I am a big fan of podcasts. I’m sure this comes as a surprise to nobody, considering that I co-host my own podcast, Library Life. I love putting on a podcast while I’m cleaning or doing some other menial task around the house. I’ve also found podcasts to be extremely helpful in my journey to become a better writer. The podcasts that I enjoy the most are the ones that go beyond technique instruction and speak to the challenges of the writing life. I love podcasts that talk about what it means to lead a creative life and tackle some of the head games that we writers play with ourselves. I find it so encouraging to listen to these podcasts, so I wanted to share them with you.
Another week of isolation passes and the sense of wasted time settles over you. Is it June already?! How is it possible that the last two months have felt like the longest and shortest amount of time ever? What have I even been doing?
Perhaps these thoughts have been running through your head too. It can be easy to get pulled down into the idea that you’ve accomplished nothing during quarantine. The other day on a Zoom meeting for our church community group I caught myself saying that I was “tired of doing nothing.” It was partially a joke and partially an expression of frustration. In my last post, I talked about focusing on consistency instead of pace in the production of your creative work. Let me tell you, it’s easy to write about, harder to put into action.
By now, most of us have gone into social-distancing or quarantine mode due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Many creatives have seen the order to stay home as a blessing in disguise. It was seen as a time to take up new hobbies and get to that writing that we never seem to have time for. One of my friends compared it to an unexpected writing sabbatical. On Twitter, I saw a number of people talking about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the Plague, and that they had aspirations to do the same. When I was working my last shift before the library closed, a colleague asked me what I was going to do with my time off, and I confidently replied, “Finish my book.”
Recently, I “finished” writing my book. I say “finished” because in my head it was done, but in reality it was not. Yeah, yeah, I still needed to copy-edit it, but all the major work was done (or so I thought). In January and February, I had send my book out to a number of people in my life who offered to read it, and while I was awaiting their feedback, I was working on doing the copy-edits. Looking back, I don’t know what I thought would happen.
Ever since I started working in the Local History department at the library, I have had a whole new appreciation for the personal archive. So many things that we have in our collection are things that I would have thrown away or found too mundane to save, if I was living a hundred years ago. All the old receipts, income tax forms, random photos of buildings and other paper paraphernalia tell the story of our city. While processing these things at work, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the stuff that I’m saving and recording in my own life. I’ve been thinking about this for years, but it was brought to mind again this past Christmas when my grandfather gave me something from his personal archive.
One of the biggest challenges I face is just getting started. I’ll lay around all day, puttering with this and that, waiting until the absolute last minute to open up that Word document and start writing. But, once I finally sit down and spend ten minutes working on a piece, I usually get into the zone and focused. When I get into the work, it always seems so silly that it took me so long to get started. Even so, I know that I’ll still fall into the same procrastination routine time and time again.
Based on my conversations with other writers, I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with the procrastination beast, so I wanted to share a little trick that has been working for me lately.
The beginning of December marks the end of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for many writers. For those of you who don’t know, writers participating in NaNoWriMo make the goal to write 50,000 words in a month (aprox. 1,666 words/day). I am definetly a goal-oriented person, so you can see how a challenge like this might appeal to me. However, I am rewriting my book, not writing a first draft like most people in the challenge, so the 50,000 word goal didn’t really make sense for me. Still wanting to join in on the comradery, I decided to challenge myself to simply work on my rewrites every day.
It’s been about five months since I committed to writing seriously, so I want to spend a little bit of time reflecting on those five months in this post. In particular, I want to take a look at my ongoing relationship with the concept of productivity and the guilt that goes along with it.
Some of the earliest and most prevailing advice I’ve heard about writing is to do with the importance of reading. Every class, every book, and every writer have had the same advice. It seems to be the one thing that all writers agree on: good writers are good readers. This week the importance of this advice dawned on me.