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The Writing Life

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

For writers: how to create a life centered around writing

(This article was originally published on Medium)

What is the writing life? The writing life simply means a life in which writing plays an important, if not central, role. It is how writers spend each day, surrounded by words.

Writing isn’t a 9–5 job and writers don’t just work when inspiration strikes. Writers make writing a part of everything they do. It isn’t just a job; it is a way of life. A good example of this is the writer Benjamin Percy. He says “I never take it easy — I’m always working, always writing or editing or grading. Even when I’m supposedly relaxing, I’m not. If I’m at the gym, I’m listening to an audiobook. If I’m watching a movie, I’ve got my notebook out and I’m jotting down ideas. If I’m out in the yard with my kids, I’m pushing around sentences in my head.”

This is a perfect example of what the writing life can mean for one person. However, a daily writing life doesn’t look the same to everyone and doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. You’ll have to find your own path, so to speak.

Developing a writing routine

In order to develop discipline and create a place for writing in your life, making writing a regular habit (a daily habit, ideally) is essential. Let’s be honest about it; writing is hard work. It does not just magically happen for anyone. That’s why a routine can be so helpful for writers at all levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. First, a writing routine helps to make writing a priority in your life.

Yes, if you want to get better, writing has to be a priority. And without a routine, some writers might get so caught up with other aspects of their life that writing moves to the back burner (exactly what you want to avoid). Most importantly, a writing routine forces you to write. The sheer practice of writing on a regular basis will make you a better writer and will help you accumulate enough pages to get to a full draft.

Keep a writing journal

One daily habit that can help build a life is keeping a writing journal. Think of a writing journal not as a diary for personal reflection but as a place to collect ideas, details, and random tidbits for your writing. Some writers have several journals: one in the car, one near the bedside, etc. You never know when an idea might strike! There is no one form that is better than others. Use whatever works best for you: spiral notebook, leather bound journal, a three ring binder that you can continue to add pages to, etc. And remember, as author Janet Burroway says, “Your journal is totally forgiving; it is 100 percent rough draft; it passes no judgments.”

What you might include in your journal:

· Ideas for stories/poems/essays

· Observations

· Lists

· Postcards or other images

· Title ideas

· Character sketches

· Quotes from books you’re reading

· Newspaper clipings

· Random bits of trivia

Put it all in; you never know what you’re going to use. You can turn to your journal anytime you need new ideas.

Where does inspiration fit in? The idea of inspiration is probably not a new concept to you. It is synonymous with creating art. We wait for the muse to visit us. When we can’t write, it is because we lack inspiration. Many serious writers don’t believe solely in inspiration, however. If a writer spends all her time waiting for inspiration, she might end up waiting more than writing.

If you’re ever feeling stuck or lacking inspiration, consider trying a practice activity from the textbook or looking back at your journal for ideas. No time to read and write? If you’re already feeling overwhelmed or wondering what you signed up for, don’t be scared. It is normal to feel a bit of resistance or anxiety early in the process.

Author Chuck Close says it best: “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

On a related note, Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk about creativity, “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” is worth viewing, as well.

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