Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Advice Plus Ten Years

Sharon Wildwind

Ten years ago being a writer seemed simple. To paraphrase the often-quoted and likely apocryphal quote from Michelangelo, “I just remove everything that doesn’t look like being a writer.”

I was reminded of that last week when I found a misplaced and forgotten computer file “Tips on Being a Writer,” dated 2003 February 4, in which, I’d compiled advice from other writers.

Naivety provides a certain protective quality. It surrounds us like bubble-wrap and cushions us for the journey ahead.

The advice I’d received ten years ago included

Cut back on your day job
I’d already done that, but no vast swaths of spare time ever emerged. Working full-time, working part-time, being retired doesn’t  matter. Life expands to fill the week. Writers learn to work around that.

Live on less
This turned out to be good advice. Writing always pays less than you think it will.

Exercise on a regular basis. Eat healthy. Get more sleep, on a regular schedule.
Strangely enough, these worked, except for getting more sleep on a regular schedule. That new job I’d taken in order to have more spare time turned out to demand less sleep, on a more irregular schedule. Many writers have survived far worse.

Join a group related to writing
Only one? By last count I belong to nine.

Find the best time of day to write.
The best time of day (or night) to write is any time I have two writing neurones to rub together. The Muse doesn’t wait. Incidentally, the Muse of writing is named Calliope. She’s usually depicted with a writing tablet.

Determine if you are more productive as a writer when writing for short or long periods.
What I learned since then is that extroverts can rarely write productively longer than an hour at a time; introverts usually need a three to four hour block to do anything productive. I aim somewhere in the middle, about two to two-and-a-half hours at a time.

Don't interrupt writing time for lunch with friends, or to run errands, or to do house work.
On further reflection, always interrupt writing time for lunch with friends; then reschedule the writing. Most errands can be rescheduled. Housework can fall off the edge of the universe and no one much cares.

Develop more computer skills, such as being able to type faster, or how to use more features in word processing programs.
At the time no one mentioned web site set-up and maintenance.  Blogging. Tweeting. Googling. Pining. Skyping. Linking-in. As I said, naivety offers a lot of protection.

Set up a home office so there is a formal place to write.
Except for the days when your desk is so cluttered that you have no room to write, in which case you end somewhere else, with your trusty writing tablet in tow. Calliope probably understood this.

Find ways to inspire yourself about writing. Post little cards or quotes that mean something to you where you can see them.
The absolute best writing inspiration is to read another author who writes so much better than I do. The sound of the competition drives me to the computer faster than all the quote cards in the world.

Today's writing advice?
Pay attention.
Be in the moment.
Roll with the punches.
Quote for the week
Art and life are subjective. Not everybody’s gonna dig what I dig, but I reserve the right to dig it.
~ Whoopi Goldberg, American comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk show host


Anonymous said...

Great advice!!!!! Thelma in Manhattan

Steven M. Moore said...

Hi Sharon,
I guess today's corollary is that you can do a lot of that recommended stuff online--even exercise (throwing your laptop against the wall? standing on your head when you get Microsoft's blue screen of death?). I have so much fun writing that I do neglect the exercise--I know that's not good for me.
One thing about the typing: touch-typing was the most useful course I had in high school!
I guess there should be some specifics about writing, like Clancy's "just tell the damn story" or Momaday's "persevere." And what NOT to do: write what you know.

Julia Buckley said...

Great post! Thanks for the information!

Edith Maxwell said...

I love this post, Sharon. Thanks for sharing the then and the now.

As someone with three days left in the day-job, I hope I can make good use of my soon-to-be full-time mystery-writing job!

Anonymous said...

Steve I recently converted to working at my computer standing up. It's working out really well, and I'm a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Edith, congratulations on your retirement. You're going to have loads of fun.

Thanks everyone for the positive comments. It's amazing how 10 years can put things in perspective.