Write about hand-me-downs — clothing, baby clothes and toys, family heirlooms. Are you usually the giver or receiver of hand-me-downs? Write about all the thoughts and emotions, positive and negative, that surround the notion of secondhand things.
Category: The Writing Life
I’m happy to present more Quickies, which of course means you have no excuse not to write this week. Each of these brief prompts can be done in five minutes or fewer. Enjoy!
- Write about toast.
- Describe your last bad commute.
- Write about a dying plant.
- Describe your earlobes.
- Write about sand between your toes.
In Everyday Writing, I tell a story about my friend Judy Reeves, who is brilliant at carving out writing time. The very first time I ever called her on the phone, I got this message: “If you’re calling before 1:00 p.m., this is my writing time. I’ll get back to you after 1:00.”
Despite my vow to go into seclusion more often to write, I’m still not quite as good at disconnecting as I’d like to be.
I’m able to leave my phone behind pretty easily; I don’t like the phone very much. Disconnecting from the Internet is another story. It’s partly that I am a writer trying to promote a book — this requires blogging, responding to email, and being active on social networks. It’s also partly that I am the c0-founder of a new press, which means I need to be out there promoting our books, our press, our authors — and we also read our submissions online. So my life in many ways revolves around being connected — the challenge is how to find a balance.
So I’ve adopted a few new guidelines, aimed to create more offline writing time for myself without neglecting my necessary online duties. I hope they’ll inspire you as well:
— Take one afternoon (or hour, or quarter hour) per week of Me Time. This can be writing time, but I’ve decided that it doesn’t need to be: As writers, we need to clear our brains in order to make room for creativity, and this might include meditation, reading, or just walking around in nature to clear the mental clutter. As author Tim Kreider writes in this article, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness” — and I think this may be especially true for writers: We worry that if we’re not writing every single free moment of every single day, we aren’t writers after all.
Fortunately this isn’t true: You can be a writer whether you write six hours a day or six days a year. One thing we all must do, however, is get out and free our minds of the busyness. I recently chose a gorgeous summer afternoon with no pressing deadlines (that is, whatever needed to be done could be done after sunset) and went to the park with a blanket and a notebook. The break was rejuvenating in so many ways, especially creatively, and I returned with not only pages of new ideas but a sense of peace and relaxation I’d never have had without escaping the office and the computer. I was only away from my desk for an hour — and keep in mind that even fifteen minutes does wonders, so don’t dismiss this idea if you’re short on time. And best of all, I was joined by another soul seeking a little quiet…
— Log out of email…at least temporarily. I am one of those people who quits whatever she’s doing to respond to an email. Clients and authors are always commenting on the fact that I write them back at all hours of the day and night, including weekends. Whenever I take more than a couple of hours to respond to an email (usually because I’m traveling, moving, or because a storm has wiped out my Internet connection), people wonder whether I’m sick, injured, missing, or have been abducted by aliens. Really, there’s no reason I need to respond to every email within seconds. So I’m training myself to log in only a few times a day — this means fewer interruptions, which means a more efficient work day, which ultimately means more writing time.
— Division of labor. Because I work from home, my office is where I do it all: from freelance projects to editing to conference calls, and everything in between. It’s also my writing space — which means it’s very difficult to switch from work mode to writing mode. So I’m working toward adopting a more 9-to-5 life for the work-work, and a 5-to-9 schedule for my writing work. When you work for yourself, it’s basically a 24/7 lifestyle, for better or worse, and anyone who’s ever started a business knows that this means working around the clock, especially in the beginning. But at some point, you need to find a balance — and whether it’s due to your day job or the 24/7 responsibility of raising a family, finding writing time is always the biggest challenge. But do make the effort to separate the two: Divide your work time from your family time from your writing time, and be fully present no matter which mode you’re in at a given time. Life will be richer all around this way…and best of all, your writing time will be separate and fulfilling.
Finally, here’s a writing prompt, which is actually a bit more of a scheduling prompt (but one aimed to lead to more writing!):
Write out a schedule for the week ahead. In this schedule, work out the following:
1. Fit in one afternoon for Me Time.
2. Define the hours you will be on email (for example, from 9-11 a.m., 1-3 p.m., and 4-5 p.m.) and use your off-email hours to accomplish as much as you can — and see how much extra time you have at the end of the day. Use this time to write — for example, maybe you’ll find that this system frees up enough time for you to take your lunch hour to write instead of working at your desk.
3. Find slots of time in your daily schedule that allow you to fit in writing time amid your other responsibilities. Even if you start with only 15 or 30 minutes per week, keep working with your schedule to fit in as much time as you can to meet your writing goals.
I loved doing this interview with Brenda Miller, the author of The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, with Holly Hughes.
The Pen and the Bell is a wonderful companion to Everyday Writing in that it, too, is for the busy writer — and what I love about this book is the way it invites us to slow down and relax our busy minds — to make space for the meditation and contemplation that is so necessary for good writing.
I always love chatting with Sheila Bender of Writing It Real — she asks the most thought-provoking questions about all aspects of the writing life. So I was delighted to chat with her about Everyday Writing, which meandered into the realm of publishing, submitting work, and writing in different genres — all followed by writing prompts of varying lengths to fit any busy writer’s schedule.
Check out the article here — and if you’re not already a member, I highly recommend becoming one! Membership offers a wealth of articles, inspiration, classes — and community.
Thanks to Sheila for the opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite things!
As the weather gets warmer, the writing gets tougher (at least, this is the case with me). I think most of us need a little extra inspiration when the sun is beckoning — and today I offer some tips and prompts over on Judy Reeves‘s fabulous blog, The Lively Muse.
Join me over on Judy’s blog today for a sampling of writing prompts designed just for summer — you can try one of the 5-minute prompts to get warmed up, move on to a 15-minute prompt, and then maybe you’ll be inspired to schedule a weekend of writing to give you time to try the in-depth prompt I’ve created. The prompts can be written from your own POV or that of your character(s) — so you’ll be able to either generate new material or keep your current work-in-progress going.
Happy writing — and happy summer!
On this summer Monday, I’m delighted to be featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s amazing Writerhead blog as part of her Mojo Monday series. (Visit Kristin’s blog every Monday, where she offers “a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.”
Today on Mojo Monday, I write about how to be an everyday writer (i.e., how to find time to be a writer every day even if you’re not able to sit down to write every day) and offer three tips with matching prompts — so there’s no excuse not start this week off in a writerly mode.
Thanks to Kristin for hosting me today — and happy writing!
I’m happy and grateful to be featured on the StyleSubstanceSoul blog today with “5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity.”
If you’re not familiar with StyleSubstanceSoul, visit today and sign up to receive their e-news, which delivers inspiration, book and film reviews, interviews, and amazing giveaways to your in-box every week. This wonderful site was founded by three best friends (and mothers of daughters) who believe that “female energy has the power to change the world.” They are all about living a life of positive action and compassion — what’s not to love about that?
A million thanks to StyleSubstanceSoul for featuring 5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity (and be sure to click through to a couple of the links, where you’ll find books by a couple of my favorite poets). Hope this all leads you to a weekend of inspiration, good reading, and good writing!
Today I’m delighted to be one of the featured Writers on Writing over at the fabulous Passages North blog. This literary magazine, sponsored by Northern Michigan University, has published fiction (including one of my own stories a few years back), creative nonfiction, and poetry since 1979, and its blog is a treasure for readers and writers alike. Check it out for news on the magazine, submission advice, deadlines, and especially the wealth of information from Writers on Writing.
Thanks to Passages North for the opportunity to share my thoughts on being an everyday writer in a busy world!
In this photo of my writing space, my cat apparently decided I would have to do without some of my notes—at least until he decided to move to another window.
(This isn’t normally the way I write, but I’ve learned over the years not to attempt to move a stubborn cat. I’ve got the scratches to prove it.)
On this particular day, I was working on a revision, and this is, in fact, what most of my writing days are like: They’re revising days.
For me, revision is the best part of the writing process, which many writers find a little insane (I mean, who likes revision?). But I always find it so much better than facing the blank page. This is why I so enjoy this little corner desk: It’s where I go after I’ve gotten a couple of pages typed up, or even a couple of lines; it’s where I take a red pen to my work, and it’s where the real writing begins.
I never know how many drafts it a story is going to take—but this is part of the fun. In Forgetting English, the range is vast: “The Ecstatic Cry” was written in nine drafts; “Rest of World” in eighteen; and “Lost Art” in more than forty. The title story actually began as a novel before I whittled it down to a novella and then, finally, a short story. Sometimes it takes this long to find the story, but the journey itself is always the best part.
I’ve discovered that I like to tackle a writing project from a revision angle because it feels less like a beginning than like a middle (and therefore closer to the end!). And I’m never bothered by the fact that my average story doesn’t get to the end before about twenty drafts. For me, a “draft” isn’t necessarily an entire rewrite but simply anything that’s different: If I change one phrase in a story, that piece moves from Draft #14 to Draft #15. There’s something satisfying about going through so many revisions; it means I’ve thought about every part of the story many times over, which any piece of writing requires before we can truly call it finished.
And for any of you writers out there who don’t yet embrace your early drafts, this Psychology Today article will comfort you: It offers a sampling of the much-scribbled-upon first drafts of works by Marcel Proust, John Updike, Shirley Hazzard, and others — and the reminder that all good work takes quite a while to get there.
In the heart of Old Town in Bandon, Oregon, you’ll find the lovely WinterRiver Books, a gem of a book and gift shop.
This bookstore its excellent in its devotion to local and regional books — while so many bookstores tend to have the same bestsellers on the front displays, WinterRiver Books offers a bit of everything, and it’s a great place to browse, especially if you’re in the mood for something different but aren’t sure what.
And WinterRiver Books goes beyond being a bookstore in its wonderful selection of gifts, many of which are eco-friendly, which is always great to see. The store also carries fresh bread from a local bakery…
…and this, in addition to the chocolate selection (which includes Theo Chocolate — mmm) basically means one-stop shopping for a bookstore geek.