“One of my characters and I have spent years trying to tell thunderstorms when and where to thunderstorm,” with that thought I realized a big piece of why it irritates me when people try to dictate (or even interfere with) when and where I write. I’ve spent years trying to control this, channel it, and now someone wants to come in and change it?
Words come at weird and inconvenient times. If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, you haven’t been seriously engaged in writing for very long. I have found those “Aha!” moments popping up in the shower, while driving, during meals, and at “annoying o’clock” in the morning. And I’m not the only one. One of the best, most important, and most powerful things you can do for yourself as a writer is to make sure you have a way of remembering those thoughts and words, and recording them promptly.
If you don’t record them, you lose them; that’s just the way it works.
Another of the best, most important, and most powerful things you can do for yourself as a writer is to train yourself (and those you live and work with) to a writing schedule. It won’t protect you from those random thoughts while soaping up or trying to sleep, but having a regular writing schedule and a good place to write, that suit what your working on, makes writing much easier.
When you train yourself to a schedule, you are providing a regular time to get writing done.
When you “just wait for the mood to strike me” you never really seem to get around to writing. You definitely never get around to editing (which is usually less fun in the first place).
When you find or create a writing space for yourself, and use that place for writing, you create environmental stimuli that help your mind understand “I’m supposed to be writing now”. You might even bring in or create stimuli that help you find ideas and solutions to writer’s block and other problems, or help you get your emotions in the right place to do writing work (even editing!).
It’s about creating opportunities for the words to come. It’s about making a place for you to communicate your passions, to tell your story.
And sometimes we have to defend that time and space.
Now, I’m not giving anyone permission to go spastic on a spouse, child, or neighbor. But there comes a time where you need to calmly stand your ground and explain to someone that you are working. You are getting productive and useful things done, and those things need to happen.
You also may have to be a little flexible. If the house is burning down and your wife is having a baby, please call the fire department and take care of your wife. The universe understands and the words will come back (if they were really meant to be). Other times you may need to do things like use the bathroom or rebalance the load in your washing machine (or deal with some other nerve jangling non-sentient stimuli).
The point is to create a time and space where you usually can get some decent writing done. There will be times you don’t get much done, but if you succeed more often than not, you’re winning.
This is the same logic as my decision to average at least a thousand words a day. Ok, Monday this week I got zero words. Tuesday, I got around 1,750. Wednesday, I topped 2000! As long as you’re averaging at or above your goal, you’re doing ok. And looking at the average helps fight the idea that “Ok, that was word number 1,000. Time to turn my brain off!”
Ideas come at weird times. You need to be ready for them. You can help them come more regularly by creating a scheduled time and a familiar place in which to write.
And sometimes you will have to teach those around you that this is your writing time and space, and they need to respect that.
Well, dear reader, I suspect we should both get back to writing now. So good luck. And I’ll see you next post.