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


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.


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Judith Lagana is the founder and co-editor of River Heron Review.
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