Where do you write?

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Where do you write?

Behind closed doors? In a den? In a comfy chair? At the kitchen table? At a noisy coffee shop?

Where do you write?

I have a desk. I don’t use it. For me, it all comes down to the chair and my desk chair doesn’t do it for me.  Also, if I sit at my desk, I’m staring at the wall. That’s no good.  If I sit on the couch, I have a view of the street. I’ve learned that looking out the window is an important part of my writing atmosphere.

Where do you write?

The right writing atmosphere is important.  This has nothing to do with being “inspired” to write.  If you’re uncomfortable, too hot, feeling closed in, the room is too quiet or too noisy, these annoyances become easy excuses to walk away from the page. Rid your surroundings of annoyances to fully focus on your writing.

And don’t write in a place because you’re supposed to. You don’t have to write in silence in a stuffy den, unless you thrive on that kind of atmosphere. It won’t make you less of a writer to sit in the garage to work. The best place to write, is the one that gets words on the page for you.

Where do you write?

 

 

 

Do you need a writing time out?

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Do you need a break from your writing?

That is a valid question. It doesn’t mean you’re failing at writing. It doesn’t mean you’re burned out. Everybody needs a break from time to time. In fact it’s essential that you take a break from writing.

I feel one of the things that has allowed me to write continually for so many years is taking breaks. Sometimes I throw a draft in a drawer for not a day or two – it’s more like a couple of weeks. I don’t feel guilty and I don’t open that drawer till I’m ready.

That time away allows me to return to my script with a new perspective and fresh eyes. Problems don’t seem as monumental as they did before. The flow of ideas feels less stodgy.

Most times, taking a break doesn’t mean I stop writing altogether – but there’s no pressure. I’ll scribble a couple of notes. I’ll write down an observation. I want to keep up my habit of consistent writing but in a relaxed fashion. It’s all writing. There are no rules or quotas to fill.

Alternatively, I might work my creative muscles in a different way. I’ll go to a play, go to a gallery. I’ll go for a walk and really focus on observing the world around me. This is part of your process. Being out in the world will make you a better writer.

Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed if you’re so stuck with a work you have to walk away. Take a break. Take yourself on an artist’s date. Your brain will thank you and so will your writing.

 

Careful or Careless?

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Am I receiving care-filled or careless feedback?

This is the most important question to ask yourself during the feedback process. Tough feedback should not be avoided if it’s filled with care. It’s when your respondent is being thoughtlessly “tough” that you have to take a step back. Your work is more important than any careless comment.

Essential Feedback Questions

How do you prepare to receive the best possible feedback?

You never want to give your new play, your baby, to someone for feedback without knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Before you hand your work off to someone for feedback, prepare the following questions:

  1. Why did you write this play?
  2. Why are you asking for feedback?
  3. What is the one thing you want to know about your script?
  4. What problems are you having with your script?
  5. What do you want an audience to feel about the main character?
  6. What do you want the audience to remember when they leave?

Answer these questions and you’ll be in good shape to form clear boundaries for your respondent and get tangible, practical, feedback.

Thirty Automatic Writing Prompts

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My favourite warm up is to Automatic Write. I’ve mentioned automatic writing before – it’s an exercise where you give yourself a topic and a time limit and your job is to keep the pen moving or keep the fingers going on the keyboard for the entire time. If you go off topic, you write about that. If you get stuck, write about that. This is an act over content exercise – it is the act of writing that accomplishes the exercise.

It’s a great exercise to use at the beginning of a writing session. Instead of diving into the deep end with your draft, ease into the water. Start with an act of writing exercise to get your brain into writing mode.

Here are Thirty automatic writing prompts:

  • What makes you happy? Mad? Sad?
  • What did you do last night?
  • My ideal day is…
  • Is tv bad for you? Why or why not?
  • Friendship
  • Fast Food
  • Jealousy
  • Fear
  • Dating
  • Smoking
  • Strangers
  • Confidence
  • The Truth
  • Music makes me feel…
  • My definition of success is…
  • If I could change one thing…
  • My grandmother is someone who…
  • I believe the holidays are…
  • I feel lost when…
  • If I ran the world…
  • Peer Pressure
  • My ideal Job
  • It really hurts me when…
  • It scares me when…
  • The best super power is….
  • Fairness
  • War/Peace
  • My biggest pet peeve is…
  • Ghosts
  • Heaven/Hell

This is not writing to change the world. This is writing to get words on the page and prepares your brain to write.

 

No one has ever pulled a writing hamstring

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Or have they….?

I often liken athlete warm ups to writer warm ups. Because a lot of writers like to dive into the deep end of the pool without any preparation. And when they get that inevitable cramp, they get writers block, they attribute it to the fact that obviously they can’t write.

When the truth is, maybe they just needed to warm up.

The successful athlete never just performs. They have to warm up in order to perform at their best. There is no 100 meter runner who jumps out of bed and is ready to win their race.

The same is true of the writer.

Many writers just assume their writing difficulties are due to a lack of talent or dedication. But honestly, we have a lot going on in our brains these days. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s no wonder people get writers block when constant information is demanding so much brain space.

The brain turns like the Titanic, it takes a lot of time to get that beast to realize it’s time to write. You have to prepare the brain. Once you get your brain on the same page, when it is ready to write, then you’re golden.

So before you start to write with purpose, do a couple of warm ups. You don’t want to pull a brain muscle do you?

Writing makes me…

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Finish that sentence in the subject line.

Writing makes me……

What does writing do for you? Does it make you happy? Does it frustrate you? Does it make you realize something?

Define what writing does for you. Because maybe that’s where your inspiration lies. In the traditional sense, to be inspired is get that jump start, that battery boost, to run to the page and keep going.

If you can find inspiration in your work, instead of an external force, then that inspiration will never run dry. If you need to be inspired to write and you can find it in yourself – now that’s a win-win situation.

Here’s how I finish the sentence.

Writing makes me realize I do have something to say and a way to say it.

I get really tongue tied when I speak. And I’m painfully shy when it comes to small talk conversations. But when I write all that is gone because I can craft my words to an exact meaning. That feels pretty good. And it makes me want to keep writing.

What does writing do for you?

Stop waiting for inspiration

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Let’s talk inspiration. Every once in awhile I’ll have that magic moment where the clouds open and the angels sing and a voice from somewhere beyond bestows upon me the best idea ever for a play.

That doesn’t happen very often.

More often than not I’m stumping to my laptop, grumbling as I turn it on and banging the keys as hard as I can. But I do it. And I keep doing it. And after awhile I’m glad I made the choice to stump and grumble and bang. I’m always glad.

Because if I waited around for the inspiration fairy to sprinkle me with dust I would be waiting forever.

Do you believe in inspiration? Is it important to your process?

Exercise

If you like waiting for inspiration and those visits are far and few between, get proactive. Create an inspiration file where you collect anything that gives you inspiration. Pictures, headlines, articles, lyrics, poems, scraps of paper you’ve written overheard lines on. Gather everything in one place.

This can be an actual physical object (an accordian file or scrap book) or something digital like Evernote. You could just collect pictures on your phone with Instagram. Whatever works for you. If you need to be inspired to write, start gathering inspiration so that you never have to wait to write again.

Another thing you can use for inspiration is yourself. But instead of write what you know, hone in on your point of view, your opinion, your take on issues, ideas and topics. Use these sentence starters to get the ball rolling:

  • I firmly believe that….
  • I wish that I would….
  • I never have….
  • I always…
  • The thing that makes me the most angry is…
  • The thing that makes me the most sad is….
  • The thing that makes me the happiest is…
  • My opinion on the environment is…
  • My opinion on religion is….
  • My opinion on politics is…
  • My opinion on education is…

If you can articulate your opinion, you can form the opinions for your characters. Take a character who belives as you do, create a character with an opposing view, lock the two in a room and you’ve got a play.

 

Writers don’t need rubber gloves

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Spring Cleaning

You don’t have to strap on a pair of rubber gloves or pick up a duster to do some Writer Spring Cleaning. Consider this while you wait for the thaw.

Organize your desk

If you have a specific work area, clean it up. Get rid of those piles sitting on your desk, put any books back on the shelf. Your area doesn’t have to be pristine but it has to be effective. And if you have a “virtual” desk, read on.

Archive your work

Do you keep scraps of old drafts around, or is your hard drive littered with multiple copies? Archive anything you’re not actively working on. Use a program like Evernote if you want to keep files on your computer. If you haven’t looked at a particular play for six months to a year, it’s time to make some decisions. Don’t leave it on your desktop, deal with it. Maybe it needs to go away for good.

Go through your Inbox

Are there emails in your inbox that have been sitting there for over a month? Deal with them. Either write that email or the time has past and delete it. Make it a project to not let your inbox fill up so that you don’t have to make those decisions. For me, when my inbox any more than 10 emails I schedule time to go through them.

Reflect on your Writing Goals

Did you make any writing resolutions at the beginning of the year? Reflect on where you are. If you’re moving forward, revise your goals. Has anything changed? Are you happy with your path? If you’re stuck reflect on why that is. What stops you? What action can you take to get un-stuck?