Writers write. If you dream of writing a book, you should have a writing routine, something called a writing practice in several famous books.
This is not an advertisement for The Artist’s Way or Writing Down the Bones, but I believe both Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg have proven their authority in this field. I’ve read both books and recommend them for beginning writers. Or writer’s who’ve lost touch with their why.
Cameron’s book is a twelve-week program to help you connect with your creative self. Goldberg’s book is a collection of essays to help you look at writing with fresh eyes. She also includes some writing prompts and insights from her writing journey.
What’s a writing practice?
Simply put, a writing practice is the habit of showing up to write in a certain way at a certain time and on a regular schedule.
For a few months, my writing practice looked like opening the word document, typing in the date and then writing whatever story struck my fancy.
I had a goal of writing one flash fiction story per day on Monday through Friday. I generally sat down between 10 and 11 AM and wrote. Most of the time, I finished my story in an hour or a bit less.
Were most of these stories amazing? No. But a few of them had good bones. A couple of them have been revised and submitted to markets. Two were entered into a contest (they didn’t win). Several more have been published on this blog.
The point isn’t about the publishing. I needed to get back in the swing of writing. I needed practice telling stories.
So I sat down and blurted out a different story every day. When my in-laws lived with us, the themes often centered around dealing with Alzheimer’s. Some days, I recalled fragments of dreams and I used those to get me going.
One month, I wrote down a bunch of interesting first lines. Each day, I picked the one that appealed to me and off I wrote.
The methods for a writing practice are endless. Try something. If it doesn’t keep you interested in showing up at the page during your designated writing time, switch it out for something else.
If you’re not sure what to write, you can find crazy news stories by simply typing that into the search bar of your search engine of choice. I wrote a fun story based on a true news story found this way.
A “how to” guide
Do you really need me to give you a step-by-step process?
How serious are you about writing a book? Jot down a number between one and ten on the nearest scrap of paper.
If you don’t have a number higher than six, you might want to step away from the computer.
I’ve been writing full-time for more than eight years. During that time, I’ve written a dozen novels, twenty novellas and too many short stories to count. Some days, the writing flowed like the water leak you don’t want. Other days the words were crystallized honey inside that cute plastic bear.
Writing a book is hard work. Yes, there will be some parts that come more easily. But taking a story from idea to publishable manuscript is a huge undertaking, and some of the steps required will make you want to scream, pull out your hair, or get a job at the coffee cart up the street.
I know. I’ve been there.
This is how you start a writing practice:
- Choose your mode: Are you writing by hand? Are you using your computer or another digital device?
- Grab your tools: A notebook and pen if you’re doing the writing by hand. I always have a stack of notebooks on hand, and recently I stockpiled a specific gel pen that floats over the page. A word processing program or a labeled Google document if you’re using a computer.
- Schedule your time: I recommend a fifteen-minute block to start. If you can keep writing when the timer goes off, do it. If not, pat yourself on the back because you showed up for your writing practice
- Find a writing space: Some people need silence. Others work best in the open air. And there are plenty of writers banging out stories at their local coffee shop. Start with your kitchen table if you must, but commit to a time and place for writing.
- Sit down and write already.
Just do it
This isn’t a slogan to build brand recognition. It’s good advice.
Maybe you’d rather hear it from Mark Twain.
In any case, if you like writing by hand, buy a notebook and writing utensil that inspire you to show up at the page. If you’re like most of us in this technological age, create a document with the name of the month and year.
Yes, you would call it “February 22” if you start today.
Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write. Write about anything. Write about everything. You can, in fact, write about nothing. I have a 500-word essay on the subject I could post as proof.
Look out your window and describe what you see. Transcribe a dream you recall.
As you can see, what you write isn’t nearly as important as the act of writing.
Begin. Write the words. Show up at the page every day (or according to a schedule you know you’ll keep).
Now you’ve done it. You’ve created a writing practice.
Tell me about your writing practice. How often do you write? What’s the last thing you wrote?