Tag Archives: Writing

So, You Want to Write?

Here’s a post about some ideas, tips and maybe a little motivation on writing that I’ve had experience with. For starters I could use some motivation and consistency in writing myself so hopefully I can adhere to my own ideas.

When I started to write my first book all the ideas and stories were fresh in my mind and I was eager to get it all down in print. It was easy for me to type it all out and keep going until I had a good rough draft finished up. Words would flow out like water over a cliff as I drafted out the chapters with the main ideas and foundations I needed to go back on subsequent drafts to add more details.

Establish Consistency

Some of the things I did to help me through this process was to establish a schedule of sorts to keep myself accountable and on track. If I was able to be at home in the evenings I could dedicate an hour or two to writing. As long as I kept at it and stayed consistent I was able to form a habit. I’ve heard it said that if you can do something consistently for 45 to 60 days or so, that you can form a habit which makes it easier to keep doing what you need to do. This worked especially well for me when I wrote my book and for going to the gym each day in the very early morning.

Eliminate Distractions

Next on my unofficial list of things to do was to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Since I write on a computer it becomes far too easy to be distracted by other things. Social media like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other websites like to grab my attention and pull me away from my writing. So what I would do is close out all of my open programs that generate notifications. I would then put the program I was using to write into full screen mode to prevent me from seeing those other programs and wanting to click on them. Next I’d put my mobile devices into do not disturb or airplane mode to shut down those notifications too.

The next thing I have to deal with, and it’s far more tricky and complicated, is to figure out a way to keep the cats at bay! One of my cats loves to be right by me, if not on me, at all times when I am home. If I happen to be on the computer it’s not uncommon for him to be laying on my lap, or my hands between me and the computer. You can imagine that it’s a bit difficult to type and concentrate with a cat in the way. I could lock myself away in another room away from them, but in my experience they still find a way to break my concentration by by pawing at the door, banging into it, meowing and generally being unruly until I come out or allow them in.

The only way I overcame this distraction was to allow him to get close to me for a while until he settled down, usually on my lap or on my wrists. I’ve actually become quite adept at typing with a cat lounging on my wrists.

Sometimes you can’t always eliminate all distractions completely, but you do the best you can and push forward with your writing anyhow.

Take Notes

Another great tip that I learned way back in grade school actually was to take notes. It’s a great idea to keep a pen and paper nearby at all times. You never know when a great idea for your book will strike you and you may not be at home or anywhere to put that idea down in your drafts. If you keep a notepad nearby you can quickly jot down the idea so you don’t forget it later when you’re ready to put some words down.

I learned this at a school assembly once where an author spoke to us and I remember he said that you might wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and if you don’t write it down then, by the time morning comes and you get up, you may not remember what it was.

Write First, Edit Later

This is probably my biggest obstacle for getting work done quickly. I’m not OCD by any means, but I can be picky about some things. One of those things is having misspellings and grammatical errors in my text. It bugs me to see the little red squiggly line under some text as I’m going along and I just have to go back and fix it.

Really though it shouldn’t be a big deal and I should just write and get my thoughts down on the the proverbial paper. When I am able to resist editing as I am writing I am able to get a lot done in a session and I don’t lose track of what I need to put down.

It’s more important to get the bulk of your writing down first and worry about editing it later. This way you don’t forget what you wanted to write and you don’t want to be distracted by the process of editing when you’re supposed to be writing.

Set Small Goals

This one kind of tags onto establishing consistency. If you can establish a goal of a certain time each day, or each week, that you want to write that is a goal. For me it is usually in the evenings that I can establish a goal of writing. Try to aim for some small goal like the following:

  • Write at the same time each day (week).
  • Write in the same location each time.
  • Write for a specific amount of time, 30 minutes, 1 hour or 2 hours – whatever you choose.
  • Write for a specific amount of words, 1,000, 5,000 or 60,000 words a session.

You don’t have to limit yourself to what I put above, but use those as a guide as you develop your own methods, habits and styles of writing.

But be sure that your goals are realistic for you. Nothing is worse than setting unrealistic goals and trying to keep to them. You may find that you burn yourself out or become discouraged when you can’t live up to lofty goals.

Back It Up

If you’re like me you probably use a computer to do your writing on. If that’s the case it is wise to ensure you have a good backup solution for your computer. Computers crash and data is lost and it happens to everyone at some point. The last thing you want to happen is your computer crash and you lose that book you’ve been working on for months.

These days there is no reason not to have a back up of your computer and it’s files. There are simple programs available to do this and usually all that you need is an external hard drive to back up to.

Also there are online services that will securely store your files on your computer and online for simple and easy access on nearly any device.

Some of this online services I can recommend are:

Those are the most popular services I can think of and I’ve used all of them through the years and each are good choices.

I also use an external hard drive with VEEAM Endpoint Backup Free software to protect my whole PC from data loss. I’ve used other Microsoft Windows-based backup solutions and was not happy with them, even the paid ones. But the VEEAM product has been rock solid and stable and best of all it’s free.

For my Apple MacBook Pro I use the Apple Time Capsule which uses Apple’s Time Machine software to backup the whole Mac.

If you use a computer, remember to save often! Power outages can happen even on nice weather days and you don’t want to lose that hour of work you just put in because you forgot to save your work.

If you write on paper it is still important to protect your work. Consider a fire safe to store your notebooks when you’re not working on them.

Writing

Since I started this blog, my interest in writing has increased. I just haven’t increased my actual writing yet! Doh! I did however make it out to Borders today to look up any books on writing. I walked out with two small books, at a hefty price I might add. What I didn’t want was a technical book on writing or a school-type book. No, what I was looking for was a book about the topic from actual writers; the people who write for a living novels or non-fiction type of stuff. I wanted a book to help me free myself in writing and getting started. I guess I want to write what I see and feel. I was looking for a book to help me with that. Something to help clear out the obstacles and the preconceived notions that hinder a writer.

I found a book called “Writing Down The Bones, Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

Writing Down The Bones
Writing Down The Bones

I started reading after I got home this afternoon. I am several chapters into it already and it is quite good. It’s along the lines of what I thought I was looking for. The author takes a no nonsense approach and is telling the reader to simply write. Don’t bother with punctuation or editing or controlling your thoughts as they go from mind to paper. When I read that, it reminded me of a class I had in high school and a particular assignment we had one day. I don’t recall all the details of what the instructor said, but the idea was to write for maybe 30 or 60 minutes anything that came into your mind, be free, be uninhibited with your writing. So I took that literally and did just that. I don’t remember what I wrote about specifically (and I wish I could have that paper with me today) but I do recollect that there was a lot of randomness to it, jumbled thoughts and ideas and such.

After the instructor collected everyone’s papers and reviewed them he came back the next class singing my praises for following his instructions. Apparently I was the only one who took him at his word. He said there were others who wrote good and decently, but they kept to a theme or controlled their thoughts while writing them. I was the one who was uninhibited, free and without guide. I had just written down whatever came into my mind. I am certain it was full of grammatical errors, misspellings and run-on sentences.

I was quite happy with myself for just writing like that and then even more pleased when I got an ‘A’ and lot’s of praise from the instructor for my assignment. I guess it’s too bad that I hadn’t continued on with writing after that because I am now only trying to get into the practice and hobby of it.

The other book I purchased is “If You Want To Write, A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland. I flipped through it and read a few pages throughout and it piqued my interest enough to get it. I think it falls into the same category as the first book I mentioned.

I have recently given up a favorite hobby of mine only because it is an expensive hobby and at times controversial. I love firearms and target shooting. But they are so expensive and ammunition is getting more and more expensive all the time that I cannot afford to shoot much anymore. Therefore I decided to give it up and I’ve sold all my rifles, save one, and had one pistol destroyed by my local Sheriff’s Department. This pistol was a cheap $100 special brand new. To fire it, I had to hold the magazine upward and pushing forward for it to be seated correctly to allow the next round to be fed into the chamber after firing. I felt that it was a safety hazard and was reluctant to sell it to someone for fear of them getting hurt while using it. So like I said, shooting is an expensive hobby and I just don’t want to play anymore.

That leads me to my new hobby that I want to take up: writing. Writing is much cheaper than shooting! All I need is a pen and paper, or a computer which I already have. However, I am thinking of getting a MacBook Air, that ultra thin and light laptop that Apple makes and use it just for writing or blogging. Obviously, I can do that from my iMac or my MacBook Pro. But I want something a little more comfortable to use. The iMac is my desktop computer and I have to sit a my desk to use it. It’s not overly comfortable to sit at for long periods of time. I spend a good part of my day sitting at a desk or standing in front of computer servers and then I am at the gym later on. So when I get home I am pooped and would rather relax in my recliner or on the couch. So I want a laptop to use while on the chair or couch. I already have a laptop, the MacBook Pro. It’s a great laptop, but it is a bit bulky and heavy to curl up with. Plus, it tends to get quite hot when sitting on your lap. I have a real nice aluminum laptop cooler I use with it to draw the heat away from it and keep the heat off of me. But that adds more weight and awkwardness to it, thus making it uncomfortable to curl up with it.

When Apple first released the MacBook Air a few years ago, I liked it, but thought I had no use for it. I felt it would be a great laptop for a journalist or writer or someone always on the move. I still feel that way and now I hope to be that writer who can make good use of the MacBook Air. I read a discussion forum on Apple’s website tonight about the MacBook Air and it’s use for writers and the remarks folks made were mostly positive which is encouraging to me.

Now all I have to do is come up with the $1600 for one! They’re not cheap by any means, but with Apple, you usually get what you pay for: quality and elegance. I spent just over $3,000 for my iMac about 18 months ago and I haven’t been disappointed. It just works and that is what I want from a computer. I spent too much time on Windows based PC’s fixing things. Sometimes it was problems that came up from seemingly nowhere, and other times they were caused by me tinkering with things making them do what they weren’t meant to do. But with this iMac, I don’t tinker anymore, nor do I care to, and it doesn’t present me with problems at all. It’s been a great machine so far and a good workhorse.

I look forward to getting a MacBook Air, as I am experienced and happy with Apple’s products. But I look forward to doing more writing and not so much as to make a living at it (at least not right now) but as a hobby and something to occupy my “me time” and give me some fulfillment. I also enjoy reading a lot and will be happy to do both from now on.