Writing any I can

Confession: I’ve never had a formal, structured writing habit that’s lasted longer than a few weeks. I’ve read lots of advice on how to create one and sometimes I wonder whether that contributed to the problem.

The worst advice I’ve read

In my opinion, one of the worst pieces of creative advice I’ve heard is to make writing (or whatever your creative work is) a ritual with a specific time, place, and accoutrements like a special tea or a candle or a pen. My first thought was: what if a piece of that ritual is missing? What if you run out of your tea or lose your pen? Or worse yet, what if something wipes out your scheduled writing time? If I were that precious about my work, I’d get nothing done.

Grabbing slivers of time

When I first tried writing a novel, I was intimidated by the daily word counts people said you needed to do. I had a soul-sucking day job at the time, so writing 1000-2000+ words every day felt impossible to me. So instead, I kept an Alphasmart Neo (a low-tech electronic typewriter) in my tote bag and added a few sentences or paragraphs to my work-in-progress whenever I could grab a sliver of time.

Those slivers eventually added up to four novels and a handful of short stories and novellas, which surprised me because most of that work was written in 5-15 minute chunks and I believed I couldn’t finish even one novel that way. My “grabbing” habit taught me to be nimble, able to write anytime, anywhere, on anything. Right now, I’m typing this on my trusty Neo while standing at my kitchen island.

Using my phone for good

These days, I’m lucky enough to have a schedule that allows longer writing time blocks, but I’m also relearning how to grab those precious slivers of extra time. I love Scrivener for iOS for writing on the go because it syncs to the cloud and lets me smoothly switch between working on the phone and the computer. Yeah, I have to type with my thumbs, but it’s no different than texting. I don’t have social media, games, or an internet browser on my phone (yes, I removed the Safari icon), so if I have a few minutes and am fiddling with my phone anyway, I might as well write a few sentences. They add up!

My goal now is to increase both the quantity and the quality of my work. I want to be prolific, which is something I’ve never been, and that means trying new processes, habits, and attitudes that are outside of my comfort zone. I have nothing to lose–following conventional wisdom made writing so miserable that I quit altogether, so I might as well try something else and see if I’m more productive and happier that way.

Are you taking a new approach to an old activity? What made you decide to change things up and how has it worked out so far?