Sadly, keeping up the writing routine isn’t as easy as picking up smoking, but fear not! Much to the dismay of your parents and financial advisor, you can, with the right work-ethic, become hopelessly devoted to this promising path of poverty and obscurity. [1]

Space & Ritualjason-yu-DbeEqK0iFRQ-unsplash

Joyce wrote in bed with crayons while Maya Angelou used to check into hotels in the wee hours of the morning to work on her manuscripts. Astoundingly, Boris McGowen was reported to hang suspended upside down from the ceiling with a typewriter strapped to his chest.[2] Some stretch or meditate. Others do push-ups and masturbate. Coffee and booze are often plentiful.

This is the launching pad before entering the portal, the space insulated from the outside world of subway commuters, and jogging dog-walkers, and that squirrel who keeps screwing with your basil plant. Perhaps you’ll find that you prefer to write atop a tree, on a tightrope, on a melting Icelandic glacier or perhaps in a public bathroom stall or inside of a dumpster, a slaughter house or God forbid, a Starbucks.

“I’ve always produced my best work when looking down from the heavens; it’s all a matter of perspective.”  Boris McGowen[3].

Once you find a spot, you may need to abandon it. The settler becomes the nomad for an afternoon, a weekend, or for however long Suzy, your daughter, needs your desk to finish her ant farm science project. I have a cramped office space with my childhood wooden desk, but there is no window, which means I only use the room in the winter when the sky looks as gloomy as something out of an Edvard Munch painting. Besides, it’s uncomfortable and filled with drying laundry and cases of empty beer bottles stacked on top of each other. When the sun comes out, I find myself wandering to the couch or kitchen table, which of course explains the curry and olive oil stains on my notebook.

Schedule

Are you a night owl, an early bird or more of an evening [insert avian creature]? Unless trudging through a hangover, I’m reasonably functional from 8:30 am to 4 pm, the hours before the outside world infringes upon my bubble. Schedules change. Platypus-like adaptations occur. You may have to wake up earlier to pen that heart-wrenching chapter (you know, the one where the protagonist dies and is reincarnated as a dachshund?) or decide not to partake in that badminton tournament.  

Keeping Track

Get a timer and a calendar.  Keep track of when you start and when you finish. Many writers strive to achieve a certain word count, but counting words doesn’t figure into editing and other important writing work that is not strictly creating new material. Scribble it down somewhere. Or, like a true prisoner, etch a notch for every sunrise directly onto the wall.  Wait, is that daylight shining through the blinds?

I try to write in ninety minute blocks . Quickly after that, I lose all sharpness and start thinking of excuses to snack on the pistachios in the pantry and watch videos of puppies doing tricks on YouTube.

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Write

That pretty much sums it up. Everything else is white noise; rain pattering on the windowpane. Get to the end without stopping to carve up, judge, hate or praise what’s on the page. Ask your confused partner to lock you in the office. Aren’t prisoners the most prolific of all writers? Sit back and read once the draft is done. Rewrite, reread, refrain from scratching at the door in an effort to escape.

Break it. Fix it

Nothing is set in stone (except for things that are literally set in stone). Change and alter what no longer works, even if it once did. What works is sacred, if not, rebuild. Nothing is sacred until it is. And then it’s not.

[1] Disclaimer: There is a positive correlation between writing full-time and spending an absolutely unreasonable amount of time alone at home and actively avoiding employment opportunities.

[2] There is no such person.

[3] Still not a real guy.

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