Three Tips for Maintaining Your Writing Practice

In addition to getting some actual writing completed, every writer needs to be attentive to the health of their personal writing practice. Here are three recommended tried and true tips to help you maintain a writing practice that is viable, consistent, and productive:

  1. Plan

    Block out time each week to plan out your intentions for the upcoming week. Chart out your goals for individual writing sessions. Detailing your goals will help you develop a sense of clarity about what you hope to achieve.

  2. Prepare

    Are you prepared to write? Be sure to have your desk or table cleared and any anticipated resources at the ready. Do you need to replenish your supply of pens, pencils, paper? Are your screen and keyboard glistening thanks to a fresh spritz of screen cleaner? Remember to take a breath and prepare yourself to slip into creative writing mode. Oh, and don’t forget the mug of tea or coffee and bottles of water. Once you sit down, (or stand, for those of you who prefer writing at a standing desk), you’ll be ready to write.

  3. Reflect

    Schedule a specific time to reflect and review your current writing project. Consider your next steps. Then, go back to Step #1, Planning, to set up your next writing session.


Staying committed to your writing practice ensures you'll generate a portfolio of work. When you plan, prepare, and reflect, you'll help ensure that your strongest drafts make it through to final, finished pieces. Using these tips will help.


calendar keyboard plant writing
 

On Writing Process: The Essential Nine Phases (Part 3)

Part 3 of 3

In the initial post of this series, I wrote how the Essential Nine Phases of the Writing Process offer a way for every writer to use their process to support their writing practice. What I hope is most refreshing about the essential nine phases is that they offer up an opportunity for all writers and poets to acknowledge that there is more to writing than putting a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard.

Viewed together, the essential nine acknowledge that all the time we spend reading, observing, and mulling things over have as much value as the time we spend drafting, revising, and rereading. This time around, we’ll consider the three essential end phases, namely refining, finalizing, and sharing.

Let’s take a look:

7.  Refining

Refining your writing takes as much or as little time as you are willing to devote to it. It is in the refinement stage that subtle and important adjustments are made to a working draft. Much the same way we would give ourselves a quick visual once over before we leave the house for an appointment, the refinement stage requires that you apply a similar critical eye to your writing.  

As I am about to leave the house for anything, I check on what, for me, are the essentials. Do I have my keys, my bag, my phone? Am I somewhat put together? This quick visual check is focused and critical since these things are important to me. My writing is equally important, as is yours. Thus, the same idea of looking closely and critically at a working draft applies. When I print out a hard copy draft and am readying to refine it, I am looking for anything that appears out of place or that could be further fine-tuned for clarity, flow, or impact.

count-counting-graphic-1329296.jpg

“You’ll find that the final last minute fine line adjustments elevate your writing.”

I look to notice anything that subtly catches my eye, be it mis-spellings, lines that appear rough or misplaced, or anything that jumps out at me. It is no wonder why the refinement phase, akin to what we, in writers lingo would call “the final touch” is so important.

It is during this stage where previously unrecognized moments in the writing call upon the writer to switch up a line or take out a word, to reorder the placement of a passage or to suddenly cut a series of overly descriptive details. If you are lucky, and well into your process, you may find yourself substituting words, adjusting lines, or opting to switch out three words when one will do. You get the idea.

Repeated close readings for clarity and overall impact are hallmarks of this phase. Read silently to yourself. Then, read the piece aloud. You’ll listen to your words while aiming to get a better sense of rhythm and flow, of noting whether there are cadences within the piece, and noticing whether your intentions are as clear as you had hoped and whether they make sense.

And remember, you are working with a late stage draft here. Is what you meant to say as clearly communicated as what the words on the page are offering up?  If you are unsure, you’ll go back, reread, and refine further until you’ll feel the writing is ready. And how thrilled will you be as you watch your writing further tighten and improve along the way?

8. Finalizing

One of my favorite quotations and one that I use frequently in my creative writing workshops is from the poet, William Butler Yeats, who is credited with essentially saying, that “…when a poem is finished it snaps itself shut.” There is an instinctual knowing when a poem or piece of writing is technically finished, yes? You may feel that your work is complete, well crafted, and ready to be shared.

As you continue to read your final draft aloud you’ll notice moments within the piece that call out for a subtle adjustment. For this reason alone, I love and enjoy this particular phase. This is where a sharpened sense of editorial craft-related concern couples with what I consider to be creative magic. It is in these moments, where the last attempts to make this piece of writing as strong as possible take place. You’ll find that the final, last minute fine line adjustments elevate your writing. During the final stage read-throughs, I have thrown out periods and added commas last minute. I’ve adjusted enjambments for the betterment of a stanza and the entirety of the poem. The point here is that even when you think you are finished, you may not be. The finalizing phase allows for the unexpected observation of a moment in your work that could be improved. These editorial surprises are usually minute and last minute touch ups which, in turn, may take your writing to the next level.

Writing is hard work

It’s also fun, enjoyable, necessary. Keep at it.

9. Sharing

The sharing phase will take you and your writing in entirely new directions, if you are open and willing. This is when you plan and implement strategies for sending your work out into the world. And there are so many options. There are numerous ways to share your work, so decisions must be made. What fun! Will you attend a reading? Begin to blog? Enter a contest? Submit work for publication? There are many options for you to share with the understanding that your “final copy” may very well be finished by now. But, often when you share a piece, especially at a reading, you’ll still recognize at that stage that the writing may need to again cycle through some of the earlier stages of the nine phase process. Yet, when all is said and done, you’ll need to commit to sharing your voice and allowing your words to go out into the world. You will want to share.

Perhaps you’ll find, with the input of a reading partner or a workshop group, that sections still need to be overhauled. This is no big deal. Writing is work. The worst thing that can happen if you find yourself back at an earlier point in the nine stage process is that your writing will benefit.

I believe, it is necessary for the health of every writer to send work out into the world. You may be very well surprised by the responses and reactions others have to your writing.

And may all of that positiveness, in turn, serve to infuse you with vast creative energy and the desire to write. May it motivate you to return to the keyboard or the notebook and begin this nine stage process all over again. In sum, I hope that you will continually revisit each of the essential nine phases while reflecting on your own writing process and practice. May the Muses remain with you as you do.

~Judith Lagana


 
 

creativity, craft, and imagination

Write. Then write some more.

 
 
static1.squarespace-3.jpg

On Writing Process: The Essential Nine Phases (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3

When we last left off, we were considering how the key stages of observing, reading, and mulling (over) figured into the “Essential Nine Phase of the Writing Process.” Again, this multi-phased process acknowledges the key phases that writers pass through during the entirety of their writing process. The next three stages, drafting, revising, and rereading, are also key to the overall process.

Let’s take a look:

count-counting-graphic-1329296.jpg

“…the phases of drafting, revising, and rereading form the heart of the writing process.”

4.  Drafting

In the beginning, there is the first draft. Few things are as pure.

This initial piece of writing is raw in the sense of being new and authentic. Ideally during this stage, the writer gets caught up in the writing itself. No overthinking. No doubting or judging. Just pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Pure unadulterated writing. The drafting phase is the free fall, the jump off. It is here that a writer lets loose and allows that blend of whatever imagination, memory, and intent are at work within their psyche.

Included in this mix is the reach towards genre, and whatever figures into the genre of your choosing. Maybe research, maybe form. So many famous writers have offered their take on the writing of the first draft. I adhere to the words of John Steinbeck, who recommended that writers simply, “write fast.” My take on this is to write as quickly as possible, without overthinking, so that the ideas flow before they fade and risk being lost. This doesn’t work for everyone. So, it is important that you experiment and pay attention to what works best for you in terms of getting down that initial flow of images, details, and insights.


5. Revising

Revising is akin to revisiting your first draft. Depending on your take on things, this phase can be one of the more enjoyable phases in your writing process. This is where you return, skim through, and work through your first draft forms.. You make revisions, add a line here or there, delete or develop a detail or image. It is during the revision phase when you’ll look for those openings within your writing that offer the chance to further delve in and explore, expand. It is here where the opportunity to develop an image, a character, a description makes itself available if, you are paying attention. Revision is a necessary and vital phase, so give yourself permission to dwell here in a mindful manner. As you revise you’ll revisit the original piece, your either add to what’s already there, or cut, cross out and delete for the purpose of developing a stronger working draft. It is here where you decide whether or not to commit to taking a draft further.

6.  Rereading

Rereading is the careful and mindful reading aloud of the original, slightly revised piece. This may take place in the form of a quick, subdued read, or a more energized reading. It may be something you do aloud in the company of only yourself or it may be an opportunity you share with a trusted writer friend or family member. However it plays out, the goal is to read the piece aloud for the purpose of listening to cadences and flow.

Where and how does your writing move? Does it stumble or falter? If so, you’ll recognize those areas as needing more work. Does it glide or roll? You’ll celebrate those areas and use their energy as you further revise other segments of the piece. Your editor’s eye and ear should be actively at work here. The rereading phase allows the writer to really listen to the cadence of things and whether or not the writing is as clear as is intended.

A common mistake many writers make is not recognizing that their intended idea may not be transferring as clearly as was intended, onto the page. This reading and rereading phase helps bring the writer's intention in line with the manner in which the words come across to a reader. Numerous, mindful readings and re-readings help with clarity and intent, no doubt.

To any writer, the phases of drafting, revisiting, rereading, form the heart of the writing process. It is here where the writer charts a beginning, a benchmark from which to start and a place from which to move forward. Hopefully as you move through your own writing process you will honor and allot ample time to thee essential phases of drafting, revisiting, and rereading. Your writing will only benefit from your commitment.


~Judith Lagana

Next: Refining, Finalizing, Sharing, Phases 7, 8, & 9 (Part 3 of 3)