When I was in college as a mere student, before attaining the lofty title of English Major, I had a creative writing class which did a unique exercise of having a “show-and-tell” portion the entire semester. This was composed, if I remember correctly, of having about 10 minutes of each class dedicated to a student presenting something about or involving writing. The guidelines were fairly vague but the exercise was fairly rewarding.
Each writer brought something new and exciting to the table. Some gave presentations on fonts (I did say exciting didn’t I?), some talked about writing support groups, some illustrated exercises to help with creativity, and some even presented on publishing techniques.
One presentation has always stuck out to me, other than the ten minutes we spent discussing types of fonts, and that was one lady’s talk on “The Writers Tool Kit.”
She made a handout for everyone and I am not ashamed to say I still have mine, years later, tucked away in a folder with the first drafts of what is now my current novel project.
The idea was simple and for writers but I think applies to all those channeling creativity.
It goes like this:
As a writer it is easy to get unorganized, lazy, and disheveled. This list is a few items to keep you focused and ready when it is time to actually, you know, create.
I will be writing more on this later but in brief, a creative space does wonders. You don’t have to rent a loft in the city or build a shed in the woods. Just pick a place that is going to allow you to focus on the task at hand. This can be a desk in a corner, a couch, or even a coffee shop. I will warn you the latter can be distracting. I have several spots I use to write and my local coffee shop is one. I typically get a seat facing the wall. People are too interesting to look at.
This differs for everyone but can be a good “zone out from the world” technique. I know writers who hate listening to music while writing, writers who can only use instrumental and classical music, and writers who listen to full on songs with lyrics while they plug at the keyboard (gasps!). The biggest thing is finding what works for you and most importantly keeping in mind that focus is the name of the game.
For me it’s about limiting distractions so typically music with lyrics is out whenever I am writing fiction. My favorite to use is classical music, big band, and sometimes even techno style songs. I also switch things up depending on what type of mood the scene I am writing at the moment. Sometimes silence works for that too. (This blog was written to Ed Sheeran’s “What Do I Know?” so take it with a couple grains of salt)
I must admit I have an obsession with notebooks, an addiction really. I love all different types and frankly when I get one I am paralyzed to use it because I don’t know if I’ll mess it up by writing the wrong thing in its pages. The best thing I have found for notebooks is giving them a full project all to their own, and in writing that works spectacularly well. Having a notebook with you while you write allows you to jot down the dialogue lines and character traits that may not apply to that exact scene you’re plugging through. This keeps all of your thoughts, notes, and ideas for that piece in one convenient place. Plot twist! It also helps you when you’re away from your creative space because you can take said notebook out and about. If you’re not the type to carry notebooks down the street skipping along with the wind then you can still jot things on napkins and receipts and file them into your notebook later. Once again, having it all there for reference when writing saves time and allows you to do what you sat down to do.
(Any type of notebook will do. Leather bound, moleskin, spiral. I have recently fallen in love with the Nomatic Notebooks and Planners and highly suggest those. The notebook comes with a pocket for filing papers, a couple small whiteboard notecards, tear out pages, and ample page marking options)
Obviously to write in your notebook you need a pen. When choosing a pen the ONLY option is the Pilot G-2. The fineness of the point is where you’re allowed some leeway. I prefer the Extra Fine 0.5.
Eat, Drink, & Be Merry:
If you’re like me you’ve “killed time” writing by making the excuse that you needed nourishment that exact second or you would most definitely die. Unfortunately you won’t die (I know what I said) but your word count might. I don’t say that like you have to hit a specific number but every time you get up you steal time from your story. Not to mention how easy it is to turn that thirty second water run into a five minute Facebook break. So get your water and your muffin and go to the bathroom (don’t take your muffin in the bathroom) and don’t make excuses to get up and leave the craft.
More often than not before I sit down to write my mind is not in the right place. With whatever is going on in life: thoughts of pizza, the amount of cat videos to be watched, the online shopping that needs to be done, it’s hard to sit down and jump back into my story.
So I recommend: Focus Time
It might sound odd but I have a motivation motto I read before I start typing anything. It helps me remember why I write, what I’m doing, and what is important. After I read those few lines I spend a few minutes getting back into the zone. Typically, in quiet, I read over the last few lines I wrote, think about what I’ll be writing for the next hour, and get into the mindset of my characters, the scene, and the story.
All this may seem simple and obvious in sitting down and writing but what I have found ever since the writers show-and-tell is that things are typically not as simple or obvious as they seem.
If you’re a writer or an artistic creator I highly suggest getting your own “tool kit” and evaluating the process of how you craft. Remember that the key is to eliminate distraction and improve focus.
What are some of the things in your Writer’s Tool Box?