Want to write? Invest in yourself.

I meet so many people who say they want to write a book, or at the very least, have a regular writing practice. Yet, they struggle to make it happen. Creating, developing, and maintaining a writing practice take intention and attention. Making a few tweaks to your thinking might make all the difference.

Think of it as an investment in yourself.

In my workshops and classes and when working with clients, I always say that honoring our impulse to write and create is an act of self-love.

I believe that impulse to create is our life force wanting to move and flow, and when we stifle it, we experience dis-ease on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.

So, how do you invest in yourself?

Privilege your writing practice in your mind.

Make it as important to your day as all the responsibilities you make time for on a regular basis. Instead of thinking I’ll get to my writing after I’ve taken care of X, Y, and Z, think I’m going to write XX days each week (for XX hours or XX pages).

Give it space in your day, on your calendar, and in your home.

Mark it on your calendar and treat it with the same respect you would a doctor’s appointment for yourself, for one of your kids, or for your pet. Or for a meeting at work. You’d remember it, you’d plan the rest of your day around it, and you’d show up for it.

If you aren’t able to designate a spot in your home as your private, personal writing space where no one else is allowed, find a time when the people you live with are out of the house or asleep. If you really want to write, you can give up an hour or two of TV or social media a few days each week.

Get a new writer’s notebook.

Think of this notebook as a place for you to jot down your ideas and thoughts—about your writing—that drift in and out of your brain as you go about your day, as you’re drifting off to sleep, or when you first wake up in the morning. If you’re a journaler, you can keep doing that, but in a separate notebook. A writer’s notebook and a journal are two different things.

Tell people.

Let people who are close to you know that you’ve made a decision to privilege your writing. Tell them what you need from them to make it happen. Time? Space? Quiet? Respect?

Read.

As Annie Proulx has said, “Reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” Read books in the same vein as the one you want to write. Read books that are different from the one you want to write. Read short fiction. Read non-fiction. Read novels. Read poetry. There’s something to learn from them all.

View yourself as a writer.

Instead of seeing yourself as a parent or an employee at a company or organization who wants to write, see yourself as a writer who happens to also be a parent and/or work another job. And if you’ve yet to be published, it doesn’t make you less legit than people who have been published. If it helps, use a mantra. Say I am a writer over and over in your thoughts throughout the day. Or writing is not a luxury. Or writing is an act of self-love. You’ll start to believe it.

So much of the act of writing—the act of getting the words on the page—is all in the mind. When we can think about writing differently, we can show up for it and give the creative impulse inside us the respect it deserves.

What can you do to move your writing practice further up your list of “Important Things To Do”?

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday

Here’s your Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday opening sentence.


_____________ petted the tattered piece of velvet, the only reminder of that day, and memories saturated her/his thoughts like a misty bog fog.


The “Rules”

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Finish the story in 1,000 words.
  • Post your story in the comments section below by the next Friday for everyone to enjoy. Be proud of your work!

We’ll review all submissions near the end of the year and will select winners to be published in the first Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction ebook*.

Sending you mad writing mojo….

Johnnie
XXXX


**Winners will be based on adherence to length; originality; and a clear beginning, middle, and end. Plot not necessary – can explore a memory, a thought, or an emotion. Twists and surprise endings are a plus.

Space and Ritual: How to Establish and Maintain a Consistent and Productive Writing Practice

In my last two posts, I wrote about how essential it is to plan, schedule, adopt the right mindset, and commit if we’re going to have a consistent and productive writing practice. While all these steps are necessary, if we aren’t deliberate about our environment—the space in which we get down to the work of putting words on the page—all that preparation may fall flat.

This isn’t to say we can’t write if our environment isn’t perfect. I’ve definitely written under less-than-optimal circumstances at times in my life, and many of us can pull that off and write in a crunch when we need to. The reality, though, is that we can’t count on being able to plop down wherever, whenever, and always expect the words to flow. Writing is hard enough as it is, so why not do what we can to create a space that provides us with surroundings that encourage flow rather than create obstacles and blocks?

For many reasons, many of us aren’t in our ideal writing spaces (I know I’m not), but there are ways we can make our current space and situation work to our advantage.

Here’s my dream: a small and stylish mid-century modern home in the mountains, probably on a lake, with his and hers studios and the sound of moving water just outside.

Here’s my reality: a small, modern studio apartment in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Here’s how I make it work: The cubby that’s supposed to be the dining area of my apartment is my work space (pictured above). I’m surrounded by books and everything I need to get words on the page. I also have a small fountain I run most of the day to provide the sound of water I need to feel content and in flow (and to create white noise to somewhat drown out the sounds of garbage trucks and construction outside). I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of downtown that provides me with a beautiful courtyard full of well-kept trees and plants all year long, so I can take a break and look out my window anytime.

I’ve also taken note of what Feng shui experts say about achieving flow in our work spaces. I’ve positioned my desk so I face out into my apartment while I work rather than face a wall. The effects of placing a desk against a wall can literally cause us to “be up against a wall” with our creativity. Feng shui experts also claim that the ancient part of our brain that’s still on alert to being chased by big animals that want to eat us will cause us to be constantly—even if subconsciously—distracted by what might be lurking behind us. Having a wall behind us creates a feeling of safety. And if we don’t feel safe, how can creativity happen? (A hack to this if you absolutely need to face a wall is to put a mirror on your desk so you can see behind you.)

If you want to create a new writing practice or if the one you have could use some freshening up, here are three steps you can take to bring newfound life to your writing space and practice.

  • The first step is to designate a physical space for writing. It might be a room in your house, it might be your kitchen table or countertop, it might be your living room coffee table, or it might be some other space you consciously deem as the area where your writing magic happens. This space, when used at the times you’ve scheduled as your writing time is yours and yours alone. Use it when no one else is home (if you live with other people), or if you’re fortunate to have a room of your own, be clear about and enforce boundaries.I’ve had a wide variety of writing spaces throughout my life, many of which have been dictated by money, where I lived, and the people I lived with. (More about this in my next post…)
  • The next step is to fill your space with items and objects that make you feel grounded and centered so you can comfortably settle into your body and allow the flow to happen (because our creativity flows through our bodies). This might be books, notebooks, your favorite writing utensils, plants, your favorite drink, snacks… whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable and ready to put all else on hold while you write. If you’re in a living situation that requires you to use a common space (like the kitchen table), find a few items you can place on the table and easily remove each time you start and end a writing/work session.I need plenty of light when I write, so in addition to the overhead light in my writing space, I have a small directional light. I always have drink with me when I write, too. Sometimes it’s coffee, sometimes it’s tea, sometimes it’s sparkling water… depending on the time of day, the weather, and my mood. I’m surrounded by books and sufficient flat surfaces so I can spread out when I need to, and all my notebooks, legal pads, and writing utensils are within easy reach.
  • The last (and maybe most important) step is to create a ritual around your writing. This can be elaborate, or it can be simple. Over time, the ritual will signal your brain that it’s time to settle in and get to work, and the more often you do it, the less time it will ultimately take to get your head in writer mode.My ritual looks like this: First, I turn on the overhead light and the small directional light to my left. Next, I plug in my laptop and phone so they won’t run out of juice while I’m working, and I turn my phone upside down on a shelf next to me so I won’t be distracted by texts that might pop up. (I always have the sound off, too, even when I’m not writing.) Then, I place my cup of coffee (or whatever I’m drinking) on the same cork coaster in the same location every time, and I turn on the water fountain on the low bookcase to my right. Lastly, I consult my list of writing projects—what I want to accomplish for the day—which I created the evening before. And I get to work.

    We’re creatures of habit, so if you’re struggling to establish a consistent and productive writing practice, trust that if you create the space (both spatial and temporal) and the ritual around your writing, you stand a far better chance of your creativity flowing.

    What do your writing space and practice look like?

    Please share a photo (if you’re comfortable doing that) and comment below.
    I’d love to know.

    Sending you mad writing mojo…

    Happy writing,

    Johnnie
    XXXX