Fitting in Writing ANGTFT (Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That)

I have a thousand things to do today and writing is just not one of them.  This statement represents well the challenge of people working full time, managing the hustle and bustle of life while also trying to squeeze in writing.  Often times when I share with friends and colleagues that I enjoy writing, the number one question consistently asked is, “When do you have time to write?”


I must admit it is a valid question to ponder.   While working a full time job clocking at least 50 hours a week and attending classes five hours a week on a personal quest to earn a Phd, it is a reasonable question to ask.  I find the answer to be one simple truth.  You frankly make time to do what you want to do.   There is no magic potion for finding time to write.  There is no miracle formula that works universally; it’s simply a commitment that one has to make and stay the course across all obstacles until the desired writing objectives are complete.

When people shift to a healthier lifestyle, their eating and exercise habits must change in order to sustain success.  Writing is no different.  To sustain a healthy pattern of writing, you must watch your writing habits.

My writing has not been a perfect journey, and I haven’t yet hit all of my writing goals.   What I do have is a few habits that I keep coming back to that will refocus me as needed.  No matter how long I step away from writing, these three triggers work to get me back on track.  Identifying your writing triggers is a revelation we all need. Here are my top three:

Writing is therapy for me. My best writing is triggered by moments of pain.  I came to know this through the experience of losing my job as well as the loss of a dear friend.   These moments of pain and loss created my best writing pieces.  This has helped me to take advantage of opportunities to bring my voice forward in the turmoil of dark times.   Writing heals me.  Over time, I have learned to embrace the pain and stop myself to write during those times.  Never let a good crisis go to waste.

With a little help by friends I get by. The best thing that happened to my writing practices was joining a writing group and developing a group of friends that support my writing ups and downs.  I joined a writing group because it was something different and sounded like a cool idea at the time.  My co-worker invited me to the group.  He was the King Blogger of a large corporation and I was always fascinated by his writing style.   This group is the glue that keeps my writing going.  We meet every two weeks and read each other’s’ projects and celebrate successes and rejections.  Peer pressure still works and you just do not want to show up three straight times without something to show and tell.  That pressure will have you rising up early mornings or late nights to get something written down.  We all subscribe to the belief that it doesn’t have to be perfect but it does have to be written down.   Simply attending our sessions give me enough mojo to dust myself off and get back up again.

Be kind to myself when I’m off track. I am my worst critic and when I do not hit a writing goal, I go inward and it creates a downward spiral that lands me in a place of being stuck.  Over the years, I have adopted a lighter attitude about not hitting every single deadline on time.  Writing is something I get to do.   It’s not something I have to do.  And each time, I get to write, I treat it as an honor and a privilege to bring my voice forward. By being kind to myself during my writing lulls, I find that I shift out of the lulls much faster.

Writing is a gift and as the William Faulkner quote says, “if a story is in you, it has got to come out.”  So, I hope this blog inspires you to uncover your writing triggers if you haven’t already and bring your stories out.   I would love to hear your ideas on how you manage to “fit in writing.”  Please post your tips below because we all could use them.  Happy Writing!

Using Story Forge for a jolt of creativity

Story Forge

Story Forge Idea Cards

Sometimes your brain gets stuck. Might be on a character, a plot point, or maybe your whole darned story. We all have our tools and techniques to get us past our sticking points or writer’s block, but let me introduce you to a new one: Story Forge.

Story Forge is a deck of custom cards. Each card has an idea on it like an occupation, a view, an action, or a role. The positive version of each idea is facing one way, and the negative faces the opposite way, so depending which way is “up” when you draw a card it will have a different meaning. It’s quite a bit like Tarot cards, if you’re familiar with them.

The instruction book comes with different layouts. You pick a layout (or make your own), deal the cards, and then ponder how they apply to your story. That pondering is the best part.

The cards are a creative tool, but the value comes from breaking you out of your patterns. If you deal a layout and then toss it away because it wasn’t what you wanted, you’re missing the point. Let the cards push you in a whole new direction, and really explore it. You may not use it in your final material, but at least you followed the path to see where it lead.

Writing a Film Noir short

We recently used Story Forge in our writing group. We dealt out a hand to the Film Noir layout, and several of us wrote a story piece around it. I included a key with the image (click the image to zoom in).

Story Forge - Film Noir

Story Forge – Film Noir layout (click to zoom)

It starts with a Betrayal, but there is a Manipulator at work. He wants a Disguise, and eventually a double cross comes to light by way of a Compulsion. And what Film Noir would be complete without a Tragic Outcome?

Definitely not my normal genre, but our whole writing group took the layout and each wrote our own story. The results were all wildly different. Just looking at the cards above, where do you think this takes place? Who is the protagonist? What is their occupation? One of the great things about this exercise is everyone will flesh it out their own way.

Get your own Story Forge

You can purchase your own Story Forge deck for $20. It comes with a wide range of cards, and a few blank ones so you can add in your own favorite items. Whether you want to just break out of a rut, need a source of new story ideas, or want help with writer’s block, Story Forge is a great tool to have around.

Next up on the blog – our stories from the above layout!

Writer’s Block Is Not Terminal

Writer's Block

Writer’s Block is not terminal although it certainly does feel that way when you are in the middle of  one.   Deemphasizing the block and increasing your awareness of when you are in an optimal writing zone is key to unlocking your block.  If you haven’t been in a successful writing zone for a while, consider one or more of the following:

Extreme Makeover: Create an environment that will signal clearly you are in a “Writing Construction Zone.”  This may include a special room or location in your home, a reserved room in the library or someplace else, special music, or wearing a favorite shirt, etc.   Author Maya Angelou accomplishes this by renting a hotel room for a day. She carries a writer’s tool box with her that includes things like her favorite glass of sherry , Roget’s Thesaurus and The Bible.  She creates an environment that signals to her, it’s time to get serious about writing.  You cannot copy an environment.  Rather, it’s important to create your own and know what gets you going.

Block off time on your calendar for writing.  Similar to exercising, muscles are developed as a result of consistency in your habits.  It is hard to stick to a haphazard schedule and getting back on track after slacking off for any period of time is tough. Writing is very similar.  It is a muscle that has to be developed.  Try to stick as close as you can to a fixed writing schedule and play it towards your strengths.  For ex. I prefer writing in the mornings and also create mini deadlines because the pressure of a fixed timeline fits with my working style and keeps me on task.

Just write. Write about things that you are passionate about to get your juices flowing.   We far too often get stuck because we allow our mind to fast forward in advance.  We are afraid of the end product before the first word is penned.   We worry that it will not turn out perfectly or we are overly analytical questioning which direction to take the piece or a character.  Just write.    It may not turn out perfectly but you can’t improve anything if it isn’t written down. 

Sleep your way to the top.  Getting plenty of rest each night will ensure a super sharp and clear mind. Increasing your sleeping by just 1.5 hours will increase your alertness by 32% according to a WebMD feature.

Surround yourself with other people that are jazzed about and value writing.  You will be amazed at how your writing will grow leaps and bounds and sharpen over time just by being actively involved with others that share a common interest.  I’m a part of a writing group and I’ve learned more from this group than I did all of those expensive english classes my parents paid dearly for me to attend.
So, the next time you find yourself in a block. Be honest about where you are and don’t allow yourself to stay in this space too long. “Easy reading is damn hard writing. “ Writer’s Block may find itself appearing in your home; think of it as a pop quiz and a gift to assess what needs to change to get you back in your groove. I would love to hear your thoughts about your writing blocks and how you get through them.  Please post your tips or experiences below.

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