How to be a writer even when you can't write every day...
Writers are often told that in order to succeed, they must write every day-yet this isn't realistic or feasible for writers with families, day jobs, and other responsibilities that preclude a daily writing practice. Everyday Writing is about how to be a writer every day, even if you're unable to sit down to write every day. This book provides dozens of tips for busy writers, including how to create your ideal writing space, how to develop habits that work for you, and how to keep your projects moving forward even when you're short on time.
Everyday Writing also offers more than 150 prompts to fit into any writer's life, from five-minute prompts you can do in a grocery store line to lengthy prompts that are perfect for a writing retreat. Whether you'd like to generate new material, free yourself from writer's block, or start a revision, these writing exercises provide a way to engage immediately with your work.
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|Publisher:||Byte Level Research|
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About the Author
Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston's Grub Street Writers, Seattle's Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.
Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.
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Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life
By Midge Raymond
Ashland Creek PressCopyright © 2012Midge Raymond
All rights reserved.
Tips for creating a writing life
Whether you're just beginning or have been writing for years, it's always helpful to think about your life, your writing space, your routines—and to assess how well they're working for you.
If all is going well and you feel like a happy, productive writer, you're all set.
If not, take this opportunity to shake things up.
I'm always in the process of shaking things up. Thanks to a busy work schedule, I still don't have a set time of day to write, even when I'm in the middle of a project. In a way, this is a good thing: When I'm really into something, I never want to limit my writing to some predetermined amount of time. But when I'm in a more challenging phase—say, that horrible first-draft stage—I have to work harder to stay inspired.
So what I do to keep a project going is set goals rather than dates and times. This way, I can be flexible about when and where I write but still get the work done. Some days, I'm able to devote four hours to writing; other days, I'm lucky to write for half an hour. When I find myself blocked, I'll do writing prompts or even a little research, which may not result in words on the page but nevertheless keeps the project moving forward. If I find that I simply can't stare at the computer any longer, I'll take a notebook somewhere—and the change in perspective is almost always illuminating.
Here are a few tips for creating—and maintaining— your own writing life.
Outline your goals.
As someone who has to grab snippets of time where she can, I find it helpful to look at my goals in terms of long-term, short-term, and immediate. If, for example, you want to write a novel, that's definitely a long-term goal—so how will you break it up into manageable pieces? This is where short-term and immediate goals come in—and unless you've been doing this for a while and know your writing self well, you may have to experiment. So, for example, you might create a short-term goal of writing a chapter a month, and an immediate goal of writing 500 words a day, three days a week. Figure out what works best with your schedule, and take baby steps toward your larger goal. Always remain open to revising your schedule, which will allow you to keep going rather than get overwhelmed and give up.
Know that you can write anywhere.
I wrote my first published short story in a tiny corner of a railroad flat in New York City. When I moved to an even smaller apartment after that (which I didn't think was possible), I wrote at university libraries. Recently I've been writing in a sun-drenched studio with a marvelous view. And you know what? The space doesn't matter one bit; the struggles are the same, and the work either gets done or it doesn't. All you need to do is find a corner of the world to call your writing space. Even if you don't have enough room at home (and you'd be surprised by how little you need), you can find it somewhere.
As a fiction writer with a journalism background, I've always thought of myself as a keen observer. (Don't we all?) Then one evening my illusion was shattered. I was sitting with several people in a park near a duck pond. We were all watching the ducks, as well as the two little kids standing near the edge— then we looked up to see three young men passing by. The men were walking off the designated path, which is probably what got our attention—and moments later, my husband said, "I wonder what he was doing with that gun?"
And I said, "What gun?"
My husband, who will insist we're out of peanut butter while staring into a pantry with three jars of it right in front of him, was very pleased to have caught something I'd missed (this rarely happens). And for once, his eyes weren't deceiving him; someone else had seen exactly what he had: One of the young men who'd passed by was carrying a large handgun on a holster, right out in the open.
And all I remembered was that one of the guys wore a green T-shirt.
Realizing I'm not nearly as observant as I think I am was a huge wake-up call, and it has inspired me to keep my eyes and ears open just a bit more than I think I need to. I still probably miss quite a lot, though I hope not nearly as much as I missed that day in the park. Always remind yourself that some of the best material—whether for a new story idea or a finely wrought description—comes to us when we're paying attention.
Make your writing space a special one.
Wherever your writing space is, make it a place you want to be—and one you want to keep returning to. If you're writing in the tiniest corner of your kitchen table, for example, you might surround yourself with books to block the view of the blender. If you're in a cubby at the library, bring headphones to tune out noise, or leave the laptop at home and write by hand, which can be very freeing. Do what you can in order to view your writing time as a treat rather than a chore.
Set your own rules and ask others to respect them.
I still remember the first time I phoned my friend Judy Reeves and got her voice mail, which told me, "If you're calling before 1:00 p.m., this is my writing time. I'll get back to you after 1:00." This was a revelation to me at the time, and I've since done my best to follow her wonderful example. Ask the people in your life to take your writing time as seriously as you do. Remember that you don't have to be published to be a legitimate writer; you don't have to explain or prove yourself in any way. Just ask that your writing time is respected, and be firm about it.
Whether you've set aside time in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the night, eventually you're likely to be struck with some form of writer's block. You can use this time to get some extra sleep (the subconscious can do wonders), or simply to do something else that's related, even tangentially, to your work. Research. Read. Watch a film set in the era in which your novel takes place. Listen to the type of music your character listens to. Even these little things can help create a mood that will inspire you and help get you back into the work (see the section How to write when you're not really writing for more on this).
Be ready to take the long view toward your work. While we'd all love to have our writing flow smoothly into perfectly polished drafts—not to mention to have a project snapped up by the first editor who reads it—this rarely happens. The process of producing good writing is laborious (and sometimes tedious), and there are no shortcuts. Embrace the fact that you're not likely to churn out a perfect story or poem on the first try—and you'll enjoy it that much more simply by not fighting it. This doesn't mean giving yourself permission to procrastinate or to leave work unfinished; it simply means respecting the process. Same goes for publication, which also takes time; see below.
From Margaret Mitchell (whose best-selling, Pulitzer Prize—winning Gone with the Wind was rejected by more than three dozen publishers) to J. K. Rowling (who went through a year of submissions and a dozen rejections before Harry Potter eventually made her the world's first billionaire writer), published authors know that success doesn't come easily or quickly. If you're trying to get a short story published, you'll discover that the top-tier literary magazines pu
Excerpted from Everyday Writing by Midge Raymond. Copyright © 2012 by Midge Raymond. Excerpted by permission of Ashland Creek Press.
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Table of Contents
When life gets in the way of your writing.................... 1
What is everyday writing?.................... 3
How to be an everyday writer (without writing every day).................. 5
Part 1: Becoming an everyday writer.................... 9
Tips for creating a writing life.................... 11
Clear writing space = clear mind.................... 19
My name is [insert name], and I'm a [insert social network]-aholic........ 21
How to write when you're not really writing.................... 26
It's okay to be nosy (sometimes).................... 31
How to meet your writing goals.................... 37
Accepting rejection.................... 41
It's not you, it's me (how and when to revise).................... 44
Create your own writing retreat.................... 51
Part 2: Writing exercises.................... 57
Five-minute prompts.................... 59
Five-minute situational prompts.................... 70
Fifteen-minute prompts.................... 75
Fifteen-minute situational prompts.................... 82
Evening writing prompts.................... 95
Evening situational prompts.................... 102
Vacation-day writing prompts.................... 105
Vacation-day situational prompts.................... 112
Weekend writing prompts.................... 115
Weekend situational prompts.................... 119
Retreat writing prompts.................... 122
Retreat situational prompts.................... 131
Appendix: A few good resources.................... 135
About the author.................... 139