Last week we presented some edited excerpts from a series first published in the Eagle Peak Quarterly on learning how to be a writer and thinking about where. This week we’re offering some general tips applicable to most writing and to writing nonfiction. Next week we’ll cover fiction writing and the mechanics of writing. If you missed last week’s post, get it here.
General writing tips
- Find a quiet, distraction free writing space if possible—make it so with headphones, a door or other means. Writing is a mental exercise; don’t try to multitask.
- Devote a solid block of time, whenever possible—build up to a few hours, if your circumstances permit, from 30 minutes. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to focus and get into a flow.
- Make use of the writing tools that work best for you—try pens, laptops, desktops or even typewriters if you have access to one, until you find a level of comfort.
- Set meaningful goals or determinations for progress—words or pages, time, etc. Some people suggest you must set a goal of X number of words no matter what; others will say you must spend at least a certain number of minutes/hours. It is up to you, in analyzing your own level of self-discipline versus laziness or procrastination (among other things) to make your own commitment in a way that makes sense to you. Artificial rules won’t help and will only frustrate you.
- Have everything you need to be comfortable—clothes, food, beverages and the right chair; you can’t write if you are uncomfortable. Poor posture is not good for the body or the mind. Use a keyboard properly to avoid wrist problems. Blink and look away from a monitor from time to time to protect your eyes.
- If you are using a computer, consider what software you will use for writing. Word-processing software will work for a start. Eventually you might want to consider specialized software such as Scrivener (usable on both Mac and Windows). If you want to blog or put stuff up on the web, you don’t necessarily have to start with a word-processor but it’s not a bad idea to get your work together in the final form you want before you load it up on the web.
- Is there such a thing as “writer’s block?” You have heard the phrase often enough. It means you are staring at a blank page and can’t figure out what to put there. Some say it’s a myth or it really is something else. Don’t get hung up on the concept. Consider these options to deal with that empty page.
- Get up and walk around for a few minutes. Step outside for a change of perspective, fresh air, etc.
- Open or pick up another writing project and work on it for a while, then come back to the one that isn’t moving for you.
- Re-examine notes, an outline or whatever planning document you may have.
- Just work through it, if you can, putting something/anything on the page; you can always change it later.
- Switch media—put down the pen and boot up the computer or vice versa.
- Get some coffee, tea or another beverage; have a snack or a meal.
- Only as a last resort, shut it down for the time being and come back to it later—just be sure you do.
Non-Fiction Writing Tips Continue reading Learning How to Be a Writer–Part 2