I write something every day, at the least I make an effort to. There have been periods–long stretches–where I wrote nothing at all, but daily writing, in any form, has had a considerable impact on my development as a writer, and maybe even as a person, a little bit. The use of some of these happened organically; others by choice. At any rate, this is how I keep myself accountable and making sure words are put down somewhere and that they make at least a little kind of sense, somehow.
Throughout each week, but usually every day, these are some of the things I do or tools I use to keep my writer-brain juicy. Most are standard fare…but I think there’s one, in particular, that is kind of an open secret!
An online platform for writers of any kind to write their morning pages (or midnight pages; whatever floats your boat). Sometimes I use 750words for just stream of consciousness writing–I get a big kick out of completing them in under ten minutes–other times I’ll use it to analyze possible blog posts, or if I’m in the middle of a NaNoWriMo session, I use it to keep my word count going.
It sends you daily nudges if you’d like, tracks your speed and writing habits, analyzes your writing, and you can even tag different entries. It’s like a friendly version of Write or Die…it times you but doesn’t push you. Your words are your own, and you can do whatever you’d like with them, at whatever speed works for you.
750words has had such an impact on me, that soon I will do a feature on it. I love it. I’m a little spoiled as I have a free lifetime account because I’ve had it for so long, but I still subscribe anyway (it’s 30 days free, then $5 monthly after that via PayPal).
It’s not quite November, well not even hardly close at all, but it is currently April…and that means it’s Camp NaNo season. Perhaps some authors turn up their noses at a self-imposed contest of pushing out so many words in a 30-day period, but I think it’s a great exercise in getting that draft done and writing every single day. It’s the practice of working on a deadline, or just getting the ideas out and on paper, and then going back later to edit. I’m not yet one of them, but there are multiple authors who have successfully published their “Nano novels” either through traditional or independent publishing.
This is the first Camp Nano that I have stayed on track. I’ve kept my word count goal much lower than the usual NaNo in November, but I have learned a lot about not just writing every day but really focusing on specific projects daily, and it’s changed how I approach the rest of my writing.
With my lower word count, I can focus more on the content, but it’s still high enough to keep the pressure on and make sure I’m actually making progress on my current project, instead of letting it sit and stew for months, waiting for whenever I feel like opening up the file and tinkering with it. But now I know that my daily writing can–and should–be for what it is I want to present to the world, even if those words get cut out in editing.
I mentioned in my introductory post that I run some anonymous blogs. Counting this one, I now have six active blogs, all for different reasons and topics, styles of writing. Satire, music, fandom, and a few others in-between. I have a different audience for each, and checking in on at least one of them daily and connecting with readers mostly serves as an ego stroke, but it works. Every time I receive a comment or feedback reaffirms that however slowly, or non-traditionally I do this, that this is what I should be doing…and usually motivates me to work on one of my pieces.
Talking to Comedians
A few years ago, I managed a comedy club. Every so often, a headliner and I would get to talking, and they’d encourage me to start doing standup (which may seem a stretch given how dry my content is right now…but you’ll see. You’ll all see!).
I knew most of them were mostly just hitting on me, but a few I took to heart, especially the female comics. Comedy is hard, and it is a lot of work. It looks so easy, but it’s an illusion.
Most importantly, my takeaway from my time there was that all comedians are writers. Sometimes this was quite literally the truth; many of our summertime headliners in the offseason were established Hollywood screenwriters taking a break before going back into production and looking to stay on top of their mortgages. Most often, however, it’s the behind-the-scenes work that got my attention.
Almost all of our MCs for the week and most of the featured comics were local performers that I got to know. They’re paid pure crap but put in a lot of time at the club, and working with them taught me a lot about syntax, word economy, and instinct in writing.
I still keep in touch with most of the locals I worked with, and some of the bigger names too, and even just observing things about their careers (getting paid to make people laugh is much more challenging than you’d think) teaches me a lot. They’re kind of all over my social media so they’re hard to miss.
If you have a friend who is an aspiring comic, or everyone around you thinks you’re funny, start hanging out at open mics and amateur nights, and talk to comedians.
This is a no-brainer for some…okay, probably most, but during college, I fell out of the habit of daily leisure reading. Sure, I read (and sometimes even enjoyed) my textbooks, and I was still able to squeeze a novel in here or there, but I think the stress of getting grades and a job–neither of which I was successful at–robbed me of the joy of reading.
What kind of writer doesn’t read?
Sometime in the future, I’ll talk more about my swan dive into fanfiction, because that was what became my primary reading material and is still a central fixture in my life, but recently, I was gifted a Kindle after salivating over them for a couple of years and just never able to justify parting with the cash. Now, I’m devouring books again the way I did as a child and a teenager. I look forward to my reading every day just as much as I do my own writing–and seeing others words so frequently makes me think about my own, a lot.
Some people prefer silence when they write, or would rather listen to specific artists or playlists that inspire the universes they create. I have a thing for listening to classical or ASMR-style soundscapes when I write (or sometimes a combination of all of the above). Listening to contemporary music when I write, with a few exceptions, is distracting–I get too caught up in the music I’m listening to, or I’ll suddenly get a hankering to listen to something else, and my concentration is derailed.
I happen to live in a noisy area, and by listening to chillstep, soundscapes, and endless Beethoven compilations has totally trained my brain. It knows that when it hears certain things, it’s time to get writing, and I can tune other stuff out. Consciously subconscious self-conditioning, maybe? Is that a thing?
Whatever it is, it works.
These are just some of my daily resources that really help me stay on track and get in the right mindset and keep my brain sharp. When the writing gets deeper, or revision time comes (again, and again…) that’s a whole different thing. But that’s for another post, in another time.