Writing as often as possible is a goal. However, I do not achieve this as much as I would like. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I’ve been socialising a lot. Sometimes I’m exhausted from content designing. Sometimes I’m reading.
But deadlines constitute concrete goals that I can structure my time around. At the moment my two forms of deadlines are:
I have so far only performed at one venue (once a month, so four times this year). Each of these occasions demanded plenty of prep work: rewriting, editing, rehearsing and meetings with my writing partner. In May and June I have a few other nights, at different venues, where I will be performing as well. So more prep work to do and concrete deadlines to work towards.
I have also started entering competitions. This takes time and dedication again, particularly as there are so many (though I am choosey, especially when time poor). Unfortunately I missed all the deadlines on 30 April and 1 May due to the reasons aforementioned (tired, socialising, content designing or reading). Still, competition entry is another new discipline, like performing, in 2019 that is lending impetus to my writing habits.
Deadlines are essential for me. I can be quite driven generally, but I still need those extra incentives to focus my writing practice. And both forms of incentives involve sharing work with new audiences, which is absolutely critical to the whole process.
When do we own a label such as “writer”? How much writing do we have to do to achieve this badge?
Identity shifts throughout our lives. Some people identify with the work they do, and some have other primary identifiers. After several years of practicing meditation and noting how much things change from moment to moment, I now find identity tricky. Still, the concept is powerful.
There is a massive discussion point here about identity politics and “where we are now” in the turbulent day to day. The topic is a salient one.
When you first meet a new person, “what do you do?” might be an early question. This is a complicated conversation universally, I think. What’s our default answer? For me, it has tended to be about what I do to earn a living: my day job. But we could all say so much more than that.
Focusing on the “day job” side of identity here, I think lots of categories/binaries are breaking down when it comes to work. People’s DIY careers are telling because they often merge many forms of activity: career, work, free time, passion and vocation, among others. It’s not simply professional versus personal.
So, when do we call ourselves writers? Each to their own, I think. Who we are is there for us to imagine and then create (only if we have that privilege: a fundamental qualifier).
I don’t have a straight-forward answer to the question, other than an “I think, therefore I am” approach. I’ve written loads now, so I would definitely call myself a writer. Authorship is a debate for a different entry, but I believe even that identity (like all identities) could be shape-shifting.
Over the years I’ve read about many different routines of great writers and discovered that almost all are strict and followed religiously. Usually the prolific writers start quite early in the morning.
Waking up early is a new thing for me over the past couple of years. I love the quiet of the early morning and drinking coffee in bed, even on weekdays. By the time I leave for my walk to the office, I’ve been up for at least two hours.
However, it is only recently that I have started writing in the early morning. Before this, I still had it in my head that I was not a morning person, so, even if I was awake, creativity wouldn’t work.
Actually, writing in the early morning is very productive, for me at least. The creativity does work. So far I’ve only written in the early morning at the weekend, but I’m considering instigating it on weekdays as well, especially as I feel quite tired in the evenings and go to bed relatively early, if I’m having an evening in.
I am currently feeling very passionate about poetry in the morning. I have recently done another recitation at the same literary night as before. I felt much more solid this time. Still a long way to go, but hopefully that is always the case, the growing and changing.
I have also returned to my short story compilation, to get myself back in the prose head space. For me, with this and other story projects, along with poetry, early morning writing seems to be the way forward for skillful outputs.
Second poetry performance. Photo credit: Lucy Tertia George.
The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers
Writing, like life, is not always easy or fun. Life, like writing, comes with multitudinous struggles that affect our ability to create. I don’t want this blog to be a litany of successes and goals, because that would not be the full picture.
These past two weeks have been mentally taxing for personal reasons, and I’ve really struggled to write much of anything. I’ve done a few poems, but that’s all. The short story compilation is sitting idly by, gathering e-dust in my hard drive. My writing partner gave me feedback ages ago that I have still not implemented.
But this is all normal and I am learning that in writing, and in life, I don’t have to be 100% everyday. That would be impossible. The perfectionist in me is very punishing at times and I keep having to tell them that they need to take a break from the relentless quest for achievement. We are getting slightly more self-compassionate, but it is an uphill battle.
This morning I have written a poem that I am quite pleased with so I will continue working on that. But in the meantime, I’m trying to remember that productivity comes and goes. We are not machines. Discipline is one thing, but firing on all cylinders all the time isn’t human.
I have some very good news to share since my last post. I have performed my first poem to an audience. This was a very big deal for me as I never thought I’d have the confidence to do such a thing.
I haven’t done any public speaking in years and the prospect, only just a few months ago, seemed incredibly daunting. I have read out creative work in writing groups, but those readings were part of critiquing sessions sitting around a table, rather than a performance.
The act of presenting a poem aloud seemed at once both timeless and contemporary. Since the origin of humanity, people have been sharing stories and experiences vocally in a group setting. These expressions lead to real connection and support within a community of people. We learn to walk in each other’s shoes. At the same moment, the world in 2019 specifically seems a place in which creativity of all sorts is flourishing, perhaps as an antidote to all that is dangerous politically.
Energised by the performance, I have found that a new door of creativity has opened up in my mind. I can write better poems and I can perform them aloud.
I definitely need to work on my presentation skills, however. I read my poem with my hands in my pockets so they wouldn’t shake, staring at the piece of cardboard I’d inscribed, which rested on a mantelpiece above a fireplace, with my back to half the audience. Not great.
But the goal was to get through it, and that I did. Now I’m ready to learn how to be better and am planning to perform more poetry in the future.
Photo credit: Lucy Tertia George, novelist.
Happy 2019 to all. I am very pleased it is the new year. 2018 was great, but December, as seems to be the case these days, was a bit of an anxious slog. I felt like I was stumbling toward the finish line by the end of it.
But I have just come back from an extremely refreshing and much-needed holiday in sunny Southern California, which is where I grew up. The last two weeks have contained delightfully happy times with family and friends that have set me up well for the new year.
Considering all of this, there has been a bit of a break in the creative writing process. However, I am determined to make 2019 another writing year and get back to my collection of short stories. I have written two so far and had feedback from my writing partner on both.
The dilemma now is this: do I redraft as I go, or write all of them and then redraft? They are all stand alone stories, but I’m leaning toward writing them all and then redrafting as there may be similarities in how I’m approaching the material in each of them. And it will be satisfying to have the full manuscript done, albeit as a first draft.
I’m not going to forge ahead with 500 words today as jetlag from yesterday’s flight is wreaking havoc on my concentration skills. But, from tomorrow, let the flurry of typing begin!
I am very pleased to announce that I am starting work on a book of short stories. The content remains a secret for now, but, after considering my creative/life trajectory, I’m convinced that it will be a very worthwhile project. I’ve set myself a goal of writing 500 words a day. I am quite goal-driven so this will probably mean a great deal of output.
I have already finished the first draft of the first story. 2500 words. It needs to be revised before I send it to my writing partner (as usual, very supportive and instrumental in the brainstorming of this idea).
It is a stimulating project because there is a huge amount of content to draw from. Knowing how to manage that, respect the material and create compelling narratives in each story will be the exciting challenge.
At the same time, I have just acquired the most delightful, adjustable Italian-made chair to sit in and write (pictured below). I had a gift voucher for John Lewis which covered the cost completely. It has transformed my beloved studio into a much more creative space. Since it arrived on Wednesday, I have spent hours sitting in it. As a fold-up outdoor chair it is stored easily in my corridor.
All is well with the creation of a potentially publishable book and my habitat. Lots of work to do, but the creative future looks promising.