Friday, January 18, 2013

Day-by-Day: Why You Should Write Daily

This is 2013... The year of productivity. At least that's my goal. And I'm sure it's your goal too. Regardless of what you do, whether it's writing, art, or something else, it feels good to accomplish milestones and produce effective results in a focused timeframe. Our time and energy are too precious to waste.

But life is filled with distractions that pull us away from our goals. How do you combat that and meet your writing goals in spite of the distractions?

You learn to write something, no matter how short, every day.

This is one of the tips I give to my students when I teach freshman college writing. The best way to become a better writer, a faster writer, a more effective writer is to practice often. That's the reality with everything we do. Practice helps us perfect our skills in every arena, and writing is no different. You have to do it regularly. (I also tell my students to revise, but I'll address that some other time.)

There's just something about writing every day. I don't know what it is exactly. But I know that it gets you into the mental space to put words on paper on a regular basis. It helps you build a habit of writing, which is essential if you want to be productive. It can help you beat writer's block. A daily writing practice keeps the creative juices flowing.

I learned this the hard way: I worked at it. Literally. I've been working as a full-time writer for the past eight years now (the teaching I do is on the side). Believe me, when it's your job to write every day, you do it. You have to. It's the only way to meet deadlines. Projects arise that are unscheduled but that need to be finished quickly. You get words-on-the-brain syndrome. You start editing and proofreading everything you see, even if it isn't work-related. You think about how you'd do it better.

What's interesting is that after a few years of writing daily, even though it was at someone else's request and fitting their needs (also known as ghostwriting), I started to find more passion and energy to work on my own writing projects. That's one reason that I say writing every day, even if you do a little of it, can help you defeat writer's block. It's like training your subconscious to be more connected to your conscious actions. It does work, at least for me.

Now, I'll also mention that writing full-time is a good way to get practice hours under your belt. In his book Outlier, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that we need at least 10,000 hours of practice to become good at something. As a full-time writer, I've gotten over 16,000 hours under my belt so far. But even if you don't write for eight hours a day, the minutes or hours you can spend will add up. The most important thing isn't the time you spend, but the regular habit of fitting writing into your daily life, so that it becomes part of you, like sleeping or breathing.

And keep this in mind too: regular practice is what shows you what is working in your writing and what isn't. It helps you fine-tune sentence structure and word choice. It gives you opportunities to try new techniques, to experiment and have fun. To play as well as to work.

Since I believe so much in writing every day, I'm giving you a 30-something day challenge:

Let's all write something, no matter how short, every day. Start today and go through the end of February. Share how it's going here on the blog or on the ChipperMuse Facebook page or on Twitter. We can encourage each other to write, and at the end of February, we'll see how the practice of daily writing has impacted our creativity and productivity. And since it takes 30 days to develop a habit, this challenge can help you become more consistent in how you make time to write. So... good news all around, right?

I think you'll be pleased with the results. And I can't wait to hear about it, so be sure to stop by and share. In the meantime, happy writing!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Making Room to Write: Ways to Be More Productive in 2013

I literally make room on my desk
to write
If you've read this blog before, then you know  I am passionate about writing. But sometimes, life gets in the way of my writing practice, and I'm often challenged to find time to write while still giving time to the other parts of my life that need it. This happens to all of us, doesn't it? And it's something we all need to address in some fashion so that we can write in a balanced, healthy way.

In light of this... I'm dedicating 2013 to accomplishing my writing goals with balance. So I'm kicking things off this year on the blog with a series of posts on how to make room in our lives for writing. I'm going to tackle all kinds of issues that relate to this topic... Things like this...

  • How to maintain balance between our writing and the other parts of our life
  • Accepting true priorities while eliminating what is unnecessary
  • Ways that we can (and must) take care of ourselves to take care of the artist in us
  • Techniques that can help us recharge our creative batteries
  • Being wise about how we use our time
  • Other issues that you suggest to me...because a lot of what I do on this blog is a response to what you ask for. So, share your questions and suggestions, and I'll do my best to post about them.
My productivity list
Today, let's kick off with a quick self-assessment. The first step to making room to write is to be honest about what is working, and what isn't, in our writing lives. For me, this assessment is in the form of a list, and it looks like this:

Things that make me more productive and creative:
  1. Writing every day. I'm tackling this topic in more detail next week, but I'll say now that writing daily keeps my creative juices flowing. And it especially helps if I'm making time for writing that I love, in one form or another (rather than just the deadlines I need to hit for my day job).
  2. Getting enough sleep and rest. I don't know about you, but when I'm tired or overworked, creativity goes out the window. Rest = energy to write. It's that simple.
  3. Regular exercise. This is especially true of walking outside, in nature. I'll talk about this later too, but movement helps me write. Always has, always will.
  4. Eating well. Heavy foods weigh me down and make me sleepy. Salads and healthy protein make me feel light and energetic, and ready to create.
  5. Getting rid of negativity. If I've got anger, sadness, and other negative emotions bottled up, my energy goes into dealing with that, and not into my writing. Finding ways to process daily emotions equals making room for my muse to come out and visit. Journaling can help. So can throwing rocks. Seriously. I'll post about this too.
  6. Having a plan. I'm a get-it-done type of person. A to-do list goes a long way to helping me manage my time, accomplish things... Disorder saps my creative energy in no time flat.
  7. Getting encouragement. There's a time for getting a critique of your writing. But that's not what I'm talking about here. We all need a boost from time to time. We need people around us who will say: "Yes, keep writing! You can do it. You're getting better at it. You have great ideas. Keep it up." Find people who will do that for you, and do it for yourself as well. It's important.
Things that make me less productive and less likely to get my personal writing done:
  1. Wearing myself out at the day job. Yes, this includes literal work. But it's more about emotional and mental exhaustion. If I don't stay on top of my attitude and purge myself of the frustrations of daily life, I don't feel like writing. Attitude is king. It must be a good, benevolent king, or it gets the boot.
  2. Having no plan or nothing to do. You'd think that having nothing else to do but write would be ideal, but not for me. Ironically, the less I have to accomplish, the less I accomplish. Even if it is a list of little things, I still seem to need a to-do list of some kind to help motivate me to work.
  3. Lacking a clear sense of character, plot, and setting. Eventually, not knowing where I'm going with a fiction idea is the same as not having a plan. Undeveloped ideas usually equal writers block.
  4. Chaos in the rest of my life. Okay, sometimes there is nothing you can do about this. My last few months have been like this, which I mentioned in a post not long ago. When mess happens, you deal with it, and it's okay to put writing temporarily aside if that's what you have to do. But other times, chaos can be getting rid of crazy-makers, by setting boundaries, by saying no when you need to say no. See what I mean? I definitely will post about this more, but it's a good idea to look at your life and see where you're adding more crazy to your life that you don't need to add. Because you can always subtract where necessary.
I encourage you to make a list like this for yourself. If you're a writer, look at it through that lens. But you can also look at it through any other lens that's relevant for you. That may mean looking at what makes you productive at work, in your family life, at the gym, whatever, but it's a good way to learn and bring to your conscious awareness the things that you need to do to care for yourself well. With those things in mind, you can then make better choices for yourself as they come up. This brings more peace and joy into your life, and that helps spawn creative energy for your writing. I'll talk more about this too... Lots of good stuff to share in 2013, and I'm excited about it. Hope you are too!

So... What goals have you set for yourself this year? What helps you to be productive? What robs you of your creative energy? I'd love to hear about it all, so tell me about it in the comments. See you next week with more on why I write every day, even if it's just a little bit, and how a daily writing habit helps you make room for creativity and ideas to flow.

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Quick Update

FYI... Yes, yes, yes... the blog is back! I just have to finish the first post of 2013, and I don't want to rush it. So, it will go up live later today. Stop back tonight or this weekend to read it. After this, I should be able to get back to my normal posting schedule.

Day jobs are a bear, I'll tell you that. In fact, I'll tell you more about that in my upcoming posts, since it has to do with this year's focus: how to write in the midst of a busy life.

Thanks for being patient with me. I will not let you down, I promise. See you later today.

A Very Busy Chipper Muse (but still chipper in the midst of the chaos *grin*)