Writing Practice: the dreaded 15 minute write

Almost every writing teacher argues that the basic unit of writing is writing practice, usually a timed exercise, with the admonition that through practice you actually do get better.

However, I have never enjoyed exercises like: Look at a plant. Write the life of the plant – what it’s done, what it’s seen, where it’s heading, its thoughts. I have never found advice like, try writing in your notebook upside down, or turn the book sideways, or write outside the margins to be helpful. I just do not believe that these small tasks will force me to think in creative ways, that forcing my brain to think outside the lines will make me a better writer.

I used to despise writing practice.

I felt like I had little enough precious time and I did not want to fritter it away on writing that was just practice. After rereading Brande’s Becoming a Writer, Campbell’s The Artist’s Way, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor, I revised my aversion to writing practice. I mixed up their ideas and came up with a system that works for me, and it is one that I now encourage my writing students to use as well.

I advocate writing for either fifteen minutes or three pages, whichever comes first. However, from there my approach differs. I warm up with the first page of writing. I am primping the pump, so the rules are simple: Write without stopping. Do not be concerned with being good. It is warming up the writing muscle, just like stretches warm up our physical muscles.

But after the first page is done, I switch to deliberate writing, and this different type of writing. This is where I deviate from Brande, Goldberg and Campbell. In the next two pages I generate new writing. It’s deliberate. It’s specific. This advice does not originate with me—I got it from Priscilla Long who said, “The writing done in writing practice can be about anything . . .It can be an observation exercise. It can be work on an essay, story, article, or scene. It can be used to conceptualize new work” (p. 15,16).

Since I read that advice a year ago, I have done writing practice almost every day. I have written poetry. I have done character sketches. I have drafted new essays. I have done observation exercises. I’ve moaned and complained (I do it once in a while). Usually, I plan, conceptualize and draft new work.

I agree with Long when she says, “In a busy life, a week and then two weeks can go by in no time at all, with little or no writing done. The practice of writing for fifteen minutes per day simply deletes this problem” (p. 15). More importantly, writing for fifteen minutes a day helps commit to safekeeping a woman’s writing life.

#MondayGoals

Write in spite of everything and everybody. When it comes to your writing, ignore the dream snatchers. Don’t let someone put a period where God put a comma.

#Mondaygoals #dream #dontstop #keepon #findaway #beintentional #plan #purpose #womanwriter

A Writerly Life: Germaine Greer

“… if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk, or how fast she could run?”
― Germaine Greer, The Change.

Writing Tip #9

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When you didn’t have regular time to give to your writing, let your stories* just be working in your head. You can work out all kind of important elements before sitting down to write. That way, when you started to write you are already deep into your story.

*I’m using this word generically to mean all forms and genres of writing.

How to Deal With Self-Doubt as a Writer

Today’s one of those days. It’s filled with self-doubt. All these big feelings of a sense of worthlessness, worry, anxiety. And I’m writing a novel, so I’m dealing with the big question: Who would want to publish this?

There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt when you’re a writer. Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. I’ve learned that you have to continue writing even when you don’t feel like it. I’ve discovered that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea.

In the end, self-doubt is just part of the job of being a writer. It pains me to say it, but self-doubt is a completely normal part of being a writer. Award-winning novelist Mindy Halleck, says her grandmother would tell her: “Never let self-doubt drive your car. It rides in the back seat.” Meaning you’ll always have doubts, just don’t let them run the day. Put them at the back of your mind.

Here are three things I remind myself on days like today, to prevent self-doubt from driving the car:

1. Take your eyes off the price and put them on the prize.

2. It takes as much energy to be a non-writer as to be a writer. It’s just a question of where the energy is directed.

3. Self-doubt is just part of the creative process. It doesn’t go away. It sits there. It’s part of the process. So we need to learn to live with that and go forward. Finish your manuscript, publish your book, and get your words out into the world anyway.

A Writerly Life: Joanna Russ

“If you are a woman and wish to become pre-eminent in a field, it’s a good idea to (a) invent it and (b) locate it in an area either so badly paid or of such low status that men don’t want it.”
― Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing