Writing is like fencing.
One of the things that is the hardest, I think, for any writer is finding time. I made it worse for myself, on top of being a full time secretary for a busy department, taking care of the house…I help run a branch of a medieval re-enactment society. (The Society for Creative Anachronism) It’s a college branch, and so it’s filled with University students who are both amazing and exasperating, all at the same time. All filled with drama and promise and good sense and craziness.
And one of the things I do is that I teach fencing every Thursday night, without fail.
Or mostly without fail.
I asked them a couple of weeks ago, what the most important key to being a successful fencer was. I got a lot of good answers…but the one I was looking for, the one that I think is the most important, is discipline. Talent is nothing if you do not make yourself work at your art. Passion means nothing if you do not work to perfect your form.
To become a great fencer or writer – from now on the terms are interchangeable -- you need to make yourself settle in. Put aside distractions. Do things you don’t really want to do.
I drill…I drill a lot. I don’t even want to confess how many hours have been spent simply moving the tip of my sword around a door knob to improve my point control.
I write…I write a lot. I know there are millions of words that have gone into the ether, because I was trying to get things write. This article alone has a block of 463 words that are getting deleted once I know I am done with this post and I don’t need to steal something from it.
Fencers – and writers -- must practice constantly. Must watch others doing our craft…for fencers we fence each other, we watch others fence, we mentally critique what we see, taking it apart to see how we can use what we see to make ourselves better. For writers, that’s why we read, why we read broadly in genres we don’t write it. Watching a story happen and watching a fencing match are very similar.
We also have to feed ourselves. Read period manuals, (I do historical fencing) read books about things we care about like, if you happen to write about a main character who is a chocolate maker (Who would do a thing like that?) – read books about chocolate history and making. That’s the obvious stuff. But you should feed yourselves in other ways, by spending time with lots of people (not just fencers) and learning about the world. Because the world is more than the sword, or a keyboard.
As a writer I chose a couple of programs and a USB drive (Actually, two, backups are your friend) to create a take with me workspace. Laptop at home, work desk at lunch break, I have a space where I can take up from where I left off and create. (I use Scrivener, because I love the ability to have the book separated in chapters, Liquid Story Binder is my world book.)
I shut down the web browser, because I lack the discipline to not sneak a glance at Facebook or Gmail, like, constantly. It’s a sickness that I am trying to curtail.
I keep promotion time very separate from writing time because it feels like vindicated work. (“I didn’t write a darned thing today, but that’s OK, I spent an hour networking on Good Reads and Librarything! That’s a step towards my future success, right?”) Also, I can’t write and watch TV…but I can write posts, email people, use Twitter and all that good stuff while watching Once Upon a Time.
Yes, I am one of those people to whom an open browser window is a major time suck as I wander about the web, looking up this, watching that, and, in short, pouring my time down a huge sink.
Don’t be like me.
I don’t even let myself look up a quick fact while writing…because I tend to get lost. It’s the same way with books, and magically my time and my energy goes poof.
Set up either a time to write or a word count. I don’t do well with the idea of a set time to write, but I do OK with a set word count. Either works well because it gives you a goal…you have made a promise to yourself that you are going to sit down and write. It takes a lot to keep that promise, but after a time it becomes easier. I hated lunges – still do – but the more I do them, the less my knees complain, the easier they are to do, because practice makes it easier. The muscles in your mind that do the writing stay strong and toned (Yes, I am being figurative) and they hurt less and take longer to get tired, and if you write nearly every day it is easier to keep track of where you are, to keep the feel of the setting, your understanding of the character, all those good things alive and ready to be written.
So, take your guard, keep your back straight and…I mean…sit down, create a space, get organized, and write.