There are some out there who are fortunate enough to have the luxury of getting paid to do what they love; to write. The rest of us have to get by, squeezing in minutes of writing time between school, work, personal relationships, second jobs even.
Like many writers who struggle to keep up a writing practice between the doldrums of daily life, I have spent hours scouring Pinterest for blog posts on how to keep up a lively, productive writing routine. I typically skim through these blog posts searching for the bolded and bulleted phrases. In my mind, I’m too busy to be reading long, in-depth articles with helpful tips and relatable anecdotes. You know. With all of the not-writing I'm doing.
So here’s another relatable anecdote for you to skip over: I currently don’t have a writing practice.
There, I’ve said it. I happen to value productivity over all other virtues. My productiveness is one of the biggest features I get complimented on by friends and colleagues alike. I am so anxious about productiveness that every moment I spend not doing something is a moment I spend in crippling anxiety.
Despite which anxiety, I haven’t had a regular, daily writing schedule since the last NaNoWriMo I did, back in November 2015. Almost a year ago now. And I even had a jumpstart on that year’s NaNo novel.
I’m not sure what changed. In high school, I used to write everyday, effortlessly. When NaNo wasn’t going on, I was in my school’s library every chance I got, often skipping lunch to spend time there, mashing away at one of my manuscripts. Then, I’d get off the bus, come home, and sit down at a computer to do the exact same thing. If I wasn’t working on a novel, I was writing for fun in RP forums with my online friends.
I suppose the difference is that writing, back then, wasn’t a drain on me.
I didn’t feel any pressure to write. I just genuinely wanted to. Writing, back then, was a distraction from my everyday life. It was a break I got to take from trudging through homework, or sitting in classes and staring at walls. Now, as a film major specializing in screenwriting, writing is sort of my job. As a young adult, there’s this new pressure to do something productive with my life. A pressure to prove to the rest of the world - my friends and family - that I can really make a go with this writing thing, that I can turn it into a sustainable, profitable thing.
Somehow, devoting my life to becoming a professional writer has actually made my writing suffer.
Strange, isn’t it?
But not really.
In my blog post, I Am Worthy of a Creative Life, I gushed about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and shared a little bit about how my fear of being unsuccessful had catalyzed a huge writer’s block for me. Gilbert talks a lot about this. She often refers to her writing as if it is a separate entity from herself, and explains in Big Magic that at a young age, she not only committed herself to writing, but also to never forcing her writing to sustain her. As in, she was never going to force her writing to pay the bills. That wasn’t what it was for. To her, it was about honoring her muse, about letting ideas flow through her and giving them life.
This is a romantic notion. But I couldn’t help reading Gilbert’s anecdotes about living in Greenwich as a young adult, and making a living off of waiting tables without rolling my eyes. That sort of a lifestyle just doesn’t exist anymore. To live in New York, the hub of the publishing sphere, the ideal place for a writer, just isn’t affordable on serving salaries anymore.
Certainly not in Greenwich fucking Village.
And, this is certainly privileged, but I couldn’t help but feel that I wouldn’t be happy just waiting tables and writing for an hour every night at the end of a long shift. I personally don’t desire to work in a service industry. Not long-term, at least.
But then again, I’m not terribly happy now. So.
I have a lot of writing projects going on, most of which are currently in the revision stage. I feel like I’m never making any new content. I’m tired of it.
So, as a challenge to myself, as an experiment in trying to be a better writer and to be happier in general, here’s how I’m going to re-establish my writing practice:
WRITE FOR FUN
What’s the fucking point of writing if it isn’t fun anymore? If it feels like work? So, I’m going to pick a for-fun personal project, and I’m going to commit to it. Believe it or not, I have a Harry Potter fanic (which you can read here) that’s been sitting unfinished for well over a year now, just waiting to be written. And, I’m going to try and get back into RP forum writing again.
I’m going to start holding myself accountable again, by making myself a schedule. But I’m not going to leap headlong into it, and neither should you. Aspiring to a NaNoWriMo paced writing scheduled is fucking bamf, and if you can do it, go for it. But for the time being, I don’t feel particularly equipped to be writing 1,667 words a day again. At this rate, any amount of words a day would count as progress. So I’m going to set aside a time each day to write, and I’m going to write for fifteen minutes. If you can set aside half an hour on any given day to go for a run, or to read a book, or to surf YouTube, you can set aside at least fifteen to do some timed writing.
Make it a commitment. Some people are intrinsically motivated to push themselves to do things. But we’re not like those people, because otherwise why would you be reading this fucking article? Me neither, so in order to set in some external validation, I’m going to hold myself accountable for this. I’m going to post what I write from time to time, and update my Twitter everyday with today’s word count. If you happen to follow me @ShaiCotten, and you don’t see my word count update on your feed, you can feel free to yell at me all you like (aka type at me in all caps while you're staring impassively at your phone or computer screen, not being all that very loud, actually).
So sorry, but this isn't a terribly helpful blog post. I don't have a secret formula to make words appear on your screen, or making writing just easier in general. The fact is, the answer is pretty obvious, and we all knew it all along. Sometimes it just takes us a bajillion fucking Pinterest articles before we finally feel equipped to do something about it.
Is your writing practice in shambles? What are some ways that you’re planning on getting your ass into gear? Share them with me in the comments below, I always love a pal to commiserate with!
And if you’re one of those whose unshakeable writers with limitless energy and motivation… tell me your secrets? Or better yet, write my novel for me?