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Exercising your writing muscles and other writing wisdom?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Otter, Nov 2, 2019.

  1. Otter

    Otter Acolyte

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    When I joined this forum I had just come off a 2 day binge of fervent writing. I have been unable to pick up where I left off. I mentioned this in my introduction post but I have always been more or less incapable of sitting down and writing something in a deliberate way and only write as a result of a deep seated irresistible compulsion. This same rule applies to pretty much any creative pursuit be it drawing or musical or what ever.

    I would really like to change this. I have countless scrawled upon papers, booklets full of drawings, and half baked lyrics as a result of these momentary urges - the vast majority of which are utter nonsense or hogwash but some that I look back on and think - Wow that was really almost something.

    Those of you who get down to serious business and write often - have you always been able to do so? Are there exercises you do to keep yourself in shape? Warm up stretches? What inspires your urge to write? Is being a "Pantster" an actual viable way to see anything to completion?

    I am going to give myself the goal to write something every day. Would appreciate any wisdom you lot may have to offer.

    Cheers! :)
     
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  2. Avadyyrm

    Avadyyrm Scribe

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    I have had the same problem as you. The only help I can give is to make yourself write every day. Go back over your notes, or go read or watch things that you think will inspire you, or you have already been inspired as. It's hard to write, especially conversations, if you aren't exited about it. If you can, write out an outline for your story, or chapter. Then make yourself sit down and fill in that chapter (s). Writing takes a while. It's not always going to be fun. It's unfortunate, but the most important thing is keep writing. You can try rewriting what you already have written, maybe a new idea will be sparked.
     
    Otter likes this.
  3. While the tendency has been for my brain to just make up very visual and literary things since I was kid, writing did not come naturally. My most important lesson has been that, for me, I had to find a consistent time to write every day. That turned out to be first thing in the morning, 5am, before the brain takes over. This is something I learned from time spent in a Zen monastery. The experiences of being woken up, rudely, at 4:30am. It really works and now, after years of doing so, I don't need an alarm clock anymore. The brain is less likely to interrupt and critique our early morning work as it is still trying to get itself together upon waking. Find a time that will work for you every day and stick to it.

    So, first thing I do is make coffee and have it with a morning pastry as I look at where I left off the day before and then I just get into the words.

    Here are five key things I tried to do every day when I began cultivating a writing practice:

    1.Be ready to write. Whatever that means to you as far as being able, when the time arrives, to just jump in and hit the page typing. For me, it's having the page, story or chapter I want to work on ready to go and on my screen when I open the laptop. Clothes laid out. French press ready to go. Make sure you have as many things as possible in their proper place when you sit down to start. Eliminate distractions.

    2. Speaking of distractions. . . try NO internet when you write! No browsing, social media, emails. Turn off the phone and alerts, message alert sounds etc until AFTER you've sat writing for, let's say, an hour (or start at 20 to 30 minutes perhaps) If you have writing related research you'd like to do or that comes up AS you write, save it til later in the day but don't do it when you are supposed to be typing those words.

    3. Don't reread/edit anything you've written until at least the following day, maybe even two. You're not trying to get things perfect here. Just write. Editing and evaluating can come later.

    4. If you have an idea for a larger project, don't focus on the big picture when you're writing. Just the scene in front of you or descriptions of some aspect of the world etc. Keep it small to get words flowing.

    5. Be consistent! It's better to write for fifteen minutes every day at the same time than it is to say you'll sit down when time allows etc and only do it for two hours once every month or two. (this is, assuming you want to write regularly.)

    What inspires my urge to write? I'm not 20 any more, so the tic-tok of time. As far as the outside world goes, I no longer have FOMO so I'm fine being in and turning the outside world off. But as for creativity? Big time FOMO! Time is short. I want to have my name on stories and books. I'd always wanted to write. But I didn't have the discipline when I was younger. Far too easily distracted and no one could have given me this advice then, I thought I knew it all.

    Being a pantser is fine! If you can free write that way, do it! Especially if you don't have a big book idea or anything in particular to guide your efforts right now. Just pick one little idea. One little phrase or situation you've thought of and write into it. The accomplishing and finishing is a long way off. For now, just get the fingers going!

    And don't judge yourself!!! In this case, writing is an act, not a contest. Enjoy it!

    Cheers!
     
    Otter likes this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I've been there, OtterOtter. I have boxes full of notebooks that represent something above forty years of wheel spinning. Two things are in common across all that writing. One, stories got started but none got finished, save one short story. And two, I wrote by fits and starts. Not when I was inspired--I can't say I've ever been inspired; mostly I'm just compelled--but I wrote without discipline or continuity.

    Then one day, not quite entirely out of the blue, I decided I was going to get serious. Like you, that I would write every day, but also that I would keep working on the same project until it was done. I wrote while on break, at lunch, in evenings, no consistent time. But it was pretty much every day. Within a year or so I noticed that this activity had moved from being a resolution to being a habit. When a few days would go by with no writing, like for a vacation or family event, I'd get antsy.

    Finishing became more and more my focus. Then I got sideswiped by a story idea and it was much shorter. Perhaps foolishly, I stopped working on the main project and worked on this second idea. I was disciplined about it, though. I worked that idea through to completion. By that I mean all the way through to self-published on Amazon, book cover and all. That turned out to be important for me because from that point on I knew what finished looked like and felt like. I knew what I was aiming for on the big project, the novel. Turns out I got sideswiped a second time, which turned into a short story that I submitted to magazines and it got accepted. That was great for motivation. Yeah, the novel took several years to finish, but I'm not sure I would have made it without those secondary experiences.

    Anyway, I echo everything Maker said above. I, too, feel the heavy hand of time. I often think I ought to have started this years ago, but I know for certain sure that I lacked the discipline and lacked the depth of historical knowledge that now carries me within Altearth (my fantasy world). Rather than wishing I was younger, I mainly wish I could live about fifty years more. I have a lot of stories queued up.
     
  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I know it's not sexy and it's not romantic, but you sit down and make yourself find the words every day like it's a job. It'd the best job you'll ever have, but it's still a job and you have to show up every day, until not showing up makes you anxious. I write because I can't not. Writing feels good. And I write every single day because to not do so is painful. But, that's how it's done. If you want to make this real, you need to put in the time and the effort, and then someday, bam, you're there.
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Agreed with A. E. Lowan, except that writing doesn't always feel good for me. But I do it anyway because, like A.E., not writing is worse.
     
    Otter likes this.
  7. Cannot echo this enough Skip. That awareness of time is something almost everyone I know, middle aged or older, shares in some way. It's great motivator and, I believe, something you don't necessarily have to be older to understand depending on your life experiences, but life's iron-clad rule of impermanence is something I really didn't face early in my life.

    A.E., I have said this, given it almost word for word as advice when people ask how my wife and I become full time artists/creators. I've even gone one step further and suggested folks treat their creative desires and pursuits as if they were their children. You cannot ignore it, not even for a day. It's yours and if you want it to grow into something wonderful, you put the time in and feed it, nurture it, care for it, think about it even when you're not around it. You don't abandon a child for something more exciting or easier that pops up tomorrow. I treat all of my creative endeavors the same way. And I believe, in my own experience, it's that same belief that walking away is not an option, that creates the conditions to succeed and grow.

    Otter, one more thing I wanted to pass along in case it has any relevance for you. One of the reasons I personally couldn't write much, for years, was it felt really lonely to do so. I could make music with others, make art in a co-op studio full of other creative people, but writing? That's hard. Just you and the paper/screen. Then one day my Zen teacher told me "That's ok to feel lonely, anything you truly love will leave you feeling lonely sometimes, but it's just loneliness." And for some reason, I was in the right place to hear that. It's not bad. Not wrong. Not so scary really. Solitude is just what it is. I had to embrace it. . .now, I crave more of it every chance I get.
     
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  8. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    You have to sit regularly over time in order to build a productive habit. And your schedule will largely depend on what's going on in your life over any given time. It's okay that sometimes in your life you can write every day and at other times not. What matters it that, largely, over time, you are producing work.
     
    Otter likes this.
  9. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    And this. So much this.
     
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  10. Nirak

    Nirak Scribe

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    In addition to the very good advice above, one thing I do to get myself to focus on going through a single project, even when not fervently inspired, is to think about what would come next. Then, what in that next chapter/section I'm most interested in exploring. If what I thought came next is boring to me, it's probably going to be boring to the reader, and I need to change it to something better. Whatever that something is, now that has my attention and inspiration and I am more inclined to write to get there. Whether it's juicy dialogue, a fun fight scene, a plot twist - a little forethought to get you into it can help get whatever you love to write into what you're writing.
     
    Otter likes this.
  11. vivienne

    vivienne Acolyte

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    There is a video online called "Chuck Palahniuk on his writing method". He was asked about his daily writing routines and the answer was amazing! I won't spoil it for you, if you want to check it out yourself, but it's worth mentioning how in Palahniuk's opinion, it's paramount to be a good listener, before even starting writing. So ... maybe once in a while, as an exercise, it's worth channeling your energy into listening only? :)
     
    Otter likes this.
  12. Otter

    Otter Acolyte

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    Many of you are echoing time on this earth as a great motivator to sit down and write which is interesting to me. Most of what I end up writing might be considered metaphysical fantasy - or pseudo-science fiction. Today I wrote something which sort of relates to this theme of time and I thought I'd share the first portion of it even though this is not technically the proper place for sharing your work I know but it is short, it marks my first day of writing every day, it is sort of halloweeny, and it illustrates how I become inspired and how my writing manifests. It starts with a premise, and everything else is merely an emergent property of that idea. You will see that I am not very good at staying in one place in terms of tense and point of view and this is because almost everything I write is sort of as complicated as this. I'm truly not nor have I ever been a writer.. I just sometimes write.

    -=======-

    It's a luxury - this future misfortune. The fact that I am destined to die, and then haunt myself as I lived. Truly frustrating for the ghostly version of myself to be made to watch in third person as I stumble about in and out of catatonic depression, taking for granted all that I have and wishing it would all go away - accomplishing nothing. The luxury, and fortunate part of this is that - at some point my ghostly frustrations must have given me the power of a poltergeist. To slam a door, flick off a light, knock things from their place on the shelf, etc. Perhaps when I pass, and I am in the phantom's place I will be able to effect change on myself as it has.

    The living version of myself though lethargic and without ambition is not stupid. At some point it occurred to me that the most likely identity for my immaterial roommate was myself. I cannot say how I arrived at this notion. Some part of myself deep down felt a catharsis at the realization. I sought ways to confirm this with my ghost and set about writing music for it - empathizing with it's situation hoping to ease it's plight and discomfort. It's activities have since calmed and turned from frustration to the occasional response to my outward expression. Even now as I write this I imagine my phantom's fascination at the results of it's interaction with it's living counterpart.

    This leads to a bizarre metaphysical quandary. Had my ghost in it's lifetime made the same realization? Reacted in a similar fashion? Or was this at last a diversion from it's own past and is the ghostly me for the first time witnessing something he does not know intimately? Or is he changed? Are these new circumstance now his memories? Perhaps ghosts are just clumsy ineffectual time travelers after all. A shade from a timeline where mistakes were made that could not be undone - and the desire to undo them leads to this situation of phantom and flesh and the impossible communion therein.

    Regardless of it's true nature and identity - this invisible force which acts upon my life in impossible ways urges me to some action inconceivable to me in the present. Perhaps it is not myself which haunts me but whatever it is, is satisfied with my recognition of it as myself. In which case how can I trust that what is in it's interest is also in mine?

    -=======-

    This is my basic "Launchpad" and I rarely if ever get much further than this on anything. An idea - emergent properties and obvious ramifications of that idea, and little else. I have already written a bit more than this today and I am pretty satisfied with the amount I have accomplished. Day 1 of daily writing complete. I don't know if I will continue from where I left off, go back to my previous piece or start something completely new tomorrow. I do have a lot of launchpads laying around waiting for a rocket so to speak and I could always pick one of those up too. Thanks for all the help everyone I feel both inspired and motivated to just do it.


    The part about rereading what I have written and editing on the fly is something I am definitely guilty of. I have never taken multiple passes on something I wrote I have a tendency to just want to do it once. (I am that guy that needs to take every single grocery bag from his trunk to the door in one trip - no matter what.) I will work on this.

    I will watch this now. Maybe I should make this a part of my daily routine as well. Watching or reading something about other people's creative processes? I feel like I have learned a lot from the people here already and rummaging through the posts.

    Thank you again everyone who responded. Seriously has helped me a ton. Otter wuvs you. <3
     
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Pre-internet and pre-24 hour tv, writing was easy! Heh heh. Now it actually takes discipline. Discipline isn’t the only answer. In the long run, I only found discipline when I really started liking my writing. Back in the high school days I wasn’t that picky and liked my writing, after English Lit, I got picky as hell. Also, finishing one major project created the “rush” of a finished work, which assists in discipline. Lots of little factors, but I’ve no one prescription for it.
     
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  14. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

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    For me, no. But extreme plotting kills the story for me too. I'm somewhere in-between. Everyone has to find what works for them. I wrote my first novel organically (and never again), and my second one outlining in detail (never again). Now I write a big picture outline on a piece of paper, but I outline the next group of chapters in more detail.
     
  15. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

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    The same for me. There are a lot of books I want to write, and fear of not being able to write them motivates me to keep going.
     
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