Inkpop Blog

Write, Read, Connect

Make healthy writing habits

Posted by inkpop on November 27, 2009

inktips #9: inkpop looks at “peak productivity” writing times and locations of J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and other authors

The most important tool for writing isn’t necessarily your brain, heart, hands, or computer. It may be your rear end.

At least that’s the memorable advice that Beautiful Americans author Lucy Silag received from Bad Mother author Ayelet Waldman.

Why is the booty such an important tool for literary productivity? “Sitting yourself down and actually doing the work is the hardest part,” Silag says. “When I learned to make myself sit and write even when I didn’t want to, I realized that’s half the battle—maybe even three-quarters of the battle—to getting a book written.”

Silag’s mother, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley, consistently wins the self-discipline battle. “She writes every day for several hours, and if you walk into her office and interrupt her, she’ll talk to you and then just go back to whatever she was doing as if nothing happened,” Silag says. “When I am writing, I loll around the house, distracting myself with chores I’ve been avoiding for weeks until I feel so guilty I go into my room and open up the file on my desktop for whatever project I am working on. If someone calls me or Gchats me—forget it.”

Silag raises a very valid point: With so many daily distractions, when, where, and how should writers stay focused to accomplish their goals? Let’s check out the tricks and tips of authors and inkpoppers to see what they do to stay on the right writing track …

FIND YOUR PEAK WRITING TIME

Some writers swear that their brains are freshest in the wee hours of the morning, but not everyone’s an early riser who’s raring to write at dawn. The key is to get into a daily writing routine, to the point where you feel slightly anxious when you miss a time slot. The concept is similar to how runners feel when they miss a running session.

Tui T. Sutherland—author of more than two dozen books including Never Bite a Boy on the First Date and the Avatars trilogy—keeps a daily writing schedule of midnight to 5 a.m.

“I concentrate better when it’s quiet, and I know nobody’s going to call and nobody’s waiting for me to do something,” Sutherland says. “After writing, I go to bed at about 5 a.m. and sleep until noon or so. Mornings and I have never gotten along, so it works well for me.”

Some writers don’t have the luxury to set up a regular writing schedule, so they write whenever they can. Before Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling became J.K. Rowling, she designed her writing time around her daughter’s sleeping schedule. “Whenever Jessica fell asleep in her pushchair, I would dash to the nearest cafe and write like mad,” she writes on jkrowling.com. “I wrote nearly every evening. Then I had to type the whole thing out myself. Sometimes I actually hated the book, even while I loved it.” 

Sometimes literary genius happens while you’re sleeping. This was the case for Stephenie Meyer, who literally dreamt Twilight. Like Rowling, Meyer was so busy raising her children that she had to squeeze in time to put her dream onto paper. “I mostly wrote at night, after the kids were asleep so that I could concentrate for longer than five minutes without being interrupted,” she writes on stepheniemeyer.com.

Still can’t find time to write? Read Tui T. Sutherland’s tips for “Finding a 25th Hour in the Day.”

DISCOVER YOUR IDEAL CREATIVE ENVIRONMENT

There’s no such thing as a universal ideal writing space. Some writers are able to write anywhere, anytime; whereas other writers are most productive in a specific environment.

Whether you write best in a cozy café, a quiet corner in the library, under a beach umbrella, or up in a tree house, once you discover the location that gets your creative juices flowing, schedule yourself to visit that place on a regular basis.

“If I’m really having trouble concentrating, I will take my laptop in the bathroom, and lock the door,” writes 13-year-old Savvy on inkpop Forums. “Absolutely no distractions in there, and you don’t need to waste time with bathroom breaks.”

A CLEAN DESK=A CLEAN MIND

If you’re a traditionalist who prefers writing at a desk, make sure it’s a clean, well-lit desk, free of clutter, notes, and visual distractions. For many people, the desk is a central dumping area for homework, magazines, junk mail, love notes, and candy wrappers, but as a writer, you’ve got to commit to keeping your desk your creative sanctuary.

If you invest several minutes a day to organizing your desk, you’ll avoid the drudgery of sifting through a mountain of accumulation right when an “a-ha!” literary mood strikes. In essence, by creating a clutter-free working environment, you’re providing yourself with a clean slate for ideas to flow. Once you’re at your clean desk, close the door, and post a sign that says, “Don’t bother me! I’m writing.”

GET OFF THE INTERNET

Sure, the Internet is a great research tool and network center (hello, inkpop!), but in order to completely focus on writing, you’ve got to turn a blind eye to instant messaging, e-mail, viral videos, and other electronic distractions, like cell phone, TV, radio, etc. This is easier said than done, but just think about how much time  you lose we you just “quickly check” your e-mail or a Facebook thread.

WRITE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC?

“I can’t write without music, no matter what,” says inkpopper and Paramore fan InconstantMoon on inkpop Forums.

But music with lyrics isn’t for everyone. “Music can help me sometimes, but usually I get distracted and start singing along or want to go look up the lyrics or more info on the artist,” writes nesa09 on inkpop Forums. “Classical and instrumental music is best.”

Though there’s no “one-size-fits-all” concentration music to help writers, studies have shown that classical music helps with elevating emotional spirits and soothing the mind. There’s still debate on whether classical and instrumental music helps with concentration, so experiment with different types of music and no music at all to see what helps you concentrate.

inkpop Forums topic: When and where do you write?

The inkpop blog is written by inkpopAmy

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One Response to “Make healthy writing habits”

  1. nesa09 said

    yay i’m quoted in the blog!

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