Early in my writing career, (1996) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was one of my favorite books – quotes, creative affirmation, and the Morning Pages.
Big Idea #1 Morning Pages
Morning Pages inspired me. So that’s how you do it. Get up even earlier than I already did for my teaching job. I was also motivated, so I did it.
My kitchen nook was cozy, lit by the spring sunrise. I loved writing each day and certainly did more than the recommended three pages a day – for a while. Soon this schedule became a “have to” instead of a “want to.” I tapered, then wrote occasionally, then I abandoned it.
I read about writers who got up at 5:00 AM. every single day – even weekends – and wrote for hours. Sounded like suffering to me. But somewhere the idea of sustained writing stuck. I just didn’t like to write all alone early in the morning.
Here’s what still works for me in 2024: You don’t have to write every day to be a “writer.” A daily schedule may not be for you. But you do have to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or voice to tape, and get something down, i.e., written.
Big Idea #2 B.I.C.
Part A: Make a 24” X 18” sign with large, bold letters B I C. “Butt In Chair” Tack it up where you’ll see it. Sit down quite close to your writing area. Write.
Part B: Commit to a specific schedule for 7, or 10, or 14 days. “I will write five pages every morning.” “I will write every other day for four hours.” Keep a log. There’s nothing like seeing it in “black and white” to keep you honest. If it works, renew your commitment; if not, devise a new one.
Part C: Acknowledge that you wrote something. To your group, to yourself. Share your habit of writing with others. Have them join you. Brag. “I wrote 1000 words this morning.” Share your writing – one on one, at open mics, storytelling events, conferences. Writing can be solitary but support and affirmation from others is like an energy smoothie, minus the calories.
Be in the company of writers
Big Idea #3 Join a writing group.
One that writes together, or one that critiques (with care), or one that shares tips, or prompts. Be in the company of dedicated writers. Steer clear of dabblers. I commit to one day a week with my Eastside Writing Room colleagues. Minimum of 1 ½ hours, sometimes it becomes 3. That’s a long BIC.
Pre-Covid we established the habit of gathering weekly for two hours at a host’s home. No phone, no interruptions. State your intention for that day. Write. It was a tiny bit social and a whole lot of writing. I set aside an additional morning each week for more creative writing and another afternoon or evening for the business of writing.
Covid did not stop us. We Zoomed each Tuesday for 40 minutes, each of us sharing our intention for that day’s writing. I think because our two-hour habit had been established, it was not that difficult to continue to write on our own after the Zoom time. Post-pandemic we continue to Zoom each Tuesday with each writer sharing their intention for that day. We added in-person meetings plus Zoom once a month. I still separate my creative writing and the business of writing times. Not so much in the evening these days.
About once a month, I find I’ll write for hours every morning for an entire week – because my writing process has had me pre-writing while walking around, scribbling snippets on scraps of paper, dictating ideas to my phone, or on line at Safeway. Pretty soon I just have to sit down – BIC – and write. I’m a writer.
Check out our recent Eastside Writing Room successes after accumulating those Tuesday hours of writing. “EWR Celebrating Us -The Eastside Writing Room” Oct. 20, 2023
Looking for a writing group? Check us out. Eastside Writing Room -Ethel Lee-Miller
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, semi-retired from coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.