creative process, Writing Habits

Write like a runner

Once upon a time, I trained for a half marathon. 

I can vividly remember the day I ran along a lake in St. Paul, Minnesota and hit a personal record of 10 miles.

I had been a runner for a few years, so running a couple of miles wasn’t a big deal. But running double digit miles seemed like a daunting feat. However, I reached this milestone by using a running plan. It mapped out the days and miles I ran. This plan was helpful because it removed the guesswork of how to train.

Instead, I focused on running and caring for my body.

Although I didn’t finish the running schedule because I returned to working full-time, this plan helped me reach a goal of running double digit miles.

In January, I will apply a similar method to writing. I will adapt a running plan that is based on minutes, but rather than running for that length of time, I am going to write for that length of time.

My hypothesis is: I can improve my writing habit by the end of 2022 by writing more consistently and gradually increasing the length of time I write.

I also think this method will help me zero-waste of fringe hours, inspiration and creativity. 

You can easily find running plans online. Search for beginning 5K running plans. Those are more likely to include minutes rather than miles. Here’s the one I am adapting. Scroll down until you see the green calendar with the avocado on the treadmill. 

Beginner running plans have a running day that is a blend of walking and running. The goal is that the person gradually runs for longer spans and walks less. Because I have been writing for a while, I have writing stamina. My challenge is consistency and frequency. My goal is to gradually write for longer spans and for more days a week. 

As I approach the end of the 8-week plan, I will evaluate how I want to modify the plan for the next 8 weeks. I’m a full-time English professor, so certain points of the year are busier than others. It might be more helpful for me to try to write 20 minutes during midterms and finals and 45 minutes during the summer. 

Here’s the schedule I created. Feel free to make a copy and adapt to fit your writing goals. 

If you try writing like a runner, please let me know how it’s working for you. 

creative process, Writing Habits

Zero-waste Creative Life

Zero-Waste is a prominent buzzword of the 21st century. Essentially, it is an effort to replace items that are frequently thrown into the trash with items that can be reused. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. I was introduced to this concept by Mariela, an eco-savvy friend. 

Recently, I was thinking about my writing life in 2021 and the thought came to me: what would it look like to have a zero-waste life as a creative? 

What it would mean for me to not waste ideas? To not waste fringe hours that could be used for reading, writing, creating? To not waste writing talent by going weeks without writing or revising? 

What would it take for me to not waste inspiration or motivation? Or lessons gleaned from conferences and workshops? What would it look like to have a zero-waste creative life?

This year, I am going to try to find out. 

I think the most challenging aspect of goal setting has less to do with what goals we set and more to do with how we try to reach the goal. I have some ideas on how I can have a zero-waste creative life. My hope is to share portions of my journey throughout the year. 

I invite you to consider what your life would look like if you had a zero-waste life not of tangible things, like paper towels and cotton pads, but of intangible things, like time, talent and energy?

In 2021, let’s strive to not waste the intangible treasures we have been given. Let’s be zero-waste creatives. 

creative process, Writing Habits

A is for Accountability

Hey, writers!

We began this year talking about how you become the G.O.A.T. writer. We learned that the G is for gateway habit. What’s one habit you can adapt that will lead to other habits? O is for organize – creating a structure or plan for your writing time. 

Today, we’ll review A for Accountability. 

Much of the creative work for writing is done in solitude, and without an impending deadline, it can be easy to drift off course. Procrastination can set in, and before you know it, months have passed and you have not made progress. 

I have found a few strategies to overcome this. 

1. Get a writing buddy

This can be a friend or a fellow writer. Determine your goals. Then, create a system for how your buddy will hold you accountable, the frequency and format of check-ins. Go ahead and behind in some ‘consequences’ for when you don’t meet your goal. 

I recommend having midpoint check ins because they can steer you back in the right place if you get off track. They also can allow you to finish well. For example, let’s say you want to write three times a week. Your writing buddy checks in on Wednesday, and you haven’t written yet. But the check-in motivates you to write, so you write twice before the week ends. On the other hand, if your check-in came at the end of the week, you wouldn’t have a chance to try to recover your goal. You would have to start over the following week. 

2.  Take a writing class

Similar to writing groups, you can find these online or (post-COVID) in person. Some classes are free and others cost. Both can be beneficial. As a writer, you should be growing in your craft and a part of that is learning.

3. Join a writing group. 

I encourage you to find a couple of writing classes to take this year and schedule them. Prices range greatly, but select a class that is affordable for you. I recommend classes from the Loft Literacy Center. They also offer a year-long apprenticeship if you are looking for more one-on-one support. 

Perhaps, later this year, I will do a blog post on how to select a writing group. But for now, I’ll say this: joining a writing group that meets regularly can be beneficial in growing consistency. Some groups meet at public libraries, and some are online. Writing groups can offer motivation, encouragement and constructive feedback. If you join a group, be a good group member by giving as much as your take. 

So those are few strategies to keep you accountable with your writing goals.

Do you have any other strategies? I would love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below.

creative process, Writing Habits

O is for Organize

In a previous post, I talked about how finding your gateway habit is the first step in becoming a G.O.A.T. writer. Now, we are going to talk about the O: organize. 

Let’s be honest: the blank page or empty screen can be intimidating. As writers, we can spend more time thinking about writing or procrastinating and little time writing. Organizing your writing time can help you become a G.O.A.T. 

I want to offer 5 ways for organizing your writing time. Take what sparks and leaves what dulls.

Organize your writing time by studying a poet. 

Pick a poet’s whose work you want to learn from or who inspires you. Begin your writing time by reading and/or analyzing a few poems from the author. Use a few of their lines, titles or topics to jumpstart your writing. 

Organize your writing time by studying a form. 

Learn about the form and view examples of poems using the form. Then, write your own poems in that form. You can also revise a poem to be in the particular model your are studying. 

Organize your writing time around a project. 

I like to work on multiple projects at once. I have a binder for each project. The contents of the binder vary based on the project, but I like to have a few sections in each binder. Typically, I have poems or writing related to the project, research or images. You can read my blog post here on how I organize my projects.

Organize your writing time around a toolkit.

Sometimes I want writing to feel more like play and exploration. I have a box of photographs that I can select an image and write a poem inspired by the image. I also have a writer’s notebook of lines from other poets that I use as writing prompts. I keep a notebook of titles and words I want to include in a poem. When I sit down to write, I pick one of those tools to inspire my writing. 

Organize your writing time around a schedule. 

Create a list of what you plan to do each day. Now, when you write, you don’t have to figure what you will do during each session. Revision and research can be a part of your writing schedule. 

The goal of organizing your writing time is not meant to be rigid or restrictive. It simply to give you a starting place, so that you can do more writing. It’s meant to help you do more of what you love. 

Let me know how you plan to organize your writing time. Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you. 

Writing Habits

Becoming a G.O.A.T. writer

A few years ago, I was a gym rat. I worked out 6 days a week, and many times twice a day. I would have worked out 7 days a week, if my body didn’t need a rest day. While leaving a physical therapy appointment for a workout injury, I was rear ended. I suffered a back injury that took a couple of years to fully recover. I moved states, changed professions and experienced a huge pay cut. No longer could I afford a gym membership or exercise classes. I was no longer a gym rat.

Now, I am trying to regrow my workout habit, and I have had several unsuccessful attempts. One day, I asked myself: how was I so active then? What was the gateway habit? 

A Fitbit tracker.

It was a simple way for me to know my progress and where I wanted to be. So, I went back to my old ways and got a Fitbit. 

I have had one for a couple of months now, and my level of physical activity has significantly improved. My current focus is getting 10,000 steps a day by walking. I am giving myself a feasible goal in light of our current times. 

Here’s what I have learned:

  • If I walk in the morning before work, I’m more likely to get my daily walk in. 
  • If I walk 5,000-6,000 steps, I hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps
  • Challenges with family members motivate me to hit, and even exceed, my step goal
  • If I don’t walk by 4 pm, I will not reach my step goal because it’s typically dark by 4:30p.
  • Workout videos are not motivating because I work from home. I need to get out of my house. 
  • Praying or listening to audiobook while walking helps me lose track of time, so that I am more likely to reach my step goal. 
  • I enjoy walking on nature trials. 
  • Gloves and a hat are must haves. 

This month, we are discussing how to become a G.O.A.T. in your writing habit. The G is for gateway habit. What’s the one habit you can do that will lead to other writing habits? 

Tracking my steps with a FitBit is my gateway habit for exercise. It leads me to reaching, and sometimes exceeding, my daily step goal. So what’s your writing gateway habit?

Is it reading? A writing workshop? A walk in nature? A cup of coffee? An art exhibit? Photographs? 

My exercise gateway habit leads me on a path of reaching my current goal. Once my goal changes, my gateway habit will still lead me there. It allows me to continue growing. Your writing gateway habit should do the same. 

Your gateway habit should be simple. If it’s not simple, it’s not sustainable. Track your gateway habit, so that you know exactly where you are. Know that you are going to fall off the wagon. When do you do, dust yourself off, acknowledge your humanity and begin again. 

So what is your writing gateway habit? Leave me a comment below. I would love to hear it.