Monday, March 30, 2020

How to Prepare Yourself as a Writer

When you start anything in life you need to begin on the right foot, and writing is no different.

Start as you mean to go on.

This means your thoughts and habits must be right to begin with.  It's no good writing if you don't think you're a writer to begin with.  You're probably doing this already, but for those writers who may be just starting out, or may need a little extra help, let's start at the basics.

Preparation is Key

In order to prepare yourself properly you need the right equipment.  Any photographer will tell you you need a good camera to take pictures, just like a cyclist needs a bike.  Otherwise it's a non-starter.

The first step is taking yourself seriously.  Then you need the right kit, before you take the plunge and start writing.  Once you've got this part sorted, then you can start thinking about your mindset. 



Writing Tool Checklist

If you're fortunate enough to have been given a lot of your writing equipment, still try and assign some kind of monetary value, like reading more books, or buying yourself a journal. 

Let's get started.

1. PC or Laptop

There was a time the writer's would have used nothing but ink and paper, or even a typewriter.  But these days most writer's use a laptop or PC to get their work done.  You don't need to spend a fortune.  But you might want to think about spending a little bit extra on a good keyboard.  A good keyboard should respond to your fingertips hitting the keys immediately, and shouldn't feel uncomfortable to type on. 

A lot of writer's use more than one machine, often purchasing a PC and Netbook.  This is because Netbooks are cheap and easy to carry around. 

A lot of author's have gone old school, and have bought typewriter's or word processors to write their first drafts.  Machines like the Alphasmart NEO Word Processor allow you to see a few lines at a time, and don't include spell or grammar checkers.  It's a great little device because it runs on AA batteries and can be easily carried around with you.

2. A Location to Write

Wherever you choose to write make sure it won't affect your health permanently.  Sitting in a bad position can have serious health consequences that can be easily solved by having the right office set up. 

I use a simple desk and chair as my current writing location, and also give myself time to stretch in between typing.  There are plenty of things you can buy to alleviate any discomfort when you type.  Such as an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, desk and chair to help you sit in a better position. 

Something else to think about is how much time you spend writing.  You could try an hour long session with plenty of small breaks in between so you can get up and stretch your legs.  

3. Read Regularly

Stephen King is a firm believer that all writers should read a lot and write a lot.

There are so many ways you can read these days, everything from e-readers to magazines, papers to books.  The list is endless.  One thing I should mention is that you love what your reading.  If you're not a big reader, start small and grow your reading habit so that it becomes second nature.  For many writer's, particularly nonfiction writer's, reading comes through research.  There are plenty of places you can purchase or borrow books in your local area.  You could try joining your local library (if you haven't already done so), or look for books in a local charity shop.  Always remember to keep a hold of all of your receipts, especially if you've started writing books.  You may need those receipts to claim against tax.

4. Articles and Books About Writing

Reading about writing is a key part of being a writer, although there are some writers who feel it can be jading to do so.  Don't panic if you fall into this category, continue with your writing process because it's evidently working for you.

For those who love learning from other bloggers and writer's online, there are certain principles you can follow.  Don't think you ever have to use every bit of advice you read.  Only use what you need and disregard the rest.

Often it's good to refresh your memory by looking at particular information, such as story structure, or character development if you're writing fiction. 

There's no harm in seeing how other authors produce their work, this may also help you in your writing development. 

5. Take a Writing Course that Suits You

Not an essential part of the list, but something that may be beneficial to you and your writing community.  With any point I've mentioned it's always good to do your homework first before jumping straight in.  Make sure the course covers all of the points you need, and isn't overly expensive.  Check out reviews from students, and always investigate the teacher or course provider before you spend your money.

6. Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are free and can be found through any device, such as laptop, PC, Iphone.  Here are ten of the best podcasters to get you started:

  1. The Creative Penn
  2. Ann Kroeker
  3. Writing Class Radio
  4. I Should be Writing
  5. Writing Excuses
  6. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips
  7. The Writer Files
  8. Portfolio Life by Jeff Goins
  9. The Story Grid Podcast
  10. Helping Writers Become Authors
A Quick Word of Warning

Podcasts, courses and books can all become a hindrance in your writing process if they aren't used properly.  Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with learning something new once in a while, but don't let it hamper your writing process. 

You can use these tools when:

  • You set yourself a time limit before you start writing.
  • You use them for short periods while you're writing your story.  (Don't allow it to disturb your writing time).
  • You've finished writing your book to make sure you haven't missed any big errors, or to add relevant detail to what you've already written.

Writing is your primary focus, everything else is secondary. Reading, talking and listening to other writer's won't get you anywhere unless you actually write.

Shaping Your Writing Routine

A good writing routine will keep you focussed and stay organised.  Unfortunately there are times when you find yourself stalling and avoiding your PC.  This can leave you feeling really stressed because you haven't done the work you intended to do.  By the time you do sit down to write your energy levels are low, and you just give up.  Leaving your writing for another day.

This kind of self-defeating behaviour not only creates bad habits, but also hampers your creativity and flow.  Everyone is different, some people prefer writing in the morning, and others (like me) prefer night time to write. 

The problem is that we all slip so easily in and out of these kinds of behaviours.  This becomes more apparent when the outside world starts creeping in.  If you're not doing something regularly you find yourself making it up as you go along, often adding added undue stress to your day.

Template for a Solid Writing Routine

Decisions take time and energy, and most people's days are filled to the brim, so it's no wonder that setting up a regular writing habit is so difficult.  Let's face it, it's easier to do the easy things like sit and watch TV, than sit down and write.  The self-control is there, but we've used up our daily allowance.

But don't despair!

You can bend the system to your own advantage, and reduce the everyday decisions you make.

How Do You Get Your Writing Routine Back Into Shape?

The habits you were taught as a child, such as fastening your shoe laces, or cleaning your teeth.  These are things you do on a daily basis, and are given very little thought, because you've been conditioned to do them. 

What Has That Got to do With My Writing Routine?

You're probably thinking there's a big difference between tying my shoelaces and writing a book.  And you're right, but that's why you need to start thinking small. 

Big things have small beginnings.

Lawrence of Arabia (Film).

I would also liken this to doing a workout. 

Example:

If you're new to a gym you'll be shown around various equipment, and shown a few upper body and abs exercises to get you started.  Once you get used to that routine, you then move on to something intermediate and start looking at harder things to do.  All of these things take to learn, and take a lot of getting used to.

Once you start a habit you can tailor it to your own convenience.


Starting Your New Writing Routine

I like to start small and build from there.  There's no sense in running when you can't walk.  All you need to do is sit down and set a small time limit.  For example 15 minutes writing a day.  If you want to write daily, then do 15 minutes of writing everyday.  Try setting up a specific time each week to write and make a note of it in your calendar, or diary.  This task will be clearly set, and done each week at the same time.

All you have to do is repeat this routine for a couple of weeks until it becomes a permanent habit in your life. 

Quick note:  Don't be tempted to change your 15 minute writing routine to early on, because you could become easily discouraged.  Just allow yourself to achieve this simple goal every week.

You'll know when you're ready to take it up a notch.

Takeaways:

  • Your routine will be more efficient because it will be a regular habit in your life.
  • Choose your favourite part of the day to write and stick to it.  It's half the battle when you know when your brain is the most lucid.
  • Make writing a daily routine.
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2 comments:

  1. Totally agreed about not letting books/podcasts to become hindrance in your writing. Don't just get obsessed with learning materials. Start implementing/writing what you learn from them as soon as possible too.

    Improve your writing skill is just like building muscles. It takes time, persistence and some routine to follow daily :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment Precis Writer. Exercising your writing muscle is no different than going for your daily workout :)

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