As writers set off on the venture of converting their ideas and daydreams into written expression, books, articles, or whatever; there are a few minuscule practices that can make an immense difference in productivity while also minimizing external and internal distractions. Management of one's writing world is just as important as the content by which is produced. For some, this may be a common knowledge and may only service as a well-intended reminder, but for others I truly hope these suggestions are helpful with the start-up process.
Find or Create a Writing Space
I think we all have that daydream of writing on a lavish, ornate, oversized, mahogany desk on an old-fashion typewriter, amongst shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling (perhaps a ladder on rolling tracks to reach the upper volumes), a roaring fire under an elaborate wooden mantle that securely rests above a fieldstone hearth with two wingback chairs in front. A large canine or two sleeping by flames (maybe cats) and the words of our prose seem to flood the pages of expensive stationary...
POP! (Thought bubble gone!)
I'm sorry I couldn't let that daydream get too out of control! As surreal as that daydream was, it is just a daydream. Before I continue, please understand that if the daydream mentioned above is in fact your pursuit, let me be the one to tell say, "Go for it!" Yet, I truly want writers to understand that, just proclaiming authorship over something does not guarantee the extravagant writing conditions. Not many start out with such extraordinary settings to work.
I know that seems like common sense, but speaking from personally experience this can become something that can be brooded over and when not achieved lead to more nefarious mental states. That aside, I do encourage all aspiring writers to find their writing space. It needs to be somewhere that fits your concentration needs...meaning if a person needs silence, find the quiet space in your home. However, if you are a writer that needs background noise and interaction, perhaps find a location beyond the walls of your home...a coffee shop, a bookstore, or café. Whatever space you designate as yours, be consistent with being in it and make it part of your routine. It is hard to compose a writing piece and we need to feel comfortable in the space in which we write.
When I say create your writing space, location is important but not the only consideration. If a space is not applicable, then create a time that is. Meaning, you may only be able spread out your materials and computer at certain times of the day. It may be in the early hours of the morning or late at night when your household is quite and responsibilities are complete for the day. Many of us have full time jobs and careers that consume a large portion of any given day. That said, carve out a half an hour in the morning and a half an hour in the evening; or maybe a whole hour. As mentioned already, just be consistent with it. Soon time and location will become part of your daily routine. Family and friends will come to respect your time because of your dedication. Ultimately it will create a comfort level that will allow you to compose your writing.
Time and location may prove to be vastly limited when considering the actual process of writing. Meaning, many of us may be confined to only one day out of the week due to other responsibilities. If this is the case, I strongly encourage you to carry a notepad, use an app on your phone, a dictation device, post-it notes, scrap paper...ANYTHING really to record your ideas when they present themselves at unscheduled times.
I agree, ideas should be more considerate of our schedules and show up on the designated times allocated for such appearances, but they don't. Instead, they show up like uninvited guests when we haven't cleaned the house and there is still a sink full of dishes from a week's worth of meals (Something we're all embarrassed about). As a writer, I will always welcome new ideas when they show up, I don't want them to slip away. Recording them in some compacity allows ideas a place to stay until you are ready to let them run free. This also is helpful when you are eyeballs deep in another project. There have been plenty of times when I was working on a manuscript and had to stop for a few moments to write in my journal a new idea that popped into my mind. Again, I don't want to loose the idea, so I simply wrote down as much as I could to secure the idea in a safe place and then return to the current project. When that project was complete, then and only then would I allow the new idea free reign over my thoughts.
Keep Track of Your Time
Some writers are very against this next notion, but I have personally benefitted from it and feel the importance of sharing this practice, create a time log. Time logs do wonderful things. First and foremost they allow you to see the progress that you have made with your writing piece. Each day that you committed to your project is another notch closer to being finished. More importantly, time logs teach you about yourself. Besides helping to build confidence with finishing a manuscript, time logs help us understand how many words we can produce in a set amount of time. Logs teach a writer how well they can stick to a schedule, and communicate whether the selected time or location are suitable for writing. The information collected while completing your first manuscript is very valuable to publishing houses that want to publish more of your work. Publishers want to know how long it takes you to complete a manuscript so they can create a production and promotion timeline. Most important, time logs help you to manage yourself and develop a balance between your writing life and your other responsibilities.
- Brian Hershey
Please feel free to leave comments, personal experiences, or other helpful tips for writers to get started.