Tuesday, November 7, 2023

T is for Tricks of the Trade

Okay, I haven't done any of those things, but that "can't get started" feeling?

Welcome to my writing life. 

I know I'm not alone. When I share this feeling with other writers, they nod knowingly, and then we spend ten minutes discussing whether it's a matter of finding time or making time which, as we both know, is just procrastination disguised as semantics.

For part time writers (i.e. writers who have a day job), winning at the writing game can feel a bit like entertaining a toddler. We need to be quick on our feet, prepared to pivot at a moment's notice, and limit our amount of exposure to shiny objects and other distractions. (This might also be true for full-time writers but, having never been one, I don't feel qualified to assume as much).

Finding the right tools can help a lot. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • A supply of just-right writing tools and writing surfaces. Some days, clicking on a keyboard just doesn't do the trick. We need to pick up our favorite pen, freshly sharpened pencil (complete with that telltale pencil-shaving aroma), or white-board marker and put writing implement to writing surface. Some days we need lines, other days, endless white space, but the tool must feel right in our hands and on the page because flow is key.
  • Writing apps. This is actually a new tool in my arsenal. Last year, another writer recommended the Dabble app. While there's something about logging into a site that is only for writing that helps me to focus, what pulled me in first was the ability to organize all my files for all my projects in one place. Recently, Dabble added a new timer feature with a built-in word count. After the timer goes off, it asks if you want to beat your word count. (Of course I do!)
  • Flexibility. Some days, Plan A works, other days, Plan B works and, from time to time, none of the plans work. I've used writing sprints (alone in my writing space), timed sprints on Zoom or online with other writers, writing in small chunks of time, writing in long blocks of time, writing retreats, brainstorming sessions that prize creativity over productivity, and probably a few other back-door approaches I've forgotten. I admire those for whom one plan does the trick, but I've discovered I'm not one of those people. Three decades of writing have taught me that I do better with many tools in my writing tool belt. (Currently, I'm back on the "small chunks of time" bandwagon).
  • A healthy dose of reality. Taking writing seriously means finding/making time for it, but it also means acknowledging that days have only 24 hours and that priorities besides may fill up the prime time slots in those 24 hours where productivity aligns with creativity. Using my creative brain for other tasks (organizing, decorating, work) might drain my creative energy, or it might refuel it, depending on the projects, the time of day, and how much sleep I got the night before.
In the end, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I have to get creative when it comes to finding time for creativity. Nor should it surprise me that, some days, that's one hoop too many to jump through.

Luckily, tomorrow is another day, likely with another plan.

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