I was looking last week at the importance of making space. This week I’ll look at this topic specifically from a writing perspective and share a few tips I’ve found helpful.
Making Space to Write
I have found it vital to make space to write if I’m to get anything done. Other than emergencies, holidays etc, I have carved out specific writing time slots and stick to them. I plan my writing week around the slots I have and try to marry up the time available to the tasks I’ve got in mind.
When I have a long writing slot, I spend that time on my novel. When the periods of time available are shorter, I draft short story ideas or look up competitions I’d like to enter. I start my CFT posts usually the day after my previous one has appeared on the website and aim to have them finished and up on site, ready to go, by Wednesday. This one is going to be a two-parter and so I will probably need until Thursday to get both parts finished and good to go. (I did!).
Planning is key. It doesn’t always work out. Life can get in the way sometimes but I’ve found making space to write is fundamental to getting any writing done at all.
I’ve learned over time to use any time I have to write (which is why I love Evernote on my phone as it means I can now use train journeys to get lots done).
I’ve learned, just as importantly, not to despise those short slots of time. If you’ve only got five minutes to write, use it to jot down some ideas to write up later when you do have more time. Or use it to do a short section on your work in progress. Those short sections mount up.
What Is Your Writing Space?
My writing space is a desk in one of our rooms with a comfy (and good supporting) chair. I sit with my back to the French windows but can take a brief look out into the garden when I feel the need to do so.
Essentials are obviously the laptop and laserjet printer (aka Old Faithful) but also my radio, tuned mostly to Classic FM, and plenty of notepads and pens. It’s not a tidy desk (though I know where everything is!) but it is where I am relaxed enough to write and write and write. (Incidentally isn’t it ironic that the cost of a printer has in relative terms come down over the years but where you still really spend the money is on the ink and the paper! Caxton would probably have had sympathy with that one).
However you organise your writing space, it has got to meet your needs (though it is important to ensure you have a good chair that supports you properly). It should be a place where you are glad to get to and write. It is the first step in….
Treating Your Writing Seriously
The first person who needs to treat your writing seriously is you! By making space specifically for writing, you are telling yourself this is what you really want to do and are getting in the commitment that is crucial.
Commitment is crucial because you do have to face up to the reality of rejections, stories not getting anywhere in competitions etc. You do have to have a kind of “how much do I really want this?” moment though I am keen to stress there is absolutely nothing wrong in just writing for your own amusement. It is how most of us start, myself included.
It was only when I’d written a few stories, I thought I may as well see if I could get them published somewhere on the grounds I had nothing to lose. I still take that view!
Assuming none of that is a problem, the other way to make space for writing is when it comes to submitting work anywhere. Different publishers (online and in print) have varying requirements so check your submission matches what is needed. This can take some time in itself so give yourself that time.
Don’t rush this aspect. You will miss something. It also pays to keep a record of what you sent where (and when) so you don’t unwittingly send the same story to the same place twice. (I’m not guilty of this one but it does happen).
Making Space to Be Honest about Your Writing and Reuse What You Can
Making space to analyse what works and doesn’t work in writing (either your own or that of others) is a good way to honestly assess what you need to do to bring your own work up to the standard you’d like to get to. The challenge of writing (and for me one of its joys) is knowing there is always room to improve what you do. When you submit work, it needs to be to the best standard you can attain at that time.
I’m currently looking through my back catalogue of stories where the rights have returned to me and I’m resubmitting these elsewhere to give these tales a new lease of life. Stolen is my most recent one of these stories to be revisited and is now up on the Cafelit website. Another tale, Life is What You Make It, will be on the Cafelit website on 12th August (after about 4 pm. Yes, that specific. The idea of the daily story here is to time it for an afternoon cup of tea, a slice of cake and a chance to read a short story!).
Firstly, the idea behind all of this is there is a case of waste not, want not. One publisher found them acceptable, they’re no longer taking short fiction, so I am free to try another publisher with them.
Secondly, in looking back at my older work, I can see where I’ve come on my writing journey to date and reassess where I would like to be, say, a year from now.
Making Space to Engage with Other Writers
Given most writers spend a lot of time at their desks on their own, the chance to meet with other writers is wonderful. Nobody else quite understands the compulsion to write like another writer and it is always a great opportunity to swap notes about publishers/writing competitions and the like.
I am very grateful for the friends I’ve made online and via conferences at Winchester and Swanwick. It is a pleasure to share in their good news and also to be able to share yours with them. That really helps when all you seem to get in are rejections or you’ve realised you haven’t heard from a competition in ages (meaning your piece has got nowhere. Mind, there’s nothing to stop you sending that piece out again elsewhere).
I’ve found out about potential publishers, competitions and scams by chatting with other writers.
It can also help you feel like a “real writer” when talking about what you do to someone else (and it will do the same for them when they discuss their work with you. It should always be a two-way process). Most writers do experience “imposter syndrome” where you have to convince yourself you are a writer, but getting out and about to meet with others, who will most likely have experienced the syndrome themselves, is a good way to fight it.
It’s a form of insecurity when all is said and done. There are very few definites in the creative world and you are putting yourself out there when you send your work out. It can also be hard to fight the urge to compare yourself with other writers. One thing I have found has helped me there is to remember only I can write in my voice. Other writers write in theirs. Yes, pastiches and spoofs happen but there is no doubt about who these are sending up. It is a copy of the voice, that’s all.
When all is said and done, we will make space for what we really treasure. No surprises here that my treasures are books and writing in particular. Enjoy your special space and what you use to fill it with. Treasure it. These things help make us unique (another reason why each and every writer has a unique voice. It’s a case of finding and using it).
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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