Okay, yet another list.
1. Make a list of your writing projects. (see post below)
2. Put your writing time down on your calendar. (also below)
3. Begin a writing journal – create a new file in your computer. A place to start each time you sit down to work, a place to warm up. (I actually stole this idea from Sue Grafton who wrote about her own writing journal in an essay published in Writers’ Dreaming.) Try doing a five minute writing exercise in it every day. If there’s other stuff on your mind besides the essay/fiction/memoir/poem/kids book you want to work on, you can write all that stuff out here, and then get on with your work. It’s also a good place to figure out writing problems you’re having. For instance, writing out a bad scene in a writing journal doesn’t seem as serious as working on it in your ‘real’ writing file. There’s not as much pressure; you’re just fooling around. Sometimes I write about a scene that’s boring or I can’t figure out what should happen in it, and I start writing a few lines of it in my journal – just fooling around – and lo and behold, sometimes a whole scene pops out and I copy it from my journal into my manuscript file – and it works.
4. Join a writing group or find a writing buddy. You need a way to set deadlines and at some point you need feedback on your writing; your family and non-writing friends will not be the best choice. If you have a friend who’s writing, set up a date – in person or via email – to do writing exercises and exchange work to read and comment on. Or check out extension programs or community colleges in your area that offer creative writing programs. (If you sign up for one of these and you’re not inspired, or feel intimidated, or anything negative – leave. A writing workshop should be exciting, nurturing and inspiring.)
5. Send something out. If you don’t have any old manuscripts hidden away to rewrite and send out, write a short personal essay to send to your local paper. (Or the New YorkTimes if you want.) There’s nothing like getting your work out there to make you feel like a real writer. And if you get a rejection slip – so what? It’s just part of being a writer.
Thanks to the Inland Empire branch of the California Writers Club for asking me to talk about this last Saturday.