GETTING WITH A PROGRAM
I suppose the first thing to pass on with these essays would be how to develop and get into a system or program to help make your writing flourish. Now before we get much further let me remind you that this essay is going to be based on my experiences and opinion. In fact, you may totally disagree with me. That's fine. I just wanted to get this little disclaimer out there first. If this essay helps you, great. If it doesn't just move on to something that will. This also is not going to be an exhaustive chunk of text about the topic either, just a collection of tips and thoughts I feel can be of some benefit.
That being said, I think it best to mention, or rather remind hopeful writers, that writing in and of itself is a craft and discipline. It's just as much a job or endeavor as the artist working on their masterpiece or the carpenter hammering out their next project. The strain in the endeavor's pursuit, though, isn't so much physical as is it is mental.
Unfortunately, the world we live in today tends to zap us of our mental energies before we can use them for creative outlets such as writing. The daily job, family, friends, and other matters of life, all take their toll. By the time most folks get home from work they're too mentally drained to do anything but turn on the TV and become a vegetable. Not so for writers. When they get home they have to work on their tales and projects. If they don't they will never get done and their dream of being published won't become a reality.
If you don't put pen to paper to tell your tale don't expect anyone else to do it for you. Writing is a discipline, you have to focus yourself to commit to putting something down, anything down in writing, to get the habit ingrained in your life. You'll have days when the words flow to your pen or keyboard and others when you have to scrap around every nook and cranny to force every word you can find down onto the manuscript. However, you still need to write something everyday. It's a habit that needs to be promoted.
To help make this easier it is good to know your natural energy ebb and flow so as to be the most effective at your writing. Everyone has a natural cycle when their body is most awake and rearing to go-–a time when they are at their most productive. If you're fired up in the morning, you might not be so keen to come home and type away after work when you're at a lower energy level. So it's important to know this information and use it to your benefit. If you know you're better able to write in the morning, then you might want to get up an hour earlier and put pen to paper when you're at your peak. If you're more apt to be on fire at noon, then perhaps keep a notebook handy and make lunch hour a creative writing session. There are many opportunities to get writing in if you know that you have a peak creative time and are moving to make better use of it.
Please note, however, that just because you have figured out your peak time doesn't mean you should use it as an excuse to not write something should you miss it for some reason. I myself tend to be a morning person who often gets fizzled out creatively, and sometimes energy wise, around 2-3 p.m. on most days. However, should I miss my morning writing time, I still keep my writing plans for that day and write into the afternoon, even into the night if I have to in order to get something written for that day. It is also important to figure out a work schedule that fits your needs. Having kids, full time job(s), etc are all things that eat up time and can distract you from your daily writing. While you want to write something each day you might find that you only can get a snippet here or there on some days and then have a real productive day when you can just hammer things home. Some folks write a tiny bit during the weekdays and then have the weekend as their time to lock themselves in their writing closets. Others are the reverse. You'll have to find a schedule that works best for you.
For myself, because I work on more than one project at once, I follow a routine where I work on one piece one day, alternating with another piece on the following day; taking Sundays off and having a lighter workload for Saturdays. This helps keep the ideas fresh and gives me a mini break in between my work. It also has been balanced too so as to let me have a life away from the computer. Make sure you take this into account with your own planning as it will drive you up the wall eventually if you're staring down a screen or legal pad with all your free time. You do have a life to live amid all your productive creativity... don't forget that.
This brings us back to discipline. You have to put something down on paper everyday (or just about everyday if you give yourself a day off like I do). Doing so builds up the habit needed to produce work to sell and gives you the attitude and drive of the professional writers who have do their own due diligence with their own text daily. Is it going to be easy? No, but few things are in life. It does get easier with time as with any discipline you learn to master. The more you do it, the more you look forward to writing the next day and soon it becomes a joy–a privilege–and not a forced effort.
One trick that's helped me in being eager to return to the keyboard each day is to not finish up the last bit of thought for the day but to leave it as a thread to pick up the next day. By doing this, I have allowed myself a starting point to jump off from and don't have to start out cold, staring at a blank screen or pad wasting time before I get a bearing about what I need to write next. If you don't think you have the discipline needed for daily writing you're not being truthful to yourself. You have a lot more self-control and focus than you realize. Don't cop out until you've put in at least two solid weeks of real, honest, effort to see what it feels like. Most people–well, just about all people–sell themselves way too short on what they think they can and can't do. If you give it a try you'd be amazed at what you can achieve.
Don't be scared about the world "discipline" either. Putting something down on paper for people can vary as well, naturally. For some getting a page a day done is a wonderful milestone. Others might want three or even five. Some might only be able to do half a page while others look to get a certain word count reached instead. The point is that something is being written and that's a great start. The best thing about all of this is if you stick with the whole process all the work you do is cumulative. So it may not seem like that half a page is worth anything but if you did that for six days in a row each week you would have have three pages by weeks end; twelve pages by the end of the month. This can snowball quickly into a complete work if you stay with it long enough and don't give up until you see the whole project completed.
With the wonder of computers and word processors writing is no longer as hard as it once was with typewriters and handwritten manuscripts. However, without discipline and perseverance, even in this rapid age of relative ease for composition, most manuscripts and writers are going nowhere fast. The weird thing is that the more society makes things easier for everyone the lazier people tend to get. This lethargy will kill you in writing. While you might not have to be a whiz at spelling and grammar any more since your computer and editors will help clear that up for the most part (though it would greatly behoove you to not get sloppy in the field in general), you still have to be dedicated to putting pen to paper/fingers to keys consistently if you want to bring your stories to life. Developing a writing system is just one part of the writing process. I hope to share more parts and tips in further essays which will be posted to this section in the months to come. In the meantime a couple of good books to read up on the process of writing, which also cover the topic of this essay in more depth, are: "On Writing" by Stephen King and "Sometimes the Magic Works" by Terry Brooks.
Keep fueling your dreams and working that pen/keyboard!