Lessons in Writing

These are lessons I am learning, or rather relearning, during National Novel Writing Month. They apply to writing, and to life.

#1. Stick to my top priorities. Long ago, I learned that I am happiest when I narrow my priority list down to just a few, and make conscious choices that revolve around those. Health, family and writing trump everything else for me, and I think my life reflects that most of the time. But writing only recently climbed to the top three, and I’m forming new habits around this. National Novel Writing Month is helping me move toward  cementing this habit into my daily life. Which brings me to number two.

#2. Daily repetition is what forms a habit. It is much harder to think about writing than it is to actually be writing. Sitting down is the hardest part. And like exercise, at least for me, its easiest to do it early. That way I am not thinking, all day long, about the words I have yet to write. Participating in National Novel Writing Month led me to set a daily word count goal and to give myself permission to stop writing only after it had been met. It’s only been eighteen days of daily writing. I wouldn’t say its exactly habit for me yet. Some days are still a struggle to put myself in the chair. But I can feel it slowly getting harder not to write than to write.

#3. Set goals, but stay in the moment. This seems to happen automatically while writing. At the page, I am present. Time flies by, words flow through.  Sticking to #1 helps this process, because a cluttered life would continuously pull me out of the moment. Being able to focus only on writing while I am writing is a beautiful thing.

#4. And for this I am thankful. I am thankful every day that I get to write. I remind myself of this when I don’t feel like writing. I get to write. I have the time to write. How lucky is that? And then I do it, knowing that I get to do it again tomorrow.

#5 Enjoy the journey. If I think too far ahead I may never move forward. What if I never finish this book to my satisfaction? What if I never publish it and this is all a waste of time? These thoughts will halt all progress. There are no guarantees in writing. So you’ve got to enjoy the process. Even when a book is published, you’ve got to want to start the process all over again, and to love that process. Even when you hate it. Even when it’s hard. Because in those moments when the words come easily, or when they don’t and a struggle produces the perfect sentence, the journey is sweet. And to never try this writing thing would be the hardest thing of all.

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