Three Reminders for Writers

“…why did I have to keep learning this same thing over and over?”

~Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

In writing, and in life, we sometimes have to revisit or relearn things we once knew. My writing friends and I often speak of needing to reread some of our favorite writing books. Names that often come up are Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird, Judy Bridges’ Shut Up! and Write, Stephen King’s On Writing, Sandra Scofield’sThe Scene Book. Sometimes, we just need to dive back in and see what sticks this time around; which leads us to…

Reminder #1: Reviewing can be inspiring, encouraging and instructive.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be in the right places at the right times to offer two writing friends some comments that seemed to help each of them. One, working on an epilogue for a memoir, handed me the epilogue to read. She felt that something wasn’t quite right, but she couldn’t put her finger on the problem. As it happened, I could. I immediately saw that moving three short paragraphs from mid-memoir to the beginning and then tweaking two transitions, would create a much more cohesive piece. Then, later in the day, I bumped into a friend I’d met at the Tin House Conference in 2010. We chatted online about her struggles getting going with her novel idea. By back-and-forthing and sharing, I think I helped her realize she may have been “over-thinking” her process, instead of writing. She complained of being woefully slow with her first drafts, so I suggested she try, for one week, to double her word count. She seemed excited to try it. I don’t know if it will work for her, but I hope so! And, that leads us to….

Reminder #2: Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for suggestions. It’s up to you if you follow them or not, but sometimes, they can offer what you need to hear.

December has always been a difficult time for me to sustain consistency with my writing. My days feel more chopped up with Christmas to do lists — shopping, decorating the house (which in my case also involves de-cluttering in a BIG way), writing cards, etc. And, all of that is in addition to the normal pushes and pulls of daily life. I know people who can work full-time jobs and get all that done, and still write, but, I am not one of them. So, I’ve learned to let December be a time for shorter writing chunks for me, and, more time on submitting whenever possible. If I am not able to devote solid times to revising my novel, I’m disappointed, but not stuck. There are other things I can do in shorter chunks. For example, in the chapter I’m now revising, I have one character who feels a little flat. I will be making lists (see an older post on using lists) of character attributes and brainstorming more details to help give this character more spark. When the day comes that I can carve out an extended period of time just for the novel, I will have ideas to review before I begin. Short writing times are not wasted time — leading to….

Reminder #3: Be flexible, kind and patient with yourself. Doing nothing is not a good idea, but doing a little is just fine when that’s all you can manage.

So, in the spirit of “reminders,” I leave you with The Earls and Remember Then:

Hopefully, these reminders sparked something for you. Are there things that could help you in your writing that you sometimes forget? What reminders work for you?

Happy #writing all!