We all have different techniques when it comes to writing, so naturally I thought I’d share what gets my creative juices flowing. I’m finding that my preferences differ depending on what stage the manuscript is at so I’m focusing this first segment on the drafting process – a time in which my creative mode is in full swing.
Firstly, I ensure my children are safe, contained, content, etc. This usually means I write during my toddler’s nap time while my oldest is at school OR at night once everyone has gone to bed (Several of my fellow writing friends wake up insanely early each morning to write, something I have yet to accomplish myself. I take my hat off to them. They’re superstars).
So, writing during naps or at night. Sounds simple enough, right? WRONG. Things come up and I have to roll with the punches (it’s hard). The FedEx man may bang on the front door and prematurely wake my toddler from her nap, or my 4-year-old may turn Tasmanian devil right before bedtime. Or often, I work too late into the night and get run down.
The most ideal set up is if I can secure a babysitter for a few hours while I write. I’ll do “trades” with other moms during the week or take advantage when family comes into town – fun times and free childcare! (Hey, this novel writing business takes a village. No shame here.) But since these aren’t regular or consistent occurrences, I try my best to write around my kids’ sleep schedules. It doesn’t always work out and it’s definitely not fool-proof. But when the stars do align, I drop All.The.Things…and take advantage of Every.Single.Second!
Secondly, I gather my “supplies” and make sure I’m comfortable. I need my laptop, my notebook and a pen, a water bottle, some snacks (cashews, fruit snacks, cheese), the baby monitor to listen for the snoozers, headphones, and a blanket (I’m pretty much a reptile). I have an oversized armchair in my bedroom that I like to write in but I’m not overly picky (My favorite place to write? The library!). I do have a fondness for desks or tables – writing at a desk creates resonance with my college days as well as decreases the risk of me dozing off (hey, I’m a sleep-deprived momma. Also, drool on the keyboard is bad news). I also silence my phone but keep it within arm’s reach. That way it’s not overly distracting but I’m available if something urgent should arise. Basically I do everything I can think of to ensure I will not have to get up. And I do it swiftly. Because, like I said, every second counts.
- A note on bad habits: I inevitably slip into some of my go-to “stress relievers” if I’m not properly prepared for a writing session, most particularly if I don’t have any “tactile outlets.” For instance, I have a bad habit of twisting my hair and biting the inside of my mouth while I’m deep in thought (HELLO creative thinking). However, tactile distractions such as petting my dogs or running my fingers across a hairbrush greatly minimize this. Another bad habit: I pull at my eyebrows…eek! Writing – especially plotting, drafting, editing, okay, all of it – is intense. However, if I have snacks, water, and even just a couple tactile tools, I can turn to those stimuli instead of giving myself dreadlocks and chewing the inside of my mouth into ground beef (which also keeps my dentist happy).
Thirdly: Music. Oh, it is so important for my creative process! My selection is based largely off of mood or the type of scene I’m writing – no surprises there. With the exception of Enya, I cannot draft with lyrical music. I’m too distractible I guess. Mostly, I listen to movie soundtracks. One that has surprised me: the official Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. It fits the middle grade fantasy/mysticism genre quite well. Who’d have thought, right? Also, Lindsay Stirling-esque styles are great but only for about an hour – so yeah, playlists for variety!
Lastly, I have to know when to take my hands off the manuscript. Sometimes this involves simply switching writing projects but usually a literal separation from the writing serves best. I can be a bit of an unrelenting work horse and have the tendency to drive myself into the ground. Usually this happens during my night writing. I’ll start writing in circles – my brain will run on repeat – in a continuous, pointless loop. It’s frustrating, tiring, and painful (like, I get nauseous). It took me a while to recognize what was happening, to let go of my stubborn: “Just one more paragraph, even if it kills me!” mindset. But sometimes enough is enough, even if it’s just for the day. Once the exhilarating buzz of writing departs and I start to feel like a mass of confused atoms, I know it’s time to temporarily retire.
J.R.R. Tolkien said: “Fantasy [and might I add, WRITING] is escapist, and that is it’s glory.” Indeed, I feel this to be true, but sometimes temporarily taking your eyes off of the writing and returning to reality is necessary for the magic to continue flowing!