For me, space matters.

Over the last week I was out of town visiting family in another state. I stayed in a converted guest room, but it wasn’t set up with a desk or table space. Plus, it was in a different building than the house where my family members were staying, which meant I only slept in the guest room and spent most of my awake time in the living space with perpetual TV and random chatting, and dogs barking, and cooking. Because I wanted to stick with my writing schedule, I pulled out my laptop and attempted to do some writing during all the TV watching and people meandering.

I was unsuccessful. By that I mean that I was not able to concentrate in any fashion in a creative way. By that I mean I didn’t write a single word. I could barely read what I had written on previous days. There was just too much going on.

I had brought the laptop with me on this trip with the goal of getting much writing done. I expected to have much downtime, which I did. It just wasn’t distraction-free downtime. I work most days of the week on creative things of one sort or another, but I didn’t anticipate my need for functional writing space. I have a studio in my house where I do all the writing, editing, painting, etc. It’s small, but functional, and it is a space specifically for creative work. I need this space to get things done. I know this. The muse knows this. When I go in this room, the brain clicks over automatically into creative work mode, though it did take some time before that happened.

But, I assumed I could continue with my writing schedule regardless of travel because…I don’t know. I should know better. But that’s want normal writers do, right? When they go someplace out of the ordinary, they still write. They still meet their word counts. But not me, apparently.

Why?

Because my brain is like a busy magpie distracted by shiny things. My brain is busy like catching bunnies on a wild rabbit farm. Picture this: you have one acre of land and you surround it with a bunny-proof wire fence. Inside the fence are 10,000 rabbits. Some are happy rabbits. Some are lazy rabbits. Some rabbits are doing their best to outsmart coyotes. But all are rabbits hopping down the bunny trail or following a random thought down a rabbit hole. There is always movement. THEN, you grab five toddlers and you put them in with the rabbits and you tell all the toddlers to get a bunny. Get a bunny! Rabbits are hopping everywhere. Toddlers are running and tripping and squealing. It’s happy madness.

I know this about myself and this is why I have made concerted effort to create a space to write that works for me. The distractions are difficult to overcome otherwise and nothing gets done. I must corral the rabbits, and to do that I need to be consistent and have a regular place and time.

Here’s the thing. Each writer is unique, and each has different requirements to get the job done. I need a dedicated space. Period. In the future, I will take that need into consideration when traveling. Hopefully.

What about you? Do  you know if this is an issue for you? Do you have rabbits? Do you need a dedicated space to get your writing done? Do you need a dedicated writing time to get your writing done? Every day? Are you doing everything that you can possibly do to help yourself be successful at this chosen profession? Are you? Or are you waiting for the muse to show up with random gusts of creativity in between herds of pesky rabbits?

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Creating a Regular Writing Schedule and Other Stuff

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a regular blogging schedule and, quite honestly, I can’t even remember what my last topic was. Much has happened in the last few months I’ve been absent. My elderly folks got in a car accident (they are home now and doing much better) which derailed me for a few weeks, I got vertigo (which is so horrible it both sucks and blows and I am hoping it totally goes away any second now), my book came out (with minimal pomp and circumstance due to the vertigo etc.), and lots of work and time has been given for Colorado Gold (The annual writer’s conference for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). And I still run the publishing house which is a never-ending round-robin of submissions even with a couple interns and a solid cohort of editors. I’ve needed a nap on most days! But alas, napping is not my forte.

I’ve finally got myself back on a basic writing schedule. Because, you know, I want to write books and stuff. It’s not much of a schedule, about 30 minutes at 6am, but it’s a start and given physical and emotional dealings of late I’ll take what I can get. I’ve blocked out the time on my calendar and for the last many days have been working on a story idea, because even though my inclination is to just write, I know that I will save time and frustration and end up with a better book by going through the outline process, and the character development process (Oh! That’s what the last blog topic was!), doing all the research, figuring out the ending, the theme, the premise, and all the other steps of planning and outlining before I write a word. I wasn’t so thorough with the pre-planning on the last book, and I definitely learned my lesson.

So how do you create a regular writing schedule?

Everyone is different and will have a different process but this is how I do it.

  1. I create a comfortable writing space. I can’t work in clutter. It’s distracting and makes me tense. Consequently, my desk is clean. I have tasks to do (always) but for me, I can put those aside if they are organized. I know those tasks aren’t going anywhere and when I want or need to work on them I can. But for writing, I need a clean space to write. No little pieces of paper or sticky notes, or stacks of bills, or piles of editing. Just desk, mouse, keyboard, screen. And coffee or libation of choice. That’s a given for me. You probably are different. Do what you need to do to create a comfortable writing space. On the toilet? Sure. Whatever works for you. The main point is that I need to get my ass in a chair in order to write.
  2. I block out some time on the calendar. If I don’t block out writing time, it is the easiest thing in the world to push aside when something pressing barges its way into my schedule. Since I am much more creative in the morning than I am at other times of the day, I block out time before work. Right now, 30 minutes is what I can do if I want to get everything else done too without having to get up at 4am. I am getting up around 5:30am which is as early as I want to get up at the moment. But as it becomes more and more a habit again to write each morning, all the morning tasks will start to flow and the schedule may get adjusted. I’ve been in that place before where I am writing consistently and will get in that place again. It’s the creating the habit that is hard for me. I’d rather sleep in. Maybe you are a night owl and you are most creative at 2am. Fine. Have a glass of warm milk and write at 2am. The main point is to get your ass in a chair and write.
  3. I use Scrivener (and no I don’t get any kickbacks for referrals). It is inexpensive at $45 and is very good for outlining and organizing notes, and character bios, photos, research, and writing. It works similarly to Word. It’s sort of like a digital writing binder that is easy to organize and access information. It has some learning curve to it, but if you can stomach the Youtube videos it might help you out too with outlining and such. You can try it for free for a month or so if you want to. (https://www.literatureandlatte.com) If you prefer Word or Pages then use Word or Pages. Or OpenOffice. Or whatever. Just use whatever you use and write regularly.
  4. I work on whatever I feel like working on for that 30 minutes. If I need to develop a character I do that. If that triggers a plot idea, I sketch that in. As ideas come, I adjust the plot line. If I need to brainstorm an idea to see how that feels I do that. And I don’t stress about anything. I just work for 30 minutes on the story and all that goes with it, and then I am done for the day. My deadline is a 30-minute deadline. Maybe you are more comfortable with an hour. Or two (glutton). Or eight (censored). The point is to block out the time and use that time consistently for writing. Books don’t write themselves.
  5. By writing every day for 30 minutes I create a routine that becomes a habit. Over time I can extend my schedule, or word count or whatever I need to do, but right now I just need a routine that I can follow. Maybe this is the lazy writer’s way by writing in 30-minute blocks, but it works for me. When I get to actual writing I figure I can write at least 250 words in 30 minutes. 250 words is a page. If I do that every day for a year I will have a 365-page book. It’s wonky writer’s math but at the moment I’ll take what I can get. I write much faster than that if I know where I am going, hence the need for outlining.

Here’s the most important thing. The muse comes with consistency. When you are in the habit of writing on a regular schedule, your subconscious brain is always working on stuff because it has the expectation that it needs to work on stuff. The routine matters. If you just write when you feel like it you most likely won’t finish anything in a timely fashion. If you don’t feel like writing but you write anyway, you will write a book.

 

A Trick of the Light - Brooks, Susan