Thoughts on Writing Practice

When I decided that I needed to get serious if I wanted to ever write novels, I knew that I had to figure out a writing practice. I started with three times a week for fifteen minutes each time. I understood from my guided-prompt writing group that I could write a significant amount of material in that period of time. I didn't even specify what day I wrote, although it was usually during the week. I wrote in my home office. (I'm also an editor and a transcriber.) Once I clocked out at 5:00 p.m., I would generally take a walk, and then, on the days that I wrote, I would return to my office and close the door. (My partner liked to watch political news. That just made me anxious. I also didn't tell my partner or anyone else what I was doing. I had tried writing novels before and had abandoned them. I didn't want to tell anyone in case that happened again.)

As time passed, I started writing every day. I wanted to stay connected to my project. I also wrote for an hour each day—in the evenings during the week and after breakfast on weekends. And I changed my locale. I didn't want to write in my office any more. I associated that with my day-job deadlines. I wanted to write in a place that felt comfortable and relaxing, where it would feel decadent, as if I was on vacation. I started writing in bed.

Eventually I told people what I was doing. When I said I had a writing practice, many assumed that I wrote first thing in the morning. I understand that concept. That's when people are generally refreshed and full of energy, and they can accomplish their writing goals before anything else. However, during the week, when I wake up, I am thinking about the things I need to do for my day job. That's the first items I want to accomplish. After 5:00 p.m., I can relax and dive into my creative endeavors. (I also understand the idea of getting up earlier to get your writing done. But I like to hang out with my partner at night. I also sometimes can't sleep. If I haven't slept as long as I need, I am not a functional person for anything all day, and that makes me miserable. So that's not a tactic that would work for me.)

People are often amazed that I've now written two novels, and I only write an hour a day. But I already knew how much I could do in fifteen minutes. This is four times that amount. And I find that an hour of focused writing is enough for me. When I've finished my practice for the day, I can step away, knowing that if any ideas come to me before I sit down again, I will write down the sentences or words and save them for my next writing practice time.

Writing practices are very personal. If you would like one and haven't started yet, think of what would please you most. Are you someone who likes to get out in the world to write? If I could walk to a cafe, I would definitely consider that. Do you work better if you have a chunk of time in front of you that you do on designated days rather than in regular moments every day? Are you a natural early bird or a night owl? See what works best for you.