Writers: Tap into that Back-to-School Vibe

Whether you are the type of writer who abides by the traditional academic calendar year or not, no one can deny that the rise of running 24/7 back-to-school advertisements are the first indicators of significant seasonal changes. Couple the onslaught of back-to-school ads with the gradual shifts in available daylight and we are all reminded that a time of fresh starts and new beginnings is upon us. What a time to be a writer.

Sure, most of the world traditionally celebrates each new year at the stroke of midnight every January 1. But the back-to-school vibe is another chance to begin again. For writers, it is a second opportunity within the calendar year to take a closer look at how you function as a writer. What better time is there than during back-to-school season for a writer to consider ways to improve their writing practice? Assessing and making adjustments to your writing approach is vital if you are to maintain your writing energies with the goal of generating new or final draft work throughout the year. 

To help, here are three key areas to consider:

Expectations

If you are currently working on a key project, you most likely have established goals and timelines set for yourself. Maybe you are just getting started as a writer. Consider any overall expectations you have for your writing. What are your expectations for a daily or weekly practice? What expectations do you hold for the coming months? How would you like your writing to progress over the next year? What do you hope to accomplish? Start small. Dream big. Keep at it.

Another area to consider is whether or not your expectations are realistic. If you are juggling a job, family/pet/friend responsibilities, a commute, and some semblance of a social life, then you need to be realistic about how you prioritize each area and how committed you really are to your writing. (Don’t forget to plan for healthy eating and meal prep as well as trying to get a good night’s sleep. #justsaying) Good writing doesn’t just happen. It helps if you plan for it. Schedule and honor your writing time the way you would if you were scheduling lunch with a dear friend. Do it. Writing daily works for some life schedules, but not for all. Consider how your expectations fall in line with the available time (and energies) you realistically have to devote to your writing.

Why not take the whole back-to-school idea to heart and create a personal syllabus of sorts for your practice? This would allow you to specifically chart out what you wish to accomplish creatively and force you to create a timeline in which to do so. Be honest and reflect upon your own strengths and weaknesses. Write down ways to work with, and in spite of, them. Most importantly, take the time to renew and commit to specific expectations for your writing practice. Think back-to-school formality. ‘Tis the season.

Supplies

Along with fresh printer cartridges and screen cleaner sheets, isn’t it fun come to stock up on those writing supplies that you deem most valuable to your practice? Maybe you just need to update a writing app? Or, maybe you are going #old school and need to replenish your supply of notebooks, journals, and writing utensils. Pay attention to your preferences. Sometimes we need a change. Sometimes we don’t. I’m all about plastic sheets this year as I reorganize my hard copy poetry binders. Last year I was into online folders. I have also been using the same thread bound and spiral bound writing notebooks for years. 

Depending on how you manage your process of revision and finalizing pieces, you may need to replenish your supplies of paper, plastic sheets, paper clips and the preferred pen or pencil of your choice. If you do everything online, then keep it simple by cleaning and updating your file folders.

And don’t forget the treats. Every writer enjoys a good cup of coffee, tea or water. Have a favorite? Plan ahead. Stock up.

Schedule 

Review and update your writing schedule. Unless you don’t have one. If you don't have one, consider how establishing a specific time and place to write would have a positive impact on your writing practice. I remain fascinated by how the act of sitting down to write as per a schedule generates ideas and work I would never have imagined had I just kept going about my day-to-day “thinking about it” instead of settling in, sipping a warm cup warm of lime- infused water, and writing. Set a schedule, stick to it. Revise and rework it as needed.

In sum, be open to catching the back-to-school vibe by taking a fresh new look at your writing expectations, supply list, and schedule. Consider your writing practice with fresh eyes and get to work.

Hope the new school year -oops, I mean writing year goes well!

May the Muses be with you!

~Judith Lagana


To Craft and Construct

Should you find yourself in a rush to declare something finished, don’t.

Immediacy is a thing in the world right now. It seems many of us want what we want when we want it. Whether we are seeking to replenish a supply of notebooks or, an actual app-loaded notebook, most of what we want, need, or think we do, is a mere click away. Writing materials, new clothing, household items, all of it is ours for the online asking. Order it today, have it by the morning. Quick. Easy.

There is a downside to such constant and immediate accessibility. Writers who get too caught up in this risk losing an edge in terms of maintaining the patience and the fortitude to stick with the demands of the drafting process. As we well know, writing, especially creative writing, doesn’t abide by the rules of click today, here tomorrow.

Quality writing as an end-product requires time, work, and focused effort. Many expect to reach that final draft far sooner than what the writing requires. It is not uncommon for some writers to lose interest or become overwhelmed when they find themselves in the midst of having to craft or reconstruct lines and passages further than they originally thought necessary or possible. Ah, the work, the labor! Right?

This construction period is not easy and demands a consistency in deep focused thought and critical consideration. (Mark Twain wasn’t joking with the words, “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” )

So take heed and don’t shy away from the time and effort required to work through your writing whenever possible. The idea that a first draft is akin to a final draft is a fallacy.

Sure, there are stories regarding a certain poet who allegedly churned out a series of multi-stanza pieces after waking from a deep slumber, (as they say), only to have that first draft version immediately published with everyone lauding that poet’s rich use of language and craft. This happens. There are also tales of poets who allegedly sat down to write one morning and by mid-day had multiple pages of what very well may have been finished, crafted, pieces. These poets in question, no doubt, are either entirely mythological or are especially highly talented, practiced, and consistent in their writing practice. The key words there are #practiced and #consistent. Talent is subjective.

Among those at the top of their writing game, the topic of hours spent working and re-working a phrase, a line, a page, until they are deemed, just right is probably never openly discussed. This “time invested” is viewed as a typical part of the writing process. The message here is that good writing takes time. Taking time requires patience.

Should you find yourself in a rush to declare something finished, don’t. Take the time to offer a second, or third consideration. Consider the writing as being under construction and work accordingly with that mindset. Remember, a first draft is what it is, rough and in need of further work.

Again, all of this takes time. A mindset which recognizes the value of patiently working to ultimately produce writing that is clear, concise, and impactful is realistic. This is when a writer’s abilities to use language to sharpen a line and flesh out a detail are on full display.

The art of cutting excess wording in one line, fleshing out images in another, arranging and re-arranging stanzas and lines may not be appealing to some, but when done well, will ultimately garner respect from your reading audience. As you delve into the nuances of your own writing, notice ways to make the piece more exact in what you intended to communicate. Good writers make this look easy. (This is why it is such a great exercise to study the way writing that speaks to us is constructed and crafted.)

What matters is that you remain committed to giving your drafts time to reach their fullest potential. Afterwards, you can scroll down and click through for a quick fix ordering of whatever household or personal item or necessity you need to replenish or immediately restock. Doing so will ensure that you will not only be keeping up with the ongoing cadences of online ordering, but also that your writing will be progressing nicely as well.

Keep at it. As always, may the Muses be with you.

~Judith Lagana