements on my LinkedIn site if random new connections can merrily come along and endorse me? And even more important, what do I think about a total stranger giving me his unwarranted endorsements? I was not impressed. Not one bit.

horse-1006579_640Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth, you say? I say, that’s a real cliché. That’s the editor in me. Avoid cliché like the plague. And avoid giving electronic high-fives if you have no idea if the high-fives are warranted.

On the other hand, if I have endorsements from professional writers and editors, that sends a strong message to anyone visiting my LinkedIn site. And fortunately, I do have those great endorsements.

abstract-1233873_640Stop looking at social media as a true representation of who you are, you say? I say, I have standards. That’s the professional writer in me. By its fluid and ever-evolving nature, social media is not meant to be “the complete me.”  It’s more like a snapshot here and a glimpse of something interesting over there.

I don’t believe everything I read in social media. I bet you don’t either. But I can confirm that when I am posting things on social media, I don’t make things up unless I’m writing fiction.

LinkedIn is a networking vehicle and sometimes people find interesting ways to connect, you say? I say there are other ways to network in the industry that don’t involve making things up. If you want to connect with other writers, don’t post things on their site hoping they’ll notice. Join a writer’s group. Take workshops in the field. Read Heather O’Connor’s post on How to attend a book convention. Other than a workshop with a creative writing exercise or two, none of these options involve making things up. Nor should it.

The thing about being professional is that it is more than just saying “I’m a professional.” It shows in your behaviour. It is modelled for others through your choices. And it invites others to be professional with you.

handshake-733239_640I was professional in how I followed up with the stranger who endorsed me on LinkedIn. I sent him a private message, thanking him for his positive reinforcement but asking how he knew me and my skills. It turns out I was right. He didn’t know me.

We had a brief exchange where I suggested he should only endorse people with whom he was familiar. He appreciated my comments and I felt better when I understood why he made the mistake in the first place. He was new to writing and new to LinkedIn and wasn’t yet familiar with the process. He thought this was a good way to network with other writers.

Look, I’m not saying don’t get out there and use social media to make connections. Quite the opposite — I’ve made some worthwhile and amazing connections via social media. But I am suggesting that you need to think about the impression you are leaving when you do so. Don’t let the computer screen change you into someone you wouldn’t want to associate with. Be yourself but be professional.

Blogging for Authors: Must We?

Blogging for Authors: Must We?

Guest blogger: Kimberly Moynahan

Back in January, this article came through my Twitter stream: Blogging for Authors: Why You Need a Blog and How to Get Started, posted on the Nonfiction Authors Association website. In that article, e-book author Stephanie Chandler recommends that every author have a blog.

She advises you “contact your webmaster” to add a blog to your site; she talks about “keyword concentration”, how blogs are good for SEO and how content is king; she explains how to choose a blogging platform, why you shouldn’t host on a secondary domain and…well…are your eyes glazing over yet?

Here’s the thing: Starting a blog is like joining a gym. Eighty percent of people who begin will not last three months. Okay, I made that number up. But in fact, the realty for bloggers is probably worse. In 2008, a blog search engine company found that of 133 million blogs only 7.4 million had been updated in the last 120 days.

That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. — Douglas Quenqua, New York Times, June 5, 2009

So before you jump onto the “every author needs a blog” bandwagon, ask yourself if blogging is really for you. Because frankly, having a sad neglected blog is probably worse than not starting one at all.

Here is what you need to be a blogger—

 

A Bit of Technical Abilitycrow with tools

Even if you have a webmaster, she’s only going to set up your site. You still have to put up your own post, format it, add graphics and tags, and publish the thing. It’s not difficult, but if you are the kind of person who gets faint at the idea of formatting an Excel column, you might want to think twice about blogging.

Lion sleepingTime. Lots of it.

Stephanie, in her article, advises that you blog five times a week. It’s good writing practice she says.

First off, no, it’s not. You know as well as I do, if you are dashing off five quick posts a week, you are not practicing good writing. You’re just adding “content” which is great for attracting search engines bots and random strangers, but not so much for engaging readers and impressing publishers.

Blogging five times a week is a herculean task. Even filler posts – YouTube videos and “Wordless Wednesday” images – take effort to pull together. Recruiting guest bloggers helps, but there is work around that as well. And these stopgaps will only entertain your readers for so long. Your audience wants to hear from you.

How much time does blogging take?

My advice to potential bloggers is this: Write your first five posts before you commit. Time yourself from the moment you start thinking about what you’re going to write, to the moment all five are written, formatted for the web, proofed, have catchy titles, and have legal-to-use images with credits and captions.

Now add an hour a week for site maintenance and improvement, another hour for responding to commenters, and fifteen minutes a day (at the very least) for promoting your blog on social media. Now how’s your week shaping up?

Social Media SavvyBees

Blogs cannot live in a vacuum. It will be up to you to find your audience and make them aware of your blog. Sure search engines will find your blog so people will stumble upon it, but you will have to do the real work of alerting your followers and attracting new readers every time you post. This means mastering and diligently usingTwitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media.

Herd sheepSomething Unique to Say

What are you going to blog about? Here’s a subject that could take up a whole post. But in short, if your blog is to rise above the babble of a million author bloggers all doing the exact same thing, you are going to have to deliver something unique.

Rule #1 is reward the faithful for showing up. Your readers are your most valuable promoters. Feed and nurture them accordingly. Talk to them. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else. What that is depends on your target audience – readers, writers, or both.

Rule #2 is that blogging is not all about you, The Author. If you want to connect with your readers, you must show a bit of you, The Person.  No need to throw your entire personal life onto the screen (please), but talking about your passion for 1940s jazz, your daytime job as a dog trainer or the crazy thing that happened at the grocery store this morning goes a long way towards making your readers feel special and welcome.

Thick Skinwalruses

You’re a writer. You’re used to editors pointing out flaws in your manuscripts. You’re used to rejection. You might even be used to negative book reviews (if one ever gets used to that). So already you are stronger than most.

But how are you when your ideas are attacked? How will you respond when your credibility is challenged? When a reader comments (shouts!) in UPPER CASE that you are not worthy of the pixels you are printed on?

If you blog well, your comment section is going to be more than just people heaping praise and thanks upon you. It can become the lifeblood of your blog, an exciting place where people debate and discuss ideas. It can also become a place where people criticize, even attack you.

For instance, these are actual comments from my blog:

Are you on drugs? You clearly lack journalistic skills on top of empathy for life… 

This article is the biggest piece of SHIT I’ve read so far …

I leave them on my site for my own amusement and also so I have great examples for posts like this.

KittensYou have many choices in how to handle individual commenters and your comment sections as a whole – another topic that could fill a post. But the two choices you don’t have if you want to build a vibrant community on your blog, are turning off the comment sections and screaming back in UPPER CASE. (This never goes well.)

Stephanie Chandler is right. Blogging can help you connect with your readers. It can be a way to increase your following and possibly book sales. But so can meeting with book clubs, starting a newsletter, giving workshops, having a Facebook page, engaging on Twitter, posting on Instagram and doing the most important thing of all – finishing your book.

In the end, the answer to “Should I blog” is, it depends.
But the answer to “Must I blog?” is, no.
Read More:

L.L. Barkett: It’s Time for (Many) Experienced Writers to Stop Blogging

Jane Friedman: Reasons to Keep Blogging

Kidlit.com: Do Unpublished Writers Have to Blog?

Huffington Post: 5 Reasons Authors Should Blog

Joe Bunting: What Fiction Authors Really Need to Know About Their Platform

 

All images CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

BIO

 

Kimberly MoynahanKimberly Moynahan is a freelance science, nature, and interpretive writer. She blogs on the natural sciences, animals, and the writing life on her site Endless Forms Most Beautiful. She has been published in Scientific American’s Best Science Writing Online and WOLVES Magazine. Kim serves on the Leadership Team for Science Borealis, the Canadian science blog network and is a regular blogger for the Canadian Science Writers Association. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

Get the Word Out: Social Media for Writers and Artists

Get the Word Out: Social Media for Writers and Artists

with Heather M. O’Connor and Anne MacLachlan

Fee: $125 [$110 for writing association members-WCDR, WCSC, WCYR, SOH etc.]

Social media: the online cocktail party where writers, agents, publishers and readers mingle, connect, share advice and resources, do business. Are you ready to join the party?

Get the answers you need at this 5-week workshop:

  • Two skilled facilitators 
  • Lots of hands-on help in class 
  • Online support between classes

Who should attend?

  • Intermediate users hoping to develop a writer-specific audience and applications
  • Social media novices needing lots of support
man with social media icons finger picking social media icons social media cubes in a gift box Facebook button Twitter buttons with birds YouTube logo Social media icons on a phone

What’s getting covered?

  • Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube, Pinterest and more 
  • Why writers use these platforms and HOW
  • Ways to develop your craft, connect with the writing community and to promote your writing

For example:

  • Open and customize a Twitter account
  • Learn how, when and what to tweet
  • Find out where to find writers, agents and publishers
  • Attract Twitter and blog followers

What else?

  • Discover social media settings, tools, resources and apps that measure your progress and help you work faster, safer and more efficiently

Learn how to meet, who to greet and how to make a killer impression in the writers’ world of social media. By the time you’re done, you’ll have the foundation for your social media platform. You’ll also have the resources and tools to continue building your social media presence in the arts community.