Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Write Every Day--Even When You Can't

It's summer and the days are filled with distractions, heat waves, parties, holidays, vacations...yet we still have to "write every day," right?  But how?  How do we stay true to word count quotas, personal page goals, editorial deadlines--and still enjoy the season?

One way I've learned to solve the problem and take the pressure off is to at least do my best to "communicate with the manuscript" every day.  To me, the important thing is to stay in touch with my writing, especially on the days when I think I can't.  For instance, on my busy or "blah" days, I can still find 15-30 minutes or more to:
  • Doodle on book cover ideas.
  • Brainstorm a book "blurb."
  • Design new postcards or bookmarks.
  • Draw, paint, or collage my characters' homes, wardrobes, and story scenes.
  • Freewrite in a "no thinking allowed" manner to create back stories, memories, and dreams for my characters regardless of their usability in a final draft.
But those things can be accomplished anywhere, from sitting at my office desk to lounging in bed propped up against a stack of pillows.  The real challenge is to still "call home" when I'm miles away from my writing space.  Some solutions I've discovered include: 
  • Use waiting time for creative time.  Nerves can make it difficult to write while you're waiting for the doctor, dentist, or hairdresser, but that doesn't mean you have to sit in total boredom or frozen terror waiting for your appointment.  Reception lobbies and waiting rooms are full of magazines.  Pick one or two and ask someone at the desk if you can keep them--the answer for me has always been "yes."  Now instead of aimlessly waiting, you can start searching out pictures to illustrate your manuscript--a very active way to stay in touch with your story (and to stop worrying about your appointment).
  • The next time you're at a social gathering and feeling guilty for not working on your manuscript, try this:  ask the people you're with for some "what-if" suggestions.  Welcome as many ideas as everyone can think of, the more outrageous the better.  Write the ideas down on slips of paper and save them for your next writing session.  If they're really good and you use some of them, you can always thank your friends in print when your manuscript is published.
  • Rather than lugging a laptop computer or other device along with your luggage or picnic basket, go back to basics:  tuck a hard-backed journal or sketchbook into your bag along with your favorite pens.  Writing by hand is easy and of course quite wonderful for instant idea transcription.  It can also encourage you to explore some new perspectives and insights you may be losing if you depend solely on typing.
  • While you're traveling or sightseeing, imagine your trip through your characters' eyes.  What details are important to them?  Why?  What tourist site would they want to visit?  What foods would they order?  What places would they avoid?
  • Another travel idea is to purchase souvenirs or items that can somehow relate to your WIP.  Whether they are items your heroine would buy for sentimental reasons, or they're objects that can make your story setting more vivid once you return home, the point is to shop with your plot in mind.
  • Heat and humidity can make you sleepy--so take advantage of the lethargy and lie down.  But before you turn out the lights, make sure you have an open journal or some blank pages by your side together with a smooth-flowing pen.  As soon as you close your eyes, ask yourself a question relevant to your story and then drift off with the intention of having the answer when you wake up.  This works particularly well for those seemingly "unsolvable" story dilemmas that plague even the best outline.  And if by chance your dreams go off onto a tangent unrelated to your current WIP, see if there's a way you can incorporate them anyway.
  • Find a new time of day or night to write.  Rearrange your schedule to either get up earlier or go to bed later and use those times just for writing.  With any luck the hours you pick will be cooler, quieter, and the new times may also stimulate new ways of thinking and working.
Tip of the Day:  Rather than abandon your manuscript for the summer, consider these months to be some of the most creative times you'll have available all year.  The next time you think you're too busy or hot to write, try one or more of the suggestions listed above.  Personally I find writing in shorts, T's, and bare feet so comfortable I wish summer could last forever.


Anonymous said...

excellent suggestions. It's a gentle, creative way rather than guilting ourselves about it all.

Valerie Storey said...

Thank you so much for your comment. You're so right; creative pursuits should make us happy, not guilty. Great to hear from you!