It’s a question that plagues many beginning writers. “When should I write?” Unfortunately there is no one way to answer, just as there is no one way to write. But you can examine your process so that your time with the page is most effective.
Assess your Day
To move writing forward, you need time to write. What if you feel you have no time? Write out every activity you have to do in a day. Do you have to get your family ready for school?Do you have a full class schedule yourself? What are your daily tasks? How long is your daily commute? How long do you sleep? How long do you eat? Don’t forget your time wasters either how long do you spend on Facebook, TMZ, the Drudge Report? How long do you watch TV at night? Your job is to find free time. What activity can you replace with writing?
Finding free time often means a sacrifice No TV and no Facebook. How does that make you feel? Excited or irritated? If it’s a chore to find writing time or it makes you resentful, perhaps you don’t want to write.
Change = Time
There is time to write in every day. It isn’t pretty but it is doable. You have to change the status quo. Get up half an hour earlier. Go to bed half an hour later. Write during your lunch hour. Change your method of transportation – can you take the bus to work instead of drive? Change your tools – if you can’t find time to sit down and write, get a recording ap for your phone and talk into it every spare second. You can easily find someone to transcribe your work on sites like odesk.com.
It takes practice to write on the fly. Don’t give up after a couple of sessions, try it for at least a month. It’s not as idyllic as spending a leisurely afternoon with pen and paper, but it gets words on the page.
Your day is done and you haven’t written a word. That needs to be addressed. If writing in your spare moments doesn’t work, schedule it. Put writing time on your calendar. Think of writing like a doctor’s appointment or yoga class or Jimmy’s hockey practice. You wouldn’t bail on these activities because they’re important. Make writing just as important.
You may need to train your family to value writing time as much as going to the doctor. Again, don’t give up after one session. It takes time to set a pattern.
What if I get writer’s block during my scheduled time? Once you set up your writing time, keep that appointment. If your brain doesn’t want to write, use the time to improve your skills; warm ups, read something that inspires you, write in a journal.
Do Your Thing
Never choose a time to write because another writer crows about their productivity at X o’clock.
“I write from nine to five! I write at one in the morning!”
First of all, you don’t know if they’re telling the truth, maybe they’re just showing off. Secondly, writing is an individual task. The best time to write will always depend on the individual writer. If everyone talks about how great it is to get up earlier to write and you’re not an early riser, don’t do it. Find another time in your day. There is no formula to follow to writing success.
Do whatever it takes to finish your work.
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Playwriting, the act of being a playwright comes with a lot of misconceptions.
- Playwriting is something special.
- It can only be done by a certain type of artist.
- It can only be done by creative people who wear a lot of scarves.
And when these creative people decide to write a play, ideas burst out of their head like a
magical pony, and land on the page ready to be turned into a play.
Ideas are not magical ponies.
Ideas are not fully formed nuggets of perfect creativity. This is what stops many beginning
writers in their tracks. “If I don’t have a perfect idea, why both writing at all? I should wait til
something perfect comes along.” You could wait forever.
Writers don’t wait to write. They write when they don’t feel creative. They write when the
ideas are less than perfect. They write when the writing is ugly and horrible and clunky.
They write when they don’t want to. Writers get words on the page. Ugly horrible writing
is always better than no writing at all.
Reframe the definition of that word: idea.
An idea is not a finished product. Ideas are not novels, or scripts, or songs, or
screenplays. An idea is not the end. It is only the beginning. It is A on the way to Z not A on
the way to B.
Ideas are just the beginning. Think of them as the first step toward a draft. If all you have
to do is take one step to create an idea, it’s easier to start writing. It’s easier to take one
step than worry about running up an entire staircase.
Think of an idea as a sentence, or a fragment, a thought, a headline, a question. All of
these are ideas because they start the writing process.
And that is all the writer should care about. The strategies that get words on the page. The
strategies that allow you to start writing now.
Take the first step.
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- Clarify character action: Why does Jimmy burn the letter?
- Clarify story development: Why does the car accident happen before the story begins?
- Clarify your intentions: Why am I writing this play?
You have an idea. You start writing. Things are going great. You’re filling up page after page and then something happens. You get stuck. A problem that you can’t solve. A character who comes across as flat and you don’t know how to fix them. A plot hole appears out of nowhere and you can’t fill it. The writing slows. The initial will is fading. One day nothing comes. The well is dry. You’re struggling in quicksand and you don’t know how to get out. Soon it becomes easier not to write at all. Before you know it, two weeks have gone by. And then two more. And then it’s been a month and your draft is unfinished in a drawer.
You may have expected the first draft to be a magical experience. You expected that momentum would carry you through from the first word to the last. Sometimes that does happen, but more often than not momentum is short lived. You’re going to have to work to finish that draft.
I call the first draft The DO Draft. That means, you just have to do it. You leave plot holes where they lie, you let characters be one dimensional, you write in point point when you have to. You do anything to get to the end. Getting to the end is important.
Because the first draft, is just that. The first. There are many more to come. It doesn’t matter if the writing is ugly or messy or imperfect. Love that messy imperfect writing. Because it’s better than no writing at all. Once the words are on the page you have something to work with. Once you have a finished draft, you can move forward. The writing process must move forward in order to succeed.
So get it done. Do it.
We all write every day. It’s impossible to avoid: there are emails, tests, project proposals, letters, reports. Pen to paper, keyboard to computer – every individual knows how to write.
To that end it makes sense to assume that there is a writer inside every person. Some folks just don’t know where to look to find their inner writer, and some get confused by the term ‘writer.’
But what most people imagine when they think of being a ‘writer’ is the creative aspect. Creativity is what causes the average individual to freeze up because they feel creativity is inherent as opposed to a learned skill.
How do you access your creativity? How do you become a ‘writer?’
There’s no need to attempt a project the size of ‘War and Peace’ as your first foray into writing. You’ll only get discouraged. Start small. Write a poem. Keep a journal. Write a paragraph. Start a blog and post regularly. Write out daily observations, write letters. Start connecting and communicating. That is what is at the heart of all writing: the desire to connect and communicate. As you write, focus on writing full sentences with capitals at the beginning and punctuation at the end (that goes out especially to you texters!).
Define Your Genre
The term ‘writer’ covers a wide variety of genres. Decide and define what specific type of writing you’d like to explore: poetry, screenwriting, plays, novels, short stories. Not sure which is your genre of choice? What type of writing do you enjoy most as an audience member? Do you love the one to one experience of a novel? The cyclical experience of the theatre? The imagery of poetry?Once you’ve defined your genre, immerse yourself. Read, read and read some more.Become familiar with the different styles associated with your genre. Eliminate styles that don’t speak to you and make a list of those that do.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Writers write a lot and so should you. Get in the habit of regular writing. Again this is not the time to write the next massive novel. Write one letter a day. Write a personal email. Write one blog post. Write 300 words. Write one page. Give yourself a daily time limit. Maybe it’s an hour, maybe it’s five minutes. The more you practice, the more comfortable the act of writing will become.
The bookstores are filled with ‘How to Write’ books. The web is filled with writing
exercises. So go do them! Writing exercises will help you overcome the fear of not being
creative. Of thinking that you don’t have what it takes to be a ‘writer.’ Instead of worrying
about your creativity or lack thereof in a specific project, use exercises to practice the craft.
Keep it small and manageable. For example, practice writing using the five senses.
Keep this writing routine up for six months before starting work on a specific project. This
length of time will let you know if writing is something you want to pursue. If you keep
bursting with ideas during the six month trial that’s fine; write them down in a notebook and leave them be. They’re not going anywhere and when you’re ready to start a project you’ll have a number of ideas to choose from.
Start small. Define the genre. Practice the craft.
Everyone can find the writer within.
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That’s right, you get a bonus day! This exercise is more about looking at who you are as a writer. That’s is valuable information – the more you know about what’s going on inside of you, the more specifically you’ll be able to write for your characters.
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