Your writing is your work: treat it as such!
A couple weeks ago, I ran a blog interview with Peggy Kennedy whose memoir, Approaching Neverland depicts her early childhood the memoir of ‘s early life in a family where the mother was mentally ill.
The next interview (October 28, 2016) will be with Cindy Doucette whose book, It Can Happen To Any Family, chronicles her daughter’s drug addiction and subsequent death from overdose. It is a tragic story, and in this interview which is as honest as her book, Cindy writes both about her life and about the process of writing a book with such difficult material.
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In that interview, Cindy points out something that has been a hallmark of my message to coaching clients and of my own writing life. That is, if you are serious about your writing, you must act on the principle that your writing is your work. You must take it as seriously as your paying job.
Your writing is your work.
If you are working as a nurse or a therapist or a business office administrator or what not, you do not show up at your work when you feel like it or when you are inspired. You have certain hours whether you work full-time or part-time during which you are expected to show up at the job. The same is true of your writing.
If you write when you “get to it,” when you “feel like it,” when inspiration moves you, you will likely do little writing and almost certainly not complete a book of memoirs. If you were being paid for this memoir “job,” your boss would fire you.
Set a Writing Schedule
On the other hand, if you set a writing schedule for yourself—whether that is writing one hour three times a week or writing every day for five hours, you will develop the habit of showing up and of producing. If you can get the bad habit of perfectionism under control, you will find your memoir shaping up into a book in a surprisingly short time.
From my own writing practice, I have shared that I am writing a novella which I call French Boys. I work on the novella first thing in the morning. I get up, make some coffee (and increasingly check the wood stove to crank up the heat in the house) and then begin to write for a minimum of a half hour.
I do not set an alarm clock for getting up as I believe it is not good to shock one’s consciousness from the dream state. Instead I find that I wake rather predictably around 6 o’clock. My coffee in hand, I continue to create my fiction world. While my schedule calls for a half hour of writing—and while that does not seem like much writing, it adds up surprisingly fast. (I wrote A Sugary Frosting pretty much at a clip of a half hour a morning). What happens on many of the mornings is that I will write for a full hour. Then usually sometime between 7 and 7:30, I will save my story, close the document and move on to some other part of my day.
In this way, I treat my “writing as a job” by showing up regularly. If something happens in the morning that causes me not to write I will make a point to write later in the day. There are times, after supper, when, if I am not otherwise occupied, I will sit at my computer and do another stint of personal writing.
It’s not that I am trying to get you to be a “nose to the grind stone” person. Instead, what I am trying to do is to help you to evaluate your commitment to writing a memoir. If that commitment is solid, then this bit of information I am providing you right now will make the difference between wanting or “trying” to write and writing.
- If you do not have a writing schedule right now, create one that includes days and times. For instance, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 to 10 AM.
- Study this new schedule or the old one that you have had all along. Is the schedule in front of you realistic? How likely are you to write on these days and at these times? Where’s the problem?
- Are the hours wrong?
- Is the frequency not right?
- Is the length you are allotting too challenging and you know you will not write for this long?
- Once you have a schedule that works for you, either enter it on a calendar so that it is “in your face” or if you are a person who does not need to enter the info on a calendar (eg, my commitment is for every day upon waking up so I do not need a schedule per se), make commitment to that schedule. It will not be negotiable for at least one month. Just do it for one month.
- Set a date and time when you will examine if the schedule you have set up in this action step works well for you. If not, make any changes necessary.
Remember that writing a memoir needs to be treated seriously, like a job. Whatever you do today, write a bit on your memoir.