…is that they are largely unhelpful.
Almost every writer, particularly blogger, writes an article similar to one of the following: “Ten Writing Habits to Begin Now,” or, “Ten Tips to Kickstart Your Writing.” While these articles can be genuinely helpful and can provide important knowledge to those who wish to write, the content of these articles is largely the same: Write for at least an hour a day; Turn off your phone and all other distractions; Find a writing space that makes you content; Beat back with a stick the desire to edit your work as you go. In this article, then, I will tackle the most cliché writing advice by sharing how it tends to actually go. Essentially, I will be comparing these golden rules, these largely unhelpful daily writing tips and sharing how they play out in reality.
Sit down at a computer and write for one hour every day.
Sit in the chair and let the words flow out in a glorious stream-of-consciousness. Let nothing get in your way of putting words on the page.
Attempt to find an hour in your daily schedule that you can afford to block off for the sole purpose of writing. Realize that the only way to do this is to wake up an hour earlier in the morning; admit that you are not willing to give up another hour of your precious sleep, setting you back to six hours a night instead of seven. Instead, write in the in-between times: between meetings, classes, work shifts, at meals. Tap furiously into your iPhone as you walk from class to class, hoping that you don’t run into another tree. Tell your friends that you can’t hang out tonight because you already have plans that cannot be changed; don’t tell them that the plans involve tapping onto your iPad in the dark at one in the morning because it is the first moment to breathe that you have had all day.
Turn off your phone, wifi, and any other distractions.
Press and hold the power button on your iPhone until the screen goes blank. Flip the switch on your Mac to turn the wifi off, rendering you blissfully disconnected from the world that is comprised of distractions.
You can’t turn off your phone because your boss could text you at any moment to let you know if you need to go to that obscure meeting that has never been fully described to you. Compromise: Turn your phone’s volume halfway down so that you will only be halfway distracted. The wifi needs to stay on, too: How else are you going to listen to your “Writing Jamz” playlist on Spotify? If the wifi is on, you might as well leave Twitter open in the background so that you can see what all 500 of your closest friends are writing online.
Find a good writing space
Sit in a comfortable chair, but not too comfortable that you fall asleep. Sit in the position your sixth grade typing teacher told you to sit in with your eyes facing the computer monitor. Set the music to a comfortable level that is not distracting.
Slouch in a lumpy armchair in your local Starbucks. Forget the music: Wearing headphones in public makes you self-conscious.
Don’t edit as you go.
Resist the urge to edit your work as you go. Instead, push confidently onward, victoriously increasing your word count with your head held high.
I admit that I may have dramatized some of the details. While I am so unproductive with all of these ideals, I do manage to be quite productive alone at a table without music, phone in my bag, notifications turned off. I may not carve out an entire hour each day to write, but I do write almost every day; that’s what’s more important, correct? The point, then, is that our lives are complicated. So often, we see these same few tips from established writers who are trying to share what works for them in their daily writing lives. The truth is, though, that there are so many more factors than that. We are all different people, different writers. We all work differently; many writers can’t even begin to work in a coffee shop, while it is one of the places where I am the most productive. Like most other things in life, being a productive writer is about finding what works for and with you. While it is never a bad idea to get tips and ideas from other writers, don’t hold them as absolute truths. Instead, don’t be afraid to tweak them. If working in a solitary room with no internet, no phone, and no possible distractions isn’t working for you, then don’t do it. Experiment until you find what works for you, and then do that.
Content originally published on mile/minute mind.