Have you ever tried to dissect your writing “style?” I’m not talking about the way you write your scenes or prose, but the actual physical approach you take to putting word to page.
Are you a night writer? Do you like early mornings? Do you need to take walks or showers to come up with ideas? Do you lie down on the couch to make notes? Are you a citizen of Starbucks?
One thing that can be incredibly helpful in creating a writing schedule is to understand the circumstances under which you do your best work, and then to find ways to create and support these habits in your life.
Here are some strategies to help you lean into your writing “style.”
Think about your best time of day to write. When are you at your freshest and most creative? Is it early morning? Late at night? Write down the time block that suits your creativity best.
Schedule your writing. Once you’ve figured out your perfect daily time to work, BLOCK THESE HOURS OUT in your calendar. Treat your writing like a job, with a boss who will fire you if you don’t show up. If you hit roadblocks, get creative. I’m a morning writer, and when my kids were babies, I knew that if I tried to work in the afternoon when they napped, I’d get zero done. So I got up at 5:30am and wrote until 7:30am. Thank you coffee. Try to write at the same time every day.
Set daily word/page count goals, or give yourself time deadlines. If you are writing a screenplay and commit to five pages a day, in 24 days you should have a rough draft. If you’re writing fiction or memoir, you can also set a daily page or word goal. OR, if you like due dates, you can say, “‘I’ll have ACT I done by Thursday, March 25th.” Or, “I’ll have Chapter 3 done by February 30th.” Set goals and meet them.
Pick your tools. Pens or Pencils? Coffee or tea? Paper or computer screen? Candles? Incense? Snacks? Most people have certain objects they like to use in their writing rituals. Embrace yours.
Schedule some exercise. This is just as important as sitting down in the chair. Whether you like to walk, hike, run or go to the gym, your brain needs fresh air, and physical movement can shake out brain-cramp. While writing, stand up every hour or so to get your body moving.
Lying down or sitting up? Do you work best when you’re horizontal? Do you like to sit at a desk? Assume the favorite position!
Music or Silence? I like silence, but a lot of my friends love to listen to music. Pick music that could be the soundtrack for your book or movie!
Figure out WHERE you like to work. Home or Coffee Shop? Backyard? Walking and talking into a recorder? Work in a place where you feel the most free to create. NOT in the middle of the dining room.
Embrace the rituals and environment that work best for you. Sometimes just sitting in the same chair each day signals the brain that it’s time to work. I know that if I even get a whiff of coffee, my fingers start to automatically type.
Take Action! Think about your writing “style.” Pick your time, place and tools. Create rituals. Stick to deadlines. Instead of saying, “I’m a morning writer but I can’t write because I have to go to work,” say, “I’m getting up an hour earlier and writing for 60 minutes before I leave.”
Instead of saying, “I can’t,” start saying, “I can.” Watch the magic unspool.
Hopefully, you’ve noticed Truman Capote, above, lounging on his divan. This is what he said about his writing style, “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand.”
Did someone just say martinis?
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