Reassessing Your Writing Practice

October is finally “in season.” Here on the East Coast the temperatures have finally dipped, and over the past several days, the top edges of the trees are beginning to show lowlights of reds, oranges, and browns. These seasonal shifts offer the opportunity to reflect on our current writing practices and consider where we might need to implement change for the sake of keeping our writing practice vital. With that in mind, there are some questions to consider:

Are you devoting ample time to your writing practice?  You, and only you, are the best judge of this. Writing takes time. Consider how you are using yours. Paying attention to your time constraints and noting when and where you have pockets (and energy) to write can add much to your practice. So does being prepared. I carry notebooks of all sizes wherever I go and have my iPhone’s voice recorder at the ready during my a.m. commute so that I can maximize my writing time. Many writers schedule their writing sessions directly into their calendars. If you feel you don’t have any time to write, you might consider how you use your time overall. Are you flitting away hours on social media or watching mindless television when you could square away an additional 30 minutes to an hour to write during that time??  Everyone can find at least ten minutes somewhere in their day to write. If not everyday, than at minimum once a week. Establish a schedule and build from there.

Do you regularly write during the same time frame? Consider the time of day in which you feel you write best. Recognize whether your writing is stronger in the a.m. or evening hours. Sometimes life interferes and you have to write when you can. But, if you are able to experiment with writing at different points in the day, why not do it?

I once knew a writer who would seasonally switch up the times of his daily writing sessions just to keep things interesting and, as he once put it , “...to keep the revision instincts sharp.”  During the spring and summer months this writer committed to rising early and writing for a a good block of time before the demands and responsibilities of the day emerged.  During the late fall and winter months, allowance were made for what was considered “the luxury” of sleeping in (meaning not waking up at 4:30 a.m. to write), so personal writing sessions would occur in the early or late evenings.

This seasonal shifting of work session times served to keep this writer’s practice interesting and fresh. It inspired me enough to realize that it is ok and sometimes even vital to the health of your writing practice to change things up as your life needs dictate. Other writers I know pick one time of the day to write and remain committed to that timeframe throughout the year. The trick here is to discover what works best for you.

When was the last time you experimented writing in a new genre? Are you devoted to writing in one genre?  If so, then why not explore how working in another genre for the sake of an exercise might sharpen your use of imagery, word choice, or craft?  I encourage the writers in my weekly AWA workshops to let the writing lead the way. This often results with fiction writers creating a first draft poem or memoir writers suddenly working with dialogue from an emerging character they were not exactly expecting when they started on that first draft.

Do you approach your writing with the intent that most of what you write needs to be worked into a final publishable piece?  Not every piece of writing is meant to be reworked. Sometimes our writing offers us the chance to clear our heads and in doing so, we clear our creative psyches.  Fresh ideas, characters, and themes can emerge from this process. Learn to let go a bit. As you revisit your first drafts, you are bound to discover lines and moments that are worthy of further rewrites. But know that it is ok to sometimes just leave a piece of writing alone, to keep it as is and move on.

Are you too hard on yourself? Do you place unreasonable expectations on your writing before you have even written one word? Or, do you kindly wait until you are midway through a piece before bombarding yourself with inner critical comments that may do more to retard your writing than to promote it?  I believe that every writer has an inner critic who needs, at times to be kept at bay, especially when a first draft is underway. Other times, that critical voice is what is needed to help us further work a piece. The key is knowing when to encourage and when to silence your inner critic.

Are you ready to make a change? Change can either be daunting or it can be reinvigorating.  Life is full of change. That’s a fact. Yet, isn’t it easier when we are the ones instigating the change? Making changes to your writing practice is something over which you have control. We still have several weeks to go before winter officially arrives. Take advantage of this autumnal transitional phase to reevaluate your writing practice. Be like the seasons and let go of what is no longer working and retain what is.

Look at the this reevaluation period as an investment in your creativity, yourself, and your writing.  

~J. Adams Lagana