goals

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This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after the other until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

– Neil Gaiman

 

I’ve spent a fair bit of time today thinking (ie. trawling the archives of Writer’s Digest, 43Folders and Zen Habits) about what I need to do to get my writing career moving. And while the most effective practice that I can put into place is to actually write more, I’ve realised that the best way to progress is to set myself goals.

I write every day. Whether it’s a diary entry, checklist, an idea, a blog post, research for a story or a story itself, I write something every day. The problem is that very little of it amounts to anything tangible, usable. I lack focus. I know that I write best when I have a goal, something specific to work towards, a deadline, and it just so happened that this morning, my writer friend Dan (of Pen Wizard) linked me to a publishing house seeking submissions for anthologies. That got me wondering why the heck I haven’t been looking for those sorts of opportunities for myself, because chances are I’m not going to get published sitting at home, watching my laptop screen and waiting for the right person to stumble across my blog. A quick Google search returned quite an extensive list of anthologies looking for writing, many of them themed in genres I enjoy writing, and many of them paid. I ask myself again, why haven’t I done this sooner?? 

So, I’ve narrowed down three anthologies I want to submit to, that open submissions in July. Two are 7,500 words and one is 5,000 words. On top of that, I’m setting myself a goal of a chapter a week for my novel, which has been slowly steeping in the research/ procrastinating phase. I want to post here more frequently. And, I have a submission due for the next issue of The Brisbane Collective’s mag in a month or less, so I am going to be a busy little bee!

If you see me in the real world or on Facebook, or stumble upon my blog, harass me about my writing, what I’m working on, how close to finishing I am, how many words I’ve written that day. Make me feel bad if I haven’t written any. Lord knows I need a kick up the butt.

habits of highly effective writers

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Haruki Murakami wakes each morning at 4:00 to write, and I’m starting to think that I should too.

 

Inspiration strikes at the most inconvenient times, and, more often than not, I find myself waking in the wee hours of the morning with ideas begging to be written. I scrawl them down, illegibly, in the dark, to be deciphered when the day breaks. But, the warmth of bed wins over the insistence of inspiration, and I stay snug under the covers while I lay awake running ideas over in my mind.

Haruki Murakami wakes at 4:00 to write, and continues until 10:00. That’s six hours of writing done by a time that many people would still be tarrying into the office, sipping on their first double-shot-soy-caramel-latte of the day. With my work hours, I could manage two hours of writing before my shift starts, which is two more hours of writing than I tend to do after work. (Murakami then goes on to train for ultra-marathons, but I don’t think that’s a practice that I will be incorporating into my daily schedule.)

As Murakami explains in his book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, the three most important qualities for a novelist to possess are talent, focus and endurance. I like to hope that I have the first quality, however infant in its incarnation it may be, but the second two need a lot of work. My writing schedule is entirely erratic, squeezed into half-hour lunch breaks, notes idly written over afternoon beers or during dinner preparation, and sometimes, rare hours of productivity early in the mornings of my days off. Which is why my muse is keeping me awake at all hours of the night. It isn’t getting the attention that it deserves. Most writing advice that I’ve read suggests that writers need routine, a writing schedule, time set aside during the day for the sole purpose of writing without interruption. So, starting tomorrow, I am going to begin my day as Haruki Murakami does. In the cold, dark hours of a winter morning. Alone and undisturbed, in front of my laptop, or typewriter, or a spiral-bound notebook with pen in hand.

Do you keep a writing schedule? Do you write whenever the fancy takes you, or does having a sense of routine, fixed hours, suit you better? How best do you appease your nagging muse?

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