To develop a daily writing practice think “slow”
After a year of focusing on my business and taking care of various family members, I’m working on re-developing a daily writing habit. It feels a bit like learning a new job. I notice resistance to the actual act of sitting my bum in my chair and writing. I also notice I’ve developed the attention span of a gnat.
In my life and business, I’m an incredible multitasker. I won’t go into the details in case you’ve read them before (see my post “How to reclaim your life and energy for your art”). But I’ve been finding that multitasking can actually make you less productive—especially if you’re an artist or a writer.
As Heather Sellers states in her book, Chapter after Chapter, writing is slow work. She relates it to the Slow Food Movement that was born to counter fast food chains taking over the world. Slow food is about being conscious of what you put in your mouth, of where your food is coming from, and whose pocket you are lining when you buy your food.
Writing is a conscious art form. Sure, we can whip off an e-mail or a blog post, but poetry, screen plays, and novels take time to develop. Art takes time. During your actual writing time, you can’t multitask, you have to slow down. Sellers says she can type 137 words-per-minute but it doesn’t mean they’ll be good words. It doesn’t mean they’ll be juicy words. She says writing isn’t typing.
In fact, Sellers says that speed can be an indication of fear. When I feel as if I’m not getting enough done, I begin to panic and all kinds of thoughts race through my mind, “Will I ever get this book done? Will I die first? Will anybody still be reading books by the time I finish this novel? Will the world have ended by the time my book is done?” And on and on my mind goes.
According to Sellers, I am internalizing our cultural obsession with speediness. With fast food. With instant gratification. With the push for speediness at the cost of quality.
How can we stop this push for speediness? Be conscious of it and “lean into slowness.” Take your time. Savor and enjoy the journey. Make friends with your characters for the long haul. Look at your life and see where else you can practice slowness. Reading? Eating?
To develop a writing habit, Novelist and TV Writer/Producer Lowell Cauffiel suggests writing five pages a day. Not more and not less. The five pages can take him an hour or five hours. But he writes until he has his five pages. He doesn’t write more than five pages either. He’s learned that if he’s on a roll and ends up writing ten pages, the next day he is written out, and he’ll produce maybe one page. So he writes five pages consistently, every day. That’s the kind of writing practice I want to emulate. A slow, thoughtful, everyday writing practice.
For more on the benefits of slow, read Carly’s post, “Why slow, easy gains beat fast and furious for writing success.”
If you’d like to hear additional writing tips from Cauffiel and other authors and screenwriters, check out StoryLogue.com. For $19.97 a month, you can subscribe to writing coach Robert McKee’s website, with Q&A, lessons, and interviews all related to the art of writing. McKee is known for his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, and a seminar by the same name.