10.17.2017

On Being Intentional About More Words On The Page

I am a writer.

Well, scratch that.  Maybe.

I love taking pictures.  For a season of my life I loved writing songs and was even in a band or three.  For another season in my life, I gravitated toward making short films. Most of them were used to win hearts for God. The christian God, that is. But I'm not going to get in to religion here. If you know me, you know I'm not a fan of organized religion. If it works for you, awesome. Do your thing  man.

So, these different creative outlets that I pursue at various point in my life, and seem to circle back to in cycles, lead me to think one thing.

I am a story teller.

With the exception of the photography, though, all of the other story telling outlets begin with words.

Writing.

I am a writer.

I will not belabor the personal road to Damascus I travelled to get to that realization. It is well chronicled on these electronic pages, and permanently etched on my skin (no, for real, I literally have ink in my blood).

I have a friend. She is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. And she's cool as shit. She is also prolific as balls. I think she has put out something like a book a month this year. It's amazing. And it's good work.

Recently she started teaching a course through genreCRAVE for getting more words on the page.

This has been my issue. I have ideas. Boy, let me tell you do I have ideas. I have no less than 50 (or maybe like a couple hundred) book and story ideas floating around. Scraps of paper, idea journals, my digital recorder. Basically anytime an idea for a story or book or series claws its way to the surface, I jot it down somewhere, somehow.

But I have a hard time circling back to them.

This course I'm taking has helped me figure out why.

You see, I'm a writer.  I have to write. If I don't write something every day, even if it's just a little poem, I count the day a loss. The most amazing things could have happened that day, but the day will always be less than perfect if I don't write at least something that day.

Enter this course. This course helped me realize that I need to change a critical component to my approach for writing. I almost had it right. Almost. I was taking steps. Doing things like writing at lunch. Trying to carve out time after work to write. Making sure I spent time with other writers.

But it wasn't enough.

I hadn't developed the right habit. The write habit.

And I hadn't been given the writing part of me the respect it deserved in my life.

I had been spending my days trying to fit the writing in. Looking at my time and my days and thinking, Well, if I get some time in today, I can probably get in a thousand words or so. That will be cool. 

Only it wasn't cool.

I had a book that I needed to get done.

This course "More Words On The Page" was the key to helping me make the shift.

I realized that I needed to break some old habits and create some new ones.

The fact that I am sitting here now at 5:27AM is a testament to the fact that it is working.

The first and most important habit I had to form (and am still working to cement it) is the one that seems the most obvious from the observation deck.

I had to become INTENTIONAL about  my writing.

Instead of trying to fit the writing in to whatever space and time I had in my day,  I had to make time for my writing. The writing is important. It needs to be the thing I schedule my day around, not the other way around.

Seems simple, right?  Right. Simple, write.

I know that the best time for me to actually carve out a block of time to write, even if it is just an hour a day, is the morning before I have to go in to work. I have a somewhat flexible starting time. As long as I am in the door by about 8/8:30, it's usually fine.

The problem is, I don't always get to leave work on time, or at least the time I plan. The nature of my job means that if I'm planning on leaving at 4:30 and is an IT dumpster fire, I could be staying until easily 6 or 7pm.  This derailed any of the times that I set aside to "write for an hour after work."  Coming home and being exhausted also derailed this.

The TV also derailed this. It seems natural to flip on the ole Netflix when I'm getting dinner ready. And then also natural to watch whatever whilst eating. And continue watching it after I'm done. And the next thing I know, it's eleven o'clock and I'm passed out on the love seat. With no writing done.

Right then.

So morning before work it is.

I tried setting alarms on my phone.

Nojoy.  I'd be hitting snooze and the next thing I know it's 7:30 and I have no time to do anything but get ready for work.   With no writing done.

That left trying to write at lunch. Seems reasonable. I get an hour for lunch. I can scarf down some food in fifteen or twenty minutes and use the rest of my hour to write, right? Sometimes. When I'm not continually getting interrupted by people who start the conversation with I know you're eating, and I hate to bother you, but...  And I think, "Dude. If you know I'm at lunch and the building isn't on fire, can't you just give me sixty fucking minutes?"

Still, this was the best option of the three and the one I went with most often.

Until I started taking this course.

Then there was a subtle but vital shift.

The shift of needing to make a new habit.

Needing to make the writing a priority.

I have an alarm clock that it not my phone. It's a separate alarm that is set to go off at 4:40AM.  I use it when I have to get up for work and do installs. It's the alarm that I actually have to get up out of bed to go shut off. It's the alarm I never snooze through, because I can't miss doing the installs for work when it goes off.

My body is in the habit of waking up and being ready to do stuff when that alarm goes off.

Eureka!

Last week I started setting that alarm and using that as my writing alarm. It would go off at 4:40 and I would be at my writing desk by 5. Oh, that was another thing, no more trying to write on the loveseat and no more using the 'messy office, can't write' excuse. I got a portable laptop desk and stool and that is my writing desk. My brain knows now that when I sit at that desk, it's time to write.

So, last week...every morning...up and writing by 5AM.

And you know what?  I wrote TWELVE THOUSAND words last week.
I had a 12K week of writing. This is over twice what my average writing output was.

I credit the course for that (and there's still six weeks left, I'm stoked to see what my writing routine looks like when I'm on the other side of this thing).

But mostly, I realize it's about realizing that by being intentional about my writing, I'm being true to my nature. And that is super important for all other areas of my life.

Here's the funny thing and also the kind of cool thing. It's one thing. Sort of.

I finished a first draft of a book yesterday.  It's over 20K. I decided to give myself the night off of writing last night.

And I went to bed and didn't set the special alarm.

My regular alarm on my phone went off at 5. I hit snooze and stared at my phone for a good three minutes.

In the end, I got up and decided to write.

I have to be honest, I was worried that if I skipped a day, even though I was done with a book and technically didn't have a work in progress to pound away on, that I could sabotage the habit I had been working to build.

It's much easier to sleep in than it is to get out of bed and intentionally sit down to the keyboard to write.

So here I am, writing.

I'm finding that the most important lesson I've learned so far is that my writing deserves.

My readers deserve it.

And I deserve it.


-ATS


See, writing is literally a part of me now...



2 comments:

Darrin said...

Sounds like your on the right/write path. Congrats on the 1st draft of the book. Nothing like getting that first big step out of the way.

And nice tattoo!

Todd S. said...

Thank you my brother!! It definitely makes a difference when the focus is in the right place.

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