Daily Writing Tip 9 of 100, This Is My Time

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – This is my time. These are my words. These are my thoughts

Source – Unstuck by Jane Anne Staw

For the first time mine was the only voice I heard as I walked and wrote, my head cleared of the constant babel of the admonitions and demands of others. For the first time I was spending time with myself. And I discovered that I enjoyed these interludes, as well as the company.

Reading is considered a solitary activity. Which it is, but not nearly as solitary as writing. You are never as alone as when you are pouring an entire world out through your fingertips.

So you better learn to enjoy it.

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Daily Writing Tip 8 of 100, Use the Pomodoro Technique

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Use the Pomodoro Technique

Source – Anti-Procrastination for Writers by Akash Karia

My final and personal favorite technique to stop procrastinating and start achieving maximum productivity as a writer is the Pomodoro Technique.

If you have never heard of the Pomodoro Technique you have to learn about it.

You can read about it here: Pomodoro Technique Homepage

I wrote a blog entry about it here four years ago.

Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. That odd name comes from a tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by the original author Francesco Cirillo. The tomato isn’t necessary (I use a silver-colored twist dial timer).

The technique is simple:

  1. You decide on your next task and then set the timer for 25 minutes.
  2. While the timer is running you do nothing else and think of nothing else but the task at hand.
  3. When the timer goes off, you take a five minute break.
  4. Then you repeat the process… either on a new task or you return to the same one if it isn’t finished.
  5. Every four Pomodoros (each 25+5 minute work session is a single Pomodoro) you take a longer break

You keep track of how many Pomodoros you accomplish during a day and work on increasing that number.

It works really well to help you focus, avoid distractions, and get through difficult projects – like getting that story written.

I don’t use the technique as much as I should – it does work.

The biggest problem I have is getting through the twenty five minutes without interruption. Even when I silence my phone and hide my email – I have real live people interrupt me on more than half my Pomodoros. It’s very frustrating. Something I have to work on.

One piece of advice that I do have…. A lot of people use software timers or phone apps to do their timing. That is very tempting and good for a backup. However, I think a real, live, mechanical kitchen timer (though it doesn’t have to look like a tomato) works better. The slight ticking noise it makes becomes associated with working diligently and reminds the mind to focus.

Pomodoro

My Pomodoro timer, Moleskine, and Ivory Pilot Prera fountain pen.

Daily Writing Tip 7 of 100, Character Is Action

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Character Is Action

Source – “10 Tips And Tricks For Creating Memorable Characters” by Charlie Jane Anders.

This is the maxim that I’ve basically tried to live by for the past few years, and I kind of want to get it made into a banner that I can hang over my computer. Your characters can be witty and spout interesting philosophies, and have cool names and awesome fashion sense — but in the end, they are what they do.

We have all come across fiction where the characters rarely actually do anything. This can be truthful, of course, because real life is full of people that don’t do much of anything. The world splits open with knowitalls that talk and talk and don’t do squat. But that’s why we read, to escape from that dismal reality.

Fiction is all a lie, but good fiction is a beautiful lie and great fiction is a lie that transcends the real world. So get your characters, the good ones, and especially the bad ones, out there and doing stuff, all kinds of stuff, to each other and to the world around them.

We get out of bed every morning and realize that we are all helpless and mostly hopeless – everywhere except sometimes between the pages. So don’t disappoint.

Daily Writing Tip 6 of 100, Clustering

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Clustering

Source – There are many – One of the best is from Writing the Natural Way, By Gabriele Lusser Rico

Writers need some magic key for getting in touch with these secret reserves of imaginative power. What we lack is not ideas but a direct means of getting in touch with them.

Clustering is that magic key. In fact, it is the master key to natural writing. It is the crucial first step for bypassing our logical, orderly Sign-mind consciousness to touch the mental life of daydream, random thought, remembered incident, image, or sensation.

If you don’t know what clustering is or how it relates to writing – Read About It Here

This is the most powerful technique I have ever found to unlock a creative conundrum or open a block. I don’t use it nearly as much as I should – it is a bit of work and is hard to trust… that leap of faith doesn’t always come as easy as it should.

There are a number of clustering programs out there. A tablet would be a perfect digital platform for the technique. However, I think paper and some multi-colored pens is better – the physical tactile aspect of paper and ink adds an element of immediacy that electrons lack.

Daily Writing Tip 5 of 100, 7.Write to please just one person

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Write to please just one person

Source – Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

I find that it does help to have a specific person in mind as I write a story. I find myself thinking “Oh, they will like that” or “This… they will not expect.” The more real and immediate the chosen person is the better. I picture them curled up in an easy chair and smiling at the book. I feel having an individual, specific reader gives a motivation to the writing and distracts the Inner Editor – that troublemaking old bastard.

Daily Writing Tip 4 of 100, Get In, Get Out. Don’t Linger. Go On.

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Get In, Get Out. Don’t Linger. Go On.

Source – A Storyteller’s Shoptalk by Raymond Carver

When I was 27, back in 1966, I found I was having trouble concentrating my attention on long narrative fiction. For a time I experienced difficulty in trying to read it as well as in attempting to write it. My attention span had gone out on me; I no longer had the patience to try to write novels. It’s an involved story, too tedious to talk about here. But I know it has much to do now with why I write poems and short stories. Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on. It could be that I lost any great ambitions at about the same time, in my late 20’s. If I did, I think it was good it happened. Ambition and a little luck are good things for a writer to have going for him. Too much ambition and bad luck, or no luck at all, can be killing. There has to be talent.

I have become a huge fan of Raymond Carver. If I could write like anyone – I would like to write like him.

His short stories are so economical and so perfectly slightly off-kilter. Odd enough to be educational but not so strange to be twee. There is a lot of drinking in Carver’s stories, a lot of hopelessness… and just enough love to make sure most everyone is able to get out of bed in the morning.

Today’s hint is, I suppose… I hope… a key to getting that right.

Daily Writing Tip 3 of 100, To Get Started, Write One True Sentence

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – To get started, write one true sentence

Source – Earnest Hemmingway, from A Moveable Feast

Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Like a lot of people, I finally made it around to read A Moveable Feast after the attacks in Paris. I have loved Hemmingway’s fiction, especially his short stories, for a long time. I have always admired his economy of words more than anything. The idea of a memoir about the halcyon days in Paris between the wars always felt too precious for my taste, so I didn’t read it until recently. I was wrong.

Among other things, there is so much good writing advice in A Moveable Feast. The pages spell out in detail Hemmingway’s method of writing, including his habit of writing in cafes.

And a few hints… like this one today.