However, if developing and then maintaining a daily writing schedule keeps eluding you, you’re in the right place.
This post describes the first type of accountability challenge for April.
Back to Basics
In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande discusses two different writing practices necessary for you to be able to write fluently and at will. She even claims that if you repeatedly fail at these exercises, “you should give up writing and find something else to do because your resistance is greater than your desire to write.”
The first type of writing practice is early morning writing. It is writing done first thing upon rising (other than using a restroom and letting your dog out. I also make instant cocoa to drink while I write.) To do this writing practice, if you already work a day job, you’ll have to get up a bit earlier or forego some morning ritual like reading your newspaper or watching the news.
The Elusive Unconscious
We create best in a dreamy, half-conscious reverie state that is hard to come by during our busy days. This exercise helps you “train” your unconscious to flow toward writing (instead of something else). As Brande says, “the first step toward being a writer is to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm.” This exercise is to help you make that automatic connection so that later you can do this on demand.
If you’re skeptical, that’s okay. I was too. But this simple exercise done daily helped me thirty years ago to become a writer. And returning to this exercise at various times in my career has helped me get unstuck after some major life transitions. Approach the idea with an open mind.
Here are Brande’s instructions:
“Just as soon as you can—and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before—begin to write. Write anything that comes into your head.”
That can be last night’s dream, any decision you’re wrestling with, your prayers, anything at all. Just be sure to start writing before you have read anything.
You can use a notebook, sit in bed or in an easy chair, type at your desk, or anywhere you’re comfortable. Write as long as you have free time, or until you feel that you have utterly written yourself out.
Benefits of Early Morning Writing
As Brande points out, “what you are actually doing is training yourself, in the twilight zone between sleep and the full waking state, simply to write… Realize that no one need ever see what you are writing.” Do not judge your writing. In fact, for now, don’t even go back and read it. Just write.
Within a short time, you will find the task of writing no longer a strain. It will be second nature to put words on paper or screen as soon as you’re awake. Remember, it’s the habit of writing we’re working on here. The quality of writing doesn’t matter at all. Save your early morning writing though. Later you may go back and find some good ideas there you can develop.
After you’ve done early morning writing for a week or two, begin to push yourself a bit. When you feel written out, make yourself write one more sentence, or maybe two. A week later make yourself write one more paragraph. This gradual stretching will help you eventually write for many more hours (comfortably and without strain) than you presently can.
Getting Ready for the Challenge
If you want to try the “early morning writing” accountability challenge in April, begin now to think about fitting it into your schedule. Consider what you can give up in your morning ritual to make time for this. Think about going to bed half an hour earlier so you can get up earlier.
Warn the people you live with about this change, if needed. Choose a place where you can be alone and relax during your writing time. (When my children were babies, I snuck into the bathroom and wrote by the night light. My eyesight was better then!)
Be determined. Be creative. Plan ahead. And get ready!