Many writers have a difficult time to get to their desks on a consistent basis. Part of the problem is creating a habit of writing every day, despite all of our distractions and difficulties. Life is never problem- free it seems, and there is always something ready to catapult our writing time, if we let it.
In addition to your scheduled writing sessions, use odd bits of “down” time to write:
- Your daily bus commute
- Doctor appointments
- Unexpected doctor visits
- The half hour the cake needs to cool before you can ice it
- Waiting for anything–a flight departure, the cable guy, your date to show up.
Always make sure you have something to write on (and with!), even if it means keeping a pen and small notebook in your fanny pack while jogging, or with your towel at the beach. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually accomplish in these short, otherwise unproductive periods.
A Place of Your Own
As important, perhaps, as a time to write is a place that you can lay claim to as your writing space–a place where you won’t be interrupted, where ideally you can leave your work out when you’re finished for the day. In addition to the space needed for your computer and printer, you should have plenty of desktop space to spread out your notes or any other materials you’re working with.
A bulletin board where you can pin-up inspirational quotes, pictures of settings or characters, deadlines, etc. is a great addition to your writing space. Make sure you have adequate lighting, a sturdy, comfortable chair and a handy shelf for your writing reference books. Whatever it takes, create a place that means writing to you–and to those around you–the minute you occupy it: your special place, your writing place.
The point is to make the most of whatever time and space you have. Writers work on subways, buses and commuter trains. Any place is a good place to write if you just recognize its possibilities. A quiet place is ideal, but–as anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows–it is possible to turn out good writing in the middle of utter chaos.
No matter what you accomplish in a writing session, you’ll frequently find yourself having to pick up in the middle of something left unfinished from a previous session, and you may be worried about maintaining your momentum, or picking up the thread of your thoughts. Here are some ideas that have worked for other writers:
Ernest Hemingway used to find it helpful to intentionally stop in the middle of a well-thought-out scene; he liked to stop writing before the juice was up. When he was eager to go on to the next word–when he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it–that’s when he’d quit, often right in the middle of a sentence. With this system, Hemingway seldom had trouble getting started the following day. He knew the rest of the sentence he’d left hanging; he knew where he wanted the story to go next. He would simply begin the new writing session by finishing what he’d deliberately left unfinished the session before.
Hemingway’s system may work for you, too, but it requires discipline. It can be difficult to stop writing when the words are flowing. If you find this is a problem for you, you may want to try something else. Some writers, for example, warm up by simply retyping the last page from their previous session. Other writers will read their last page, delete it, and then rewrite the page as closely as they can from memory. Either practice can help you regain the momentum from your earlier work and give you a running start.
Whether you use any of these methods or concoct one of your own, the important thing is getting back to your writing project–whatever stage it is in–and continuing with it, making one step forward after another, and getting more and more words on the page.
Irene S. Roth