Saturday, March 8, 2014

Write When You Aren't Writing

The best way to get writing done?

Sit down and write.

The challenge of getting writing done?

Finding enough time to sit down and write.

Some of the best writing advice I’ve seen out there centers around one central theme—just sit down, take the blank page head on, and write. You've seen it, too.  It's great advice. I particularly like this exploration of the  BICHOK method of writing: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard (from publishingcrawl.com).  

Trouble is, I don’t have the luxury of having long hours of blank pages and keyboards and words ahead of me on my average day.  I have work, a toddler, a house to take care of, cats who prefer being fed to not, and obligations crammed into the tiny boxes on my calendar so tightly that I’m  pretty sure they get into fights over the armrest when I’m not looking.

The dirty little secret is that the majority of us are in the same boat.  We may be taking our careers seriously, but we aren't career writers with schedules constructed around that single obligation.  We’re circus performers—juggling jobs like balls, keeping errands and chores in the air like spinning plates, and getting plenty of practice at being schedule contortionists.


So I find that I need to amend that excellent writing advice just a little.

The time when you aren't writing matters, too.  

When you can't be at your computer (or pen and paper or stylus and parchment or whatever the rest of you crazy kids use to write), you can still be an active writer.  While I'm driving to work, making dinner, whatever task occupies my hands but leaves a little bit of my brain untapped, I think about "what next" or "how to fix that plot problem" or "ways to show this or that character's personality."  

I keep a little blue notebook on me all the time.  When I have a little downtime but not enough to actually dive into writing (especially when I'm at work), I make notes on what I plan to do later.



Though this is a great tool for drafting, I'm finding it's even more helpful for revisions.  I can organize my thoughts and set a plan for what changes I'll make when I do get to my document--so that I don't have spend time on that kind of brainstorming later.  

And it doesn't have to be pretty.  Proof:


Oh, well, that doesn't look too...



Ok, yeah, looks like the scrawlings of a madman.  And I assure you, anything that looks like a formal outline is, um, not actually very formal.  At all.

It's ok.  It helps me focus my thoughts, get the pre-writing stuff out of the way, so that when I get to my computer, there's nothing between me and productivity.  

Do you have any tips for "writing" when you're not writing?  For making the time you have to write count?

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