My best advice on making writing a habit

Art Is A Dirty Job Paris photo credit Kirsten Akens 2014

Oh wow. It's Wednesday. Day 3 of the Your Turn Challenge.

Here's how my week with YTC has gone.

Day 1: Excitement! A new challenge! Bring it!

Day 2: A good, solid piece popped into place. Thank you muse.

Day 3: Ugh.

Can I say that again? Ugh.

There are different theories on how long it takes for a new habit to stick. 21 days. 30 days. Just one week. And there are theories that debunk each of these theories so who really knows. What works is whatever you can make work for you.

What I do know about forming a habit of writing is some advice I gave a budding future-author just last week. And it has nothing to do with a certain number of days.

At my favorite work-away-from-home coffee shop, the owner brought over a friend of his who had just started working on a memoir. The friend wanted advice on how to go about it.

I said, "Write."

He stared back at me.

Than I laughed a little. Honestly, I told him, the first rule of writing a book is to write it. And to write every day. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Set an alarm. Don't set an alarm. Just write something. Anything.

I went on to explain that the method by which really doesn't matter as long as ... here we go again ... it works for you.

Yes, there are typically two paths people take when writing. Plotting and pantsing.

Plotting involves starting with constructing a partial or full outline of what you're going to write before writing it. Pantsing is the code word for "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants," writing (mostly) stream of consciousness or, in fiction, by letting the characters who live in your head speak through you.

I'm a pantser. Always have been. I very rarely outline much of anything because I've found if I spend that much time on a outline, by the time I'm done, I have no interest in actually writing the story. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is the art for me. It's the process of full absorption that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to in his book Flow that I love (that's an affiliate link to the book there, just so you know), that keeps me going.

But either way is equally valid — if it works for you.

So here I am. Taking my own advice. Writing.

Writing about writing. Which I get asked about a lot anyway, so it's not totally off board.

And as I re-read my words, they're not half bad either.

Day 3: Done.


(This is my Day 3 contribution to the Your Turn Challenge. Read others' contributions and learn more here.)

My Writing Process blog tour

WhoWritesHere [dropcap custom_class="normal"] I[/dropcap] met the lovely Daisy over at In Full Blume through Susannah Conway's Blogging From the Heart online course earlier this year, along with a whole host of other smart and creative women across the world. Susannah's course was what pushed me to get back to sharing my thoughts in this space. (So you can praise or blame her as you see fit...)

Anyway, Daisy asked me to join in on the Writing Process blog tour (#mywritingprocess), a series of four questions that introduce writers around the blogosphere. To read her answers, click here.

And to read my answers, well, just keep reading.

What am I working on?

Right now I'm in the middle of two magazine freelance assignments, continuing to pitch stories, and trying to grow this blog.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think I'm still trying to find a niche both professionally and personally. I've been a journalist for more than seven years, but for many of those years, I simply took assignments or found a place for something that was a personal interest. I will say I do like to use my platform to tell underrepresented stories. And I also get giddy about experiential writing.

Why do I write what I do?

My professional writing is based in telling others' stories. I like digging way below the surface and finding (and then portraying) the essence of the individual, the community, or the issue. When it comes to blogging, I'm still trying to figure out a balance of sharing too much versus skimming the surface (I guess getting to my own essence?).

How does my writing process work?

For reporting, typically I interview, transcribe (gack!), then start cutting and pasting and rearranging and chopping. I actually find that I rarely know what the angle or story will be until after all my interviews.

As for blogging, I write. I let steep. I cut. I edit. I write more. Maybe some more. Cut some more. And when I'm sick of my fussing, I cross my fingers, and hit publish. And start it all over again.


And with that, I pass the torch to (apparently a group of people whose names all begin with the letter J — lol):

J.T. Evans: J.T. is a writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. He has been actively writing since he discovered a local writers group in 2006. He joined the Pikes Peak Writers in late 2008 and attended his first conference in 2010. In that time, he has worked his way up the ranks in Pikes Peak Writers from "chair mover" and "auction guard" to webmaster and president of the organization. He has stories published in An Uncommon Collection, and Phobias: A Collection of True Stories. He is expecting one more short story to be published soon. He is working on his second fantasy series, and will push the first book from the proverbial nest when it is ready. You can find out more about J.T. at his website here.

JL Fields: JL is an author, corporate wellness consultant, vegan lifestyle coach and educator, and personal chef. JL is co-author of Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2013) and the forthcoming Vegan Pressure Cooking (Fair Winds Press, 2015). Her essay "A Well-Rounded Vegan" will appear in Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology later this month (Lantern Books). A devoted culinary student, JL has studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute and Organic Avenue, and completed the Intensive Study Program at The Christina Pirello School of Natural Cooking and Integrative Health Studies. She is certified by — and on the faculty of — the Main Street Vegan Academy. Find her at JL Goes Vegan.

Jené JacksonJené is an Artist — writer, speaker, photographer, singer — and single mother. Her soon-to-be-published memoir, The Oat Project, is the story of the summer when, at 37, she finally sowed her wild oats. She is committed to exploring how to integrate the Wild into everyday life, hers, her children, and her readers. Find her at The Oat Project.