So you’ve gotten into your writing groove. You have your daily writing goal. You’re making progress on the novel. Here’s a new concept: don’t overdo it. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but in one day don’t go too far over your goal. Most days for me it is a struggle to get three pages. Some days I write a little more. But I think it is important not to write until you are bleary eyed and your back is killing you from sitting at the computer. Make of note of your progress in your daily novel notebook, make notes of what to do tomorrow and walk away from it. Give your brain a chance to recover. Save some writing energy for the next day. You might find you’ll be fresher and more ready to start the next day, if you don’t think you have to kill yourself at one sitting. Steady she goes. Just do your three pages or 1,000 words or whatever. The book will get finished that way. The turtle was the one who finished the race first.
In my town we have a great group of writers who are strung together very loosely. We meet twice a month but also individually. Every once in a while we organize a retreat and a few of us go. The latest retreat was at Colonyhouse, owned by the Oregon Writers Colony. If you are a member you can rent this beach house at Rockaway Beach, Oregon. A group of us spent a week there in September. We wrote in the morning, walked the beach in the afternoon, read what we wrote in the evening. It establishes a nice rhythm to writing, and one learns what the writing day can look like. Of course, one has to play at these retreats. We ate lots of fresh seafood: Dungeness crabs, tuna, salmon, clam chowder, steamers. Heaven. Then there was Tillamook ice cream. This retreat we discovered karaoke and sang our little hearts out.
The rough translation of this Latin piece of wisdom is – don’t let the bastards grind you down. (I saw this most recently on a sign over the fireplace at the Oregon Writers Colonyhouse, Rockaway Beach, Oregon.) This is good advice for life in general, but excellent advice for writers. Writing is a lonely, discouraging job at times. It may even seem that the world is conspiring against us to get the book finished! One has to guard a solid core of oneself. That means one has to believe in oneself and keep on going. One has to develop an inner strength, honed by rejections, and strengthened by the support of other writers. It helps a lot to have a group of writers for support. If you don’t have a writer group, start one! Writing is not for the faint of heart. It is that steel hardened by fire thing.
A fascinating thing happens over the years as one’s writing improves. The creative function grows and explodes and the creativity gleaned in writing bleeds over into other aspects of life. Ideas grow and spread like dandelions. New ideas spring up for new books, new ways to promote one’s work, new ideas for book covers. And it seems like by feeding and watering the creative garden in one’s brain it spreads basic creativity into other arts and crafts, and you might take up oil painting to paint an idea or sketching to illustrate your next book. It is an amazing process.
There is truth to the concept that regular daily writing exercises your writing muscle. Just like other muscles that build and grow and strengthen with regular use, so the writing muscle grows and strengthens with regular practice. Don’t ask me where the writing muscle is. It’s probably more like grooves in our brains. A piano teach once told me to practice fifteen minutes every day for maximum learning. This wears little grooves in the brain so it knows what to do. Like practicing the piano, learning to ride a bike, learning how to cook, the brain remembers and improves through regular practice. Usually we remember then how to do something. We improve with practice. I know. It has happened to me.
I'm a serious writer, meaning I have a regular daily writing habit, and I'm interested in sharing my work through publication. My favorite literary form is the novel. I write to entertain myself and my readers.