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. 

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Staying Organized

Knowing where to start was a major barrier I faced when I sat down to write. I lost precious time searching for poems, gathering research or trying to be inspired. Much of the time I had allotted to write was wasted. A fellow poet mentioned that she created binders for her poetry projects and renowned dancer, Twayla Tharp uses boxes to store materials. (View a sketch note video on her book here.)

Putting all of my materials in one place has made writing less stressful and my writing time more productive. I’ll walk you through my process so you can try it out to see if helps you. 

First, get a binder. I opted for a quality binder so I didn’t want time and money replacing binders. I also purchased a binder that was pretty because visually appealing items inspire me. I got scrapbook binders from Hobby Lobby during a half off sale and a regular  binder from Target. 

Second, create sections. These vary based on the project. For example, I’m working on an audiobook of lynching poems. My sections include research, poems other poets have written about lynching, my old poems and new poems I am writing. I also have paper in the binder for writing new poems.  

I recently added a section of photocopied poems. Whenever I feel stuck, I look to these poems for inspiration on form, style, etc.  I may add a section of images since many of my poems are inspired by visuals. 

Create sections that are helpful to you. Add as you go and take away what doesn’t work. Consider writing an artist’s statement about why you are doing the project and include in your binder. It can serve as a motivator or a compass during low times. 

What if you are not working on a specific writing project, can the binder still work? I think so. You can create sections of different types of inspiration.This can be quotes, other poems, images, sketches, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Third, label your binder. Seeing the name of the project on my binder helps me be more connected to the project. I don’t fall into the out of sight out of my mind  phenomenon. 

Fourth, get to writing. 

What I love about my binder is that I can take it with me anywhere I go, and I don’t need technology. I don’t have to spend time looking for materials. I have everything I need in one more place. Now, I spend more time creating, and I feel less overwhelmed. 

If you prefer an electronic version, you could create folders on your laptop or use Padlet or similar programs. Here is a video a fiction writer made about her binder and one made by a writer turned business coach.

I think this system can work regardless of what genre you write in. If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you. 

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Dear Writer, please get out

Writers can be like hermits. We stay in dark shells and never come out. Sometimes we lie to ourselves and say that we must be secluded all the time to write. We believe we are following in the steps of Emily Dickinson. We are self-proclaimed introverts, and we are proud about it.

But, there are downsides to constant seclusion. We can be socially awkward, which is not a plus when you interact with those who love your work at a reading or a book signing. We can have terrible stage presence because we are not used to speaking in front of others. So writers, I am urging you to get out! Leave your couch or your table and get into the world.

Most of us write about humans so our writing can be improve by being around people. Dialogue and portraits can be richer by having more social interactions. Now, before you jump off this blog post because you think I am bananas. Let me express empathy. I consider myself an introverts’ introvert. I can spend days in solitude. I am pretty phenomenal at entertaining myself and keeping myself occupied.

I don’t like large social gatherings, and interacting with an audience after a reading is still strange to me at times. However, I know that my writing has improved, and my social interactions have improved through pushing myself to be around others. One easy you can do the same is by regularly attending writing workshops.

Writing workshops have been a much needed motivator and accountability partner in being consistent in writing. They have given me insightful tips to improve my writing, and the feedback I received from other participants has refined my work. I have not been a fan of every writing workshop I attended. That’s a part of the journey. However, I have found a few that I like, and I try to commit to going to two a month.

This doesn’t always work out due to my day job. However, I have experienced shorter writing hiatuses as a result of going to writing workshops. I want to encourage you to find a writing workshop or community in your area and get out there. I’m sure you can find on online, but push yourself to interact with other humans in person. It will make you a better writer. Dear writer, get out there!

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What are your writing goals for 2020?

One of my favorite aspects of a new year is that it feels like life has given me a reset button. I can start over; I can revise; and I can re-think. I even can do new things. I’m sure you have heard of New Year’s Resolutions, and you may even have strong opinions about them. There are valid arguments about why they are effective, and there are reasonable arguments for why they are ineffective.

However, I think it’s wise for writers to set goals whether in January or June. Goals provide direction and focus for your writing. They can give you a path for fulfilling your writing dreams. They also keep you accountable for not letting your writing gift still idle and be untapped.

If you haven’t set a writing goal this year, I want to encourage you to do so. I don’t want to offer you a formula for effective goal setting. Google provides lots of information on that. Instead, I want to serve as a cheerleader, motivating and pushing you to set a goal. I have found that it I connect a goal to a habit and schedule it, I tend to be more successful.

For example, I have three writing projects I am doing this year. I am not sure when they will be finished and ready for publication. I don’t want to rush the creative or research process nor do I want these projects to go on for decades. Rather than setting goals for publication, I will be scheduling writing days to work on these projects. I also will be selecting a couple of poems from each project and submitting them to literary publications in hopes of having them published. I often am unsuccessful with reaching my goals when I do not calendar them.

I want to encourage you to set a writing goal that matters to you and schedule time to work on that goal. Last year, I read Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Yet and it was helpful in re-thinking a new year. I highly recommend it. I would love to hear your writing goals. What do you hope to achieve in 2020?