So help me Aristotle, my good writing habits have deteriorated and I’m trying to get them back.
It is especially important to regain them with the upcoming additional time restraints that my new day job will place on me. I want – need – to continue to make advances to my craft no matter what.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: good used here refers to good for me only. Religion-for-fun-and-profit unfortunately encourages a shallow view of good or bad as if they were some commodity to be purchased at either Wal-mart or at the pulpit. But black and white is better saved for Crayola pictures rather than thinking. Other writers and would-be writers may have other equally good for them habits that are very different from my own yet very much help them thrive.
So what are the good for me writing habits I am trying to reestablish?
- Write (as close to) first thing in the morning
- Write for 2 or 3 or more hours a day
- Write at least a thousand words during that 2 or 3 or more hours.
Writing first thing is the core good. Not only does it set a better rhythm for my day, but it is when I am at my creative best. Doing so also keeps good intentions from staying in that useless form of unrealized good. First thing would be overreaching, as there are some morning things that have to be done, such as:
- Take my morning dose of medicine so my evening dose can be taken at a decent time
- Give Christopher his pouch of Whiskas Purrfectly Fish for which he screamed in my sleeping ear
- Check Christopher’s water and food bowls as well as scoop out his box
- Hunt down the outdoor food bowls carried off by a certain shy stray dog during the night
- Fill the reclaimed food bowls and replenish the water bowls, readying them for feline porch visitation
However, a goal of as close to gets me pretty darn close and close enough to gain benefit. The idea here isn’t just to make writing a priority, but rather to ensure other things are not becoming thus by sneaking unnecessarily into that as close.
Such things as a real quick check of e-mail, a real quick check of the newspaper, or a real quick check of Facebook. It is amazing how no matter how real quick anything on its own may be, a gaggle of them together add up real quickly to a substantial amount of not-writing time. I find it better to whack off as much of the whole lot as possible and save the real quick for when it doesn’t have to be.
The other two goals are external conditional, but still important.
It is very difficult for me to plug and play fifteen minutes here and there throughout the day. I need a lengthier more solid block of time where words can dance in my head and congeal into something halfway adequate. Time to go over that halfway adequate again to turn it into something halfway decent. Time to turn that half-way decent into something I am halfway happy about.
It isn’t always easy, or possible, to get two or three or more hours in before a scheduled event requires its wrapping up. But it is closer to possible when the first habit is firmly entrenched and becomes even more possible when you wake up at an hour most conducive to its fulfillment.
Likewise the arbitrary 1,000 words is not always possible. But I find it is more possible than not and I know I’m not pushing my creative side hard enough if I fail to achieve it. I also find that what I push out a little harder ends up being as good as, sometimes even better, than what came before it.
Today played out in that very fashion. I wrote a complete scene of 600+ words and wanted to jump for joy, having reclaimed my morning writing habit. But instead, I looked at the scene again, rereading sentence by sentence and asking not only if they deserved being there but if they deserved company as well, be it an additional word, sentence, or paragraph. All in all, I added another 500+ words to the scene, none of them frivolous and all of them adding significantly to the story I am trying to convey.
Another 500 words that would not have existed if I wouldn’t have pushed myself for a little more creative output.
Pushing oneself is important in whatever endeavor, whether marathon running, weight-lifting, or novel writing. I sometimes forget that and have allowed my writing habits to slacken for way too long. Oh, sure, there are other devilish function reasons for this besides the real quick time wasters I mentioned.
The current novel had become daunting, leaving me frequently feeling stupid, stuck, and incapable of my words matching my vision. The stupid and incapable are ongoing demons of mine that I battle day to day with varying degrees of success. I have yet to find the best way to handle them.
For getting unstuck, however, good writing habits maybe aren’t necessary for everyone but they sure as heck help me.
They keep me focused on raising one word out of the muck and placing it in front of the other one rather than letting it sink deeper. They keep me focused on completing the page rather than cursing the course. They keep me moving towards a goal instead of despairing at my current location.
And the real goal of course isn’t just completion of another novel. That is just a welcome side effect…
Of my human flourishing!