On Writing

The EWE of Writing


I’d like to talk about something that is likely one of the most difficult things when you’re an artist – a writer, a painter, a musician, a florist,’fill in your type of artistry here’, etc.

Making time to do it. Now, before you go all ‘oh, gawd, she’s writing about time again’ on me, hear me out. I’d like to talk about it in a purely educational way.

You see, tonight marked the final night of our memoir writing class. We celebrated our accomplishments, feasted at Calabrisella (restaurant on Erie Street in Windsor – I had sea bass smothered in garlic, spinach,  artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes with a side of beans and egg plant. GAH. So delicious), then read a piece from each of our memoirs.

Before we were about to read, however, I asked the five amazing women writers in the class what they’re upcoming writing plans were, and if we had another class, how would they like it to go. I’m always looking for feedback on my classes, and ideas about how to continue and make it better. We all agreed that we would have liked to have had more time to ‘write’. We all agreed that the critiquing portion of the class was undeniably helpful insofar as receiving it but that it was a challenge some weeks to do the reading and critiquing because it took up a lot of time.

Summer is fast approaching. Some of us are already filing up the days with stuff to do. Some of us feel tapped out. We need a break from organized writing classes/groups. Still others would be happy as a feral cat in heat gettin’ it on in alley with another cat to continue coming to class, reading, writing, critiquing and being critiqued.

We realized that we’re all at different places in our lives when it comes to writing – whether we’re working on our memoirs or other things.

We realized that fitting in time to write, while not always at the same time or place, is something that we’re all committed to doing. Over the last eight-ten weeks, we’ve all figured out a way to add ‘writing’ into our busy lives.

We’ve managed our ‘time’ to fit it in – consistently.

Here’s the truth:

The writing (or artistic) ‘process’ – the fitting it in and the ‘how to’ do that – is critical. If you take your art seriously then you have to give it a serious role in your life. Practice makes perfect. Practice takes time. It takes practice to find the time.

But how?

Here’s how I do it:

1) EQUALITY: Treat your writing/art like it’s equal to all the other priorities in your day. This includes sleeping, exercising, eating, working, groceries, laundry, etc. Do your best to be ‘guilt-free’ when you’re doing your craft. If your ultimate goal is for your art to be your ‘work’ then giving your art equal space and time in your life before this point is really important. When you get to a place in your life when your ‘day job’ shifts and you can dedicate one,two, three or more days to your art, you’ll want to be able to do it joyfully, whole-heartedly and without the guilt of thinking that you should be doing other things. This is especially important if you do your art in your home – when the dirty floor, the piles of laundry, the smelly dishes, etc. call out your name like they’re on fire and they can feel the heat.

2) WRITE IT OUT & TRY IT ON: In the beginning, the practice of ‘morning pages’ (read any book by Juila Cameron – she’s the mother of morning pages – for detailed info) – waking up and writing three longhand pages before you do anything else – will be extremely helpful to clear your mind and help you plan your day. Not only does this help clear and free your mind, it helps you wake up a bit earlier so you can ‘fit in’ the time to write. It helps you feel how it feels to write in the morning when you get up. You may realize that you’re a creative morning person. You may realize that you’re not.

Get a calendar. Write your writing schedule on it. Put it somewhere that everyone can see so your ‘support’ system knows what you’re dedicating your time to. Schedule in writing at various times over the course of a month. Try on the times. See when and where you feel most able to write. You can’t wait for inspiration. It comes when it comes, and the more you write, the more you realize that inspiration is having your cake and eating it too. (The cake is the writing.)

Figure out the best way to ‘get it out’ – do you naturally gravitate to a pen and paper, a computer, a small notebook? What type of keyboard do you like? What type of pen? Paper? Spend enough time on trying your ‘tools’ that you find what works. Be careful to not go overboard though…one can get loopy over finding the right pen. Trust me. I know.

Write in different rooms in your house. Write in different cafes or restaurants. The park. A church. A library. Try your writing ‘space’ on.

Play around so you can figure out what works best for you in order to include writing in your life everyday.

You may find that your schedule is fragmented and frenetic. That you enjoy writing in the early hours of the morning before the sun gets up, but some mornings you just can’t because you’re too exhausted. Re-schedule. You may find that you can fit in twenty minutes between doing two other important things in your life. Use these twenty minutes. You will be amazed at how much you will accomplish in twenty minutes.

Get rid of the ‘only’ – I ‘only’ have twenty minutes to write. Nope. You HAVE twenty minutes to write. Use them. Embrace them. Gift them to yourself.

Like my weight, my writing schedule shifts. I have to move organically day-to-day when it comes to my writing. Like today, while I had time to write, I chose to not write this blog until now. Until I was in bed with the kids (see the photo). In between pulling things out of Miller’s nose (that she crammed up there!) and hugging Jett, I managed to get out the first half of this blog. Then I stopped, turned off the lights, and lay (lie?) with the kids until they fell asleep. Then I opened up my trusty laptop and wrote more.

One of the writers in my class writes in the morning. She figured out that she enjoys writing in the first half of her day. She writes well. She writes comfortably during this time. She writes for one hour or more or less, but she writes everyday. She’s retired so her schedule has the freedom to include long stretches of creative expression. She chooses to include these long stretches into her day.

Many writers write about their ‘process’ and how and when they write. I betcha big bucks that they spent a good amount of time playing and trying things on before they found what worked best. And I betcha more big bucks that life always caused shifting – and they chose to go with the flow, to adjust, and continue writing every day.

3) EVERYTHING COUNTS: Thinking about writing counts. Thinking about your sculpture, your drawing, your flower arrangement – it all counts. Always carry an idea notebook and a pen with you. When inspiration does show her mighty head, you want to be prepared and let her rip. Read. Read. Read. Reading will make your writing better. Guaranteed. Writers read and writers write. Whether you’re writing a letter, an email, a poem or a page in your novel or screenplay – it all counts. Celebrate all the creative things you do each day and you’ll realize you have a lot to celebrate.

You’ll notice that my three points make quite the acronym: EWE.

Eeeeewe. Or Yuck. Gross.

Exactly. It’s not gonna feel awesome when you first commit to making writing an everyday part of your life. It’s gonna feel uncomfortable and challenging. It’s gonna make you feel like you just can’t get it right, but that ickiness goes away. Then the ‘ewe’ will be how you feel when you don’t write everyday. Shifting. Happens all the time.

When’s my favorite time to write? Between 3-7pm. Although I rarely, if ever, write during this time.

Where’s my favorite place to write? Where there’s sun. My office when it’s clean. The dining room table.

What do I love to write on/with? I go straight to a computer when I’m writing prose, and straight to paper and a pen when I’m writing poetry. I love writing on my new laptop, but I also love writing on my computer in my office. I love a pen with a thick tip. Blue or black ink. Always by hand and on beautiful stationary when I’m writing a letter to a friend (although I have broken this rule…).

When did I my ‘EWE’ turn to ‘EWE’? I move in and out of pure, joyous, positive EWE times. For me, what’s been most difficult is believing in my writing when I’m doing it. And sharing that ‘belief’ with my support system so I don’t feel guilty asking them to help me make time to write. They always are supportive, which is the best part. But I do have a hard time making it ‘okay’ for me to write outside of my scheduled two days during the week…Especially when I schedule non-writing things into the days when I’m ‘supposed’ to be writing.

It’s time to get ‘EWE’-y, dontcha think?

Have fun. Do your best. Do your art. Do it every day.