Know thy writing process and habits, and know them well

It’s always important to know as a writer how you write. I’m not just talking about the obvious ones, like when do you like to write, what is your writing tool of choice. I’m also talking about things like, why do you write? Do you write better in a group or alone? Do you need to have some kind of noise in the background (movie, music, noisy areas)? Where do you write? Do you have some a certain food or drink fuelling your creative juices? Are there any medical conditions that influence your ability to write (tendinitis, carpal tunnel, migraines)? How easily distracted are you by things like the internet or I’M, or are you a multi-tasker?

These are important questions that need to be answered if you’re going to be successful as a writer. A lot of times that’s half the battle, but in the end, it becomes a liberating experience that helps accelerate your writing. Other times, knowing how you write can leave you frustrated and to a point of wondering, “where do I go from here?” when a wrench gets thrown into the workings of your process. At this point yo have to look at your process and see if there isn’t a way to get yourself past the frustration and on to writing.

For me, one things that always throws a wrench in my process is being a group-oriented writer. I love writing in groups. I love the accountability that other writers give me for making sure I’m doing some kind of writing. That’s one reason I love the National Novel Writing Month challenge so much. Unfortunately, the problem normally arises that once the event is over, the support goes away because everyone is either editing, or just not writing any more, so the support dwindles and eventually nobody is working on a NaNo project or any kind of writing project. Which leaves me in a position of trying to figure out how to keep the support going long term, or creating a more long term support base that isn’t so tightly tied to NaNo. The alternative is obviously finding the willpower and discipline to go it alone if I have to, which may be what my writing needs for a change, and change is never a bad thing for your process.

Change keeps you from getting stuck in a writer’s block rut. Your brain just gets so used to going through the same old habits and routines that eventually it loses its spark and fiery imagination. So you change it up a bit to get the creative juices going again. Sometimes change can even show that you actually write better in a different mode than what you were used to, even if the system you used before produced effective results.

For example, it used to be that I wrote pretty effectively during NaNo without fussing over chapters, scene divisions, and just running with one large manuscript. Then I discovered Scrivener. While I wouldn’t suggest that writing programs are the way for everyone to go, I discovered that my writing was, in fact, far more organised and I had clearer ideas of how my story was structuring itself than when I used one long, running document. My writing in my Nonfiction class became far more organised and I could see a bit more clearly what my stories were doing when I actually divided my story up into different scenes. I mean it when I say Scrivener has been one of the best things that has ever happened to my writing process. That’s not to say that my old process was incorrect, but such a simple change as using writing software vastly improved a system of writing that, at the time, appeared to work quite well for my writing.

Other times, when you change something, you may find that it doesn’t work as well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But like the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So know your process, and know what changes work to improve your process, because if the system broke, then you need to find a way to fix it.

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