With a certain loosening of restrictions we may have more external demands on our time, much as we had pre-pandemic. Remember the Before Times? Yes, there was a Before Time and there will be After Times. Or maybe, depending on your comfort level, you’re still hunkering down. No matter, if you’re so inclined, writing, be it a story, a journal, an article, anything you commit to words, may provide a viable outlet for your thoughts and feelings in these trying times.
No matter your reason for writing a few thoughts about process (more than craft) came to mind:
1. Write for You. Write for you, not for anyone else, Regardless of your purpose, be it to seek publication or not, write what moves you, what interests you, not because someone told you you ought to write [fill in the blank] about [fill in the blank]. Let your mind roam away from the mundane, the pressures of the day and find what moves you, what inspires joy, hope, inspiration in you. Let that other well-meaning person write that story about Mom or Grandpa or whoever in his/her free time. Your writing time is yours and yours alone. Without passion for what you write, without that internal spark, the product will be lifeless.
2. Get the Words Down First, Then Edit. Instruct yourself to get your first draft down without an imaginary editor on your shoulder demanding, judging, shaping. From your mind to the page without intrusion. Bad spelling, grammar, structure, revenge fantasies, abject anger, etc. Panic not! All is well, even if you just cast that cousin of yours in a light he/she might not appreciate. Like a good steak, writing benefits immensely from time to marinate. Write and then set it aside before you tinker with it again. Only with distance, can you decide what is true, good, entertaining, hilarious, and what needs to stay and what needs to end up in the trash. But, on draft one, be bold! No one is looking!
3. Find Your Tribe. You may be a loner—many writers are—but having writing/critique partners, like minded souls with whom to share ideas, will do no end of good in improving your work and in buoying your spirits when it seems everything you write “sucks.” The key is to find people with open minds and open hearts who only want the best for everyone in the group. No chronic naysayers just for the sake it allowed. Experience helps, but is not required. Loves of writing and books are prerequisites, however. Almost every community has a group of writers who meet to share ideas, perhaps not in the same place every week, perhaps from time to time in a coffee shop, or for dinner at someone’s home. Libraries and independent bookstore are often a great resource for information about writers groups, readings, and all thinks bookish.
4. The Writing Craft. Pick up a book (or many) about the craft of writing. And make no mistake, writing is a craft. much like painting, carpentry, or skiing. Because almost everyone in the United States has a chance to learn to write, it can feel as if writing is something we can all do. And it is, but writing a grocery list and writing a poem are very different beasts. If you love a good book, or a poem or song which moves you to tears, you might wonder how you too can assemble the words we all use very day into something so compelling, so moving. There are certain basics that are worth learning which will help you produce the best version of whatever it is you want to write. It is best to learn the rules of what is expected of good writing before you go breaking them. And, make no mistake, breaking rules is entirely what makes for unique writing—you can be guaranteed Hemingway knew he was breaking all the rules before he stripped his prose down to the bones. The shelves are stuffed with writing craft books, some more general, others more specific to genre, just poke around, read reviews by other writers, figure out what you want to focus on and then buy a couple of books. Then, if you’re hooked, take a class at a local college or online. The universe of writing and writers may seem that of literary giants, but it’s not. It’s your world, my world, just open the door and peek inside. If you like the view, curl up for a while with a good book, jots down a few words, and let it rip.
5. Disconnect. The news is full of stories about the distractions of our uber connected world. Writing requires focus and focus requires the minimization of distractions. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes before the family gets up or 30 after they go to bed, set aside the time for your focus on your writing. 20 minutes may seem like nothing, but it is not. 30 minutes is half of a whole hour. 1/48th of a day. 30 minutes then another then another soon adds up to real writing time and many words on a page. Lawyer and author, Scott Turow, wrote his first bestseller, Presumed Innocent, in 30 minute increments on the train on the way to work. You too can tune in, switch off the internet, and write.