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So yea, I’ve been following my own advice – and thus far in this strange year of twenty-twenty, I have been writing every single fucking day.
Well, I’ve been journaling every day (3 pages, written by hand) and also writing fiction every day but Sundays (750 words minimum, written on a computer).
And no, I haven’t had an easy year either, what with global pandemics to family matters to my own personal struggles inside my head.
Allow me to explain some changes I’ve been practising that help me be a bonafide writer.
1. Who’s Afraid of the Blank Page?
The most important change by far has been debunking the myth of the blank page.
One of the most common things writers talk about is their fear of the empty white space we all meet when we first start to write something.
The emptiness of a blank page signals the limitless possibilities of what could be written and as a result, it terrifies people. Not knowing where to start and focusing instead on all the fucking work still ahead of them are reasons to panic, or so we would believe – because I’ve heard it referenced and spoken about so often that I never considered not believing that the blank page is something to fear.
It occurred to me this year that what an unhealthy relationship that is for me as a writer to dread facing a new page each day – to be okay being bullied by empty whiteness.
I should be eager to find a blank space anywhere to carve out my thoughts, to trace squiggly lines and symbols, to greet each new canvas as a place to build unfamiliar worlds and birth forth new strange people.
And funny enough, me dropping the whole “Ahh I am a writer but I don’t want to write…” routine by reminding myself I am fucking thrilled to have these opportunities to write, well, it works!
2. Lover of the Weary Mind
The second most valuable change made has been me tapping into my style as a human. As in, I tend to have my most creative ideas when drifting around in my head, usually when I am waking up and falling asleep – something which happens at least twice daily because naps are my absolute favourite!
My mind is less inhibited by rational wakefulness of conscious living and so I can be led down deeper rabbit holes with ease, allowing my disoriented day-dreams to guide me to unusual solutions for things I’m currently working on.
And while I knew this for many years, it was only this year that I have begun extending this for my writing practice too. Since doing so, I’ve been writing almost always right before retiring for the night with the intention to use my tiredness as a shield to block my self-conscious perfectionism. I’m aware of all the writers who advise writing first-thing in the morning but this is what works for me as a night-owl. Some nights I start earlier in the evening (when feeling more ambitious to write), but I know other nights (when not feeling so confident or inspired) to write when I am too tired to self-censor.
3. Reading and Watching and Writing
The last thing is not original advice, but I’ll share how this year it’s been working for me. I try to read as often as possible, not only because I enjoy doing so but because as a writer it is research and food for thought. The days I don’t feel so good, I try to watch things – both because it helps my mood (usually) and because it too can be used as research and food for thought. For both reading and watching, I try to vary the content as much as possible throughout a binge, enough so that it never feels like any single voice or character or premise or genre is on my mind. Doing so allows me to mix and match ideas, trading and reconsidering how things would look if one detail or another were changed and retold.
With that in place, I have material to free-write about in my journal. Even if it is just me writing to myself how much I enjoy Ozark on Netflix or how disappointing the movie Chinatown was on first viewing, it all helps to fill those 3 pages. It helps me not only accomplish my daily free-write goal but is invariably offering material with which to finish my fiction writing goal too.
This can look like a prompt to write in genres I never write (horror, erotica), or to write using a point-of-view style I forget to practice (transcript recorded interviews, casual conversational gossip) or about premises I want to explore for one reason (meeting up with a first-love for coffee, rock climbing up a mountain) and as I’m writing seeing it take on a completely new direction halfway in because I ran into a dead-end or because some bizarre twist occurs to me to try.
Well, that’s all for now – I hope some of these tips help.
See you between the lines,