creative process, Writing Habits

T is for Track

We have spent the month talking about strategies for how you can be a G.O.A.T. writer this year and meet your writing goals.

Our final letter T is for track. I believe that tracking your goals can be an effective way for growing your writing habit. I recently found this 100-day tracker on Mochi Things. With any tracker, you decide how to use it. Rather than recording daily, I’m using it track 100 days of writing daily and reading 30 pages.

I like trackers because they give you a clear sense of how you are doing. It’s quite easy to think you are doing more or less than you actually are. Tracking is also beneficial because it helps you see patterns. You can take that data and try to identify the root of your writing patterns.

For example, I know that around the middle and end of semesters my writing time decreases. That’s because I’m busy grading essays. It’s helpful for me to know when life evades my writing habit, so that I can be gracious with myself. But it’s also helpful so that I can strategize ways to maintain my habit, even if it looks differently because of life.

Maybe when midterm rolls around this semester, I’ll plan to give myself mini-breaks from grading and write for 15 minutes. Or maybe I will plan to get up a bit earlier. Or maybe I have no expectations for writing and I simply focus on grading. The tracker can give me some insight and direction into where and how I should focus my energy.

Here are some other trackers that you may find helpful. Austin Kleon has a free 30 day tracker aimed helping you practice more. I like this tracker because 30 days is a manageable amount of time. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. You can download it here.

I found this post it note habit tracker at Target. It was pricey, but since it was one of a kind, I bought it.

I hope these tips help you in growing your writing habit.

creative process, Writing Habits

A is for Accountability

Hey, writers!

We began this year talking about how you become the G.O.A.T. writer. We learned that the G is for gateway habit. What’s one habit you can adapt that will lead to other habits? O is for organize – creating a structure or plan for your writing time. 

Today, we’ll review A for Accountability. 

Much of the creative work for writing is done in solitude, and without an impending deadline, it can be easy to drift off course. Procrastination can set in, and before you know it, months have passed and you have not made progress. 

I have found a few strategies to overcome this. 

1. Get a writing buddy

This can be a friend or a fellow writer. Determine your goals. Then, create a system for how your buddy will hold you accountable, the frequency and format of check-ins. Go ahead and behind in some ‘consequences’ for when you don’t meet your goal. 

I recommend having midpoint check ins because they can steer you back in the right place if you get off track. They also can allow you to finish well. For example, let’s say you want to write three times a week. Your writing buddy checks in on Wednesday, and you haven’t written yet. But the check-in motivates you to write, so you write twice before the week ends. On the other hand, if your check-in came at the end of the week, you wouldn’t have a chance to try to recover your goal. You would have to start over the following week. 

2.  Take a writing class

Similar to writing groups, you can find these online or (post-COVID) in person. Some classes are free and others cost. Both can be beneficial. As a writer, you should be growing in your craft and a part of that is learning.

3. Join a writing group. 

I encourage you to find a couple of writing classes to take this year and schedule them. Prices range greatly, but select a class that is affordable for you. I recommend classes from the Loft Literacy Center. They also offer a year-long apprenticeship if you are looking for more one-on-one support. 

Perhaps, later this year, I will do a blog post on how to select a writing group. But for now, I’ll say this: joining a writing group that meets regularly can be beneficial in growing consistency. Some groups meet at public libraries, and some are online. Writing groups can offer motivation, encouragement and constructive feedback. If you join a group, be a good group member by giving as much as your take. 

So those are few strategies to keep you accountable with your writing goals.

Do you have any other strategies? I would love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below.

creative process, Writing Habits

O is for Organize

In a previous post, I talked about how finding your gateway habit is the first step in becoming a G.O.A.T. writer. Now, we are going to talk about the O: organize. 

Let’s be honest: the blank page or empty screen can be intimidating. As writers, we can spend more time thinking about writing or procrastinating and little time writing. Organizing your writing time can help you become a G.O.A.T. 

I want to offer 5 ways for organizing your writing time. Take what sparks and leaves what dulls.

Organize your writing time by studying a poet. 

Pick a poet’s whose work you want to learn from or who inspires you. Begin your writing time by reading and/or analyzing a few poems from the author. Use a few of their lines, titles or topics to jumpstart your writing. 

Organize your writing time by studying a form. 

Learn about the form and view examples of poems using the form. Then, write your own poems in that form. You can also revise a poem to be in the particular model your are studying. 

Organize your writing time around a project. 

I like to work on multiple projects at once. I have a binder for each project. The contents of the binder vary based on the project, but I like to have a few sections in each binder. Typically, I have poems or writing related to the project, research or images. You can read my blog post here on how I organize my projects.

Organize your writing time around a toolkit.

Sometimes I want writing to feel more like play and exploration. I have a box of photographs that I can select an image and write a poem inspired by the image. I also have a writer’s notebook of lines from other poets that I use as writing prompts. I keep a notebook of titles and words I want to include in a poem. When I sit down to write, I pick one of those tools to inspire my writing. 

Organize your writing time around a schedule. 

Create a list of what you plan to do each day. Now, when you write, you don’t have to figure what you will do during each session. Revision and research can be a part of your writing schedule. 

The goal of organizing your writing time is not meant to be rigid or restrictive. It simply to give you a starting place, so that you can do more writing. It’s meant to help you do more of what you love. 

Let me know how you plan to organize your writing time. Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you. 

Writing Habits

Becoming a G.O.A.T. writer

A few years ago, I was a gym rat. I worked out 6 days a week, and many times twice a day. I would have worked out 7 days a week, if my body didn’t need a rest day. While leaving a physical therapy appointment for a workout injury, I was rear ended. I suffered a back injury that took a couple of years to fully recover. I moved states, changed professions and experienced a huge pay cut. No longer could I afford a gym membership or exercise classes. I was no longer a gym rat.

Now, I am trying to regrow my workout habit, and I have had several unsuccessful attempts. One day, I asked myself: how was I so active then? What was the gateway habit? 

A Fitbit tracker.

It was a simple way for me to know my progress and where I wanted to be. So, I went back to my old ways and got a Fitbit. 

I have had one for a couple of months now, and my level of physical activity has significantly improved. My current focus is getting 10,000 steps a day by walking. I am giving myself a feasible goal in light of our current times. 

Here’s what I have learned:

  • If I walk in the morning before work, I’m more likely to get my daily walk in. 
  • If I walk 5,000-6,000 steps, I hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps
  • Challenges with family members motivate me to hit, and even exceed, my step goal
  • If I don’t walk by 4 pm, I will not reach my step goal because it’s typically dark by 4:30p.
  • Workout videos are not motivating because I work from home. I need to get out of my house. 
  • Praying or listening to audiobook while walking helps me lose track of time, so that I am more likely to reach my step goal. 
  • I enjoy walking on nature trials. 
  • Gloves and a hat are must haves. 

This month, we are discussing how to become a G.O.A.T. in your writing habit. The G is for gateway habit. What’s the one habit you can do that will lead to other writing habits? 

Tracking my steps with a FitBit is my gateway habit for exercise. It leads me to reaching, and sometimes exceeding, my daily step goal. So what’s your writing gateway habit?

Is it reading? A writing workshop? A walk in nature? A cup of coffee? An art exhibit? Photographs? 

My exercise gateway habit leads me on a path of reaching my current goal. Once my goal changes, my gateway habit will still lead me there. It allows me to continue growing. Your writing gateway habit should do the same. 

Your gateway habit should be simple. If it’s not simple, it’s not sustainable. Track your gateway habit, so that you know exactly where you are. Know that you are going to fall off the wagon. When do you do, dust yourself off, acknowledge your humanity and begin again. 

So what is your writing gateway habit? Leave me a comment below. I would love to hear it. 

Writing Habits

Write a Poem Day: 365 consecutive days

At the top of the year, many writers set new writing goals and embark on new challenges. We are inspired to shed old habits. We promise to be braver, bolder and more disciplined. We vow to get a grip. 

Image result for robert desnos
Robert Desno

Earlier this week, I wrote a post analyzing one of Robert Desno’s poems “Once There Was a Leaf.” Desno was a French poet and journalist who lived in the 1900s. In 1936, he “wrote a poem a day for the entire year,” according to the Poetry Foundation

Immediately, the wheels in my creative mind began turning. 

What would my creative life look like if I consistently committed to writing a poem a day for 365 days?

cHASITY gUNN

Let’s be honest. This sounds like an impossible task. What writer, of any level, has time to write every day for an entire year? 365 days is a long time to devote to any habit. But then, I thought a little more. I have habits that I have done for 365 days for dozens of years. Every day, I brush my teeth, wash my face, take a shower and check my phone (multiple times). If I can do those tasks, why couldn’t I write a poem for 365 consecutive days? 

The two biggest obstacles are time and writer’s block. I could overcome the time obstacle by scheduling as little as 5-10 minutes to write. I’m not striving to write an award winning poem. I’m just trying to write a poem. Lowering the stakes makes the feat feasible.

Image result for jerry b jenkins
Jerry B. Jenkins

Recently, I have been investigating the sources of my creative blocks and its . I watched a video of New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins discus how to overcome Writer’s Block. He has published over 200 books so I imagine he knows a bit about the subject. 

He argues that writer’s block is a myth. He asks: “If writer’s block were real, why would it affect only writers?”

Jerry Jenkins

Valid question. He says we don’t call our supervisors and say, ‘hey’ boss, I’m not coming into work today because I have worker’s block.’ Jenkins contends: “No other profession accommodates such an excuse to quit working so we, writers, shouldn’t either.”

His premise is that “writer’s block is a cover for fear.” Rather than entertaining our blockage, we need to use fear to humble us and to motivate us to work hard to create better writing. 

Creative writing is certainly a complexity with nuances that are easily explained. Depending on the work, writing daily may legitimately be a challenge, no matter the level of devotion. Writing a poem is not exactly like baking cookies. However, I think sometimes writers are not as consistent because we have such mindsets. 

So, I have decided for 2020, I will take the challenge of writing 365 days. My purpose is not to grind more or work harder. I honestly want to do more of what I love, and I want to tap into that love daily. I think this habit will help tear down the mindset that every time I write it has to be beautiful. And it will confront the fear that hinders me from showing up and trying. I picture this journey to be a messy, and I am seeking perfection. 

Hopefully, a year from now, writing poetry will be a lot more like brushing my teeth and less like pulling teeth. 

cHASITY gUNN