[Write On Wednesday] The Not-Writing Prompt

Sometimes ‘writing’ doesn’t meant putting words on the page. Today’s prompt is designed to help you get comfortable with this reality of life as a writer.

(For more on this idea, read “Does Thinking Count As Writing?“)

"Win" illustration

The Prompt

Pick and implement a ‘tiny win’ for today, that doesn’t involve writing new words.

Tips

It’s very important to feel the reality that not everything in a writer’s life is about adding words.

These suggestions are designed to help you carve our time not just for writing, but for ‘writing’ (all the other stuff that goes with it).

Choose from one thing from this list (or make up something similar) and carve out 15-20 minutes to focus on it. Turn off all your notifications and just allow yourself to focus.

Then report back, to let us know what you did, and to celebrate!

  • Find a tiny notebook in your stash (you know you have a notebook stash!) and commit to carrying it with you every day for a week, so you can capture ideas. Start by writing down something you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell right where you are, right now.
  • Read a story by someone else and write down everything you love and hate about it.
  • Go for a walk or get some other kind of exercise that gets your blood pumping. Bonus points for getting out of your usual space. (Your brain is connected to the rest of your body. Take care of them!)
  • Write a review of a book you loved and always meant to get around to reviewing. Bonus points: write a letter to the author, if they’re still with us (you can send it to the publisher listed in their books). Connecting to the rest of the writing world builds your commitment to your craft, and reminds you that authors are just people. Hey, you’re a person! Maybe you DO have a right to write, too!
  • Ask another writer how they’re doing. This can be someone who seems to be doing “so much better” than you. (Connect on Twitter or some other social media site.) Trust me they’ll appreciate it. And again, building your connections with the greater writing world will help you feel more committed, and stop you from slinking off and saying “I could never be a real writer so I might as well not try”. Of course you can be a writer. And having connections with people in the writing world helps remind you of that.
  • Revise a short story or scene that you’ve previously written. Focus on crafting one sentence you really love, somewhere in that piece.
  • Rework a story or scene to cut it down by 10% of its word count. Be ruthless (work on a copy if you have to!). What does that do for the story and your prose?
  • Set a timer and spend 20 minutes (no more! It’s a rabbit hole!) researching publications you might want to send stories to.
  • Doodle or illustrate a story you previously write. You might draw a portrait of a main character, sketch the house they live in, or splash colors on the page to represent their personality.
  • Make a Pinterest board of interesting characters and places you can use in stories (thanks to MoniqueAC for this suggestion!). Again, set a timer, because this is meant to be a tiny win, not a new lifetime project!
  • Go on–or book–what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. What inspires you? For me it’s often music. For you, it might be art. Can you book an outing now, to an art museum, a live music concert, a play? Can you put a time on your calendar to walk in your favorite park, or call your funniest friend?

What other tiny wins can you think of? What did you try and how did it go? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Writers: Burn Your Business Cards

‘Creative’ is not a noun…Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title, not the work.”

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

I read Chapter 3 of Kleon’s latest book this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.

Not because I didn’t know and understand what he said.

I have, after all, made a name for myself as the person who entices writers to actually write during May & September every year.

But because it made me wonder: am I actually doing the verb?

diary writing

What Do You Do All Day?

Continue reading “Writers: Burn Your Business Cards”

Why Can’t You Write That Story?

dyslexia
Sometimes its hard to write.

Even when you want to.

Even when you’ve started a story.

Maybe your story wanders off the point and you get lost in the mushy middle. Or maybe your story immediately wants to become a novel. Perhaps you get interrupted and lose your mojo.

I’d love to hear from you. What happened last time you started a story and didn’t finish? What stalled you last time you sat down to write and couldn’t.

Leave a comment here and let’s get a discussion going about what goes wrong and what we can do about that.

 

How To Write A StoryADay – Tips For Success

How To Write A StoryADay For A Month

I. Use the site during the StoryADay May challenge, to find prompts and to find community (either in the blog post comments or in the community forums. (Come back on April 25 to get access, or get on the mailing list now!)

It can be fun to go online and chat with other people about how they use each day’s prompt.

II. If May doesn’t work for you, bookmark this site and use the prompts for a personal month of short story writing at any time of the year, whenever your schedule allows. Simply come back and look up the prompts, write your stories,. I recommend telling a few friends what you’re doing to help with the accountability part.

III. For your best chance at success,  get together with your In Real Life writing group and go through the challenge together.

The Rules Of The Challenge

Q. Do I have to write 31 stories in 31 days?

A. No. Since the StoryADay May challenge began in 2010 I have always said: make your own rules. For some people, the challenge of writing a story every day is the thing that excites them the most and helps them to embrace the challenge. For other people it’s unrealistic. Those writers simply decide how many days this month they’re going to write.

The key is to make your own rules and then stick to them. Some years, for example, I take Sundays off.

Q. Do I have to complete the stories in a day?

A. Yes. This is the only place where I am quite strict. There is a power in finishing a story and so I encourage you to push through to the end of your story every day.

This does not mean writing a brilliant draft.

Sometimes you have to cheat. You can write “[something clever happens here]” and then sketch out a resolution and final paragraph if that’s what it takes to get used to the end of the story. Doing this at least teaches you to keep the mood to keep the story moving towards a place of resolution.

Q. What do I do if I miss a day?

A. Move on. Don’t try to catch up. Don’t try to beat yourself up. Do try to figure out what went wrong. Did you want time? Did you get lost in the muddy middle? Did you leave your writing until the last moment and then freeze? Spend a couple of minutes figuring out what wrong and then try to accept it, learn from it and move on. This is not a failure. This is you becoming a dedicated writer. As long as you keep coming back to the page, you’re not failing.

Q. Do I have to post my stories online?

Absolutely not. You don’t have to show them to anyone. This is a safe space, a sandbox, a place for you to play with learning about writing stories. You have the freedom here to be bad. In fact some days I’m going to tell you to go over the top, straight into parody, write whatever you want to have rough. You should feel free to write whatever you need to write to learn your craft without fear of anyone over your shoulder.

Q. Then how do I stay accountable?

Make your challenge public. Either take part in the challenge at storyaday.org during May and September where you can post in the victory dance group or in the blog comments of the prompt itself. The community will congratulate you!

Or tell your friends. Promise to email or tweet or Facebook or Instagram every day as soon as you finish writing. Knowing that people are waiting for that post will keep you honest.

Q. What length should the stories be?

A. If you’re writing a fresh story every day, you’re probably going to be writing very short stories. Some people can bang out 3,000 word stories every day, but in my experience, they are rare. Most people write between 100 and 1200 word stories — flash fiction. You could decide to write a 140-character, Twitter-length story every day, and still be writing a story a day. (Me? Some years I comment to a 100 word story every day).

Just as long as you have a beginning, a middle and an end (not necessarily in that order, and, in a super-short story, one of those can be “off-stage” or implied); a character; a sense that something is happening or changing (even for an instant), then you have a story!

Q. Do you have any other books or courses that can help me well I learned to write stories?

A. Yes, I’m so glad you asked. You can find more books of writing prompts, along with workshops and e-books about finding time to write, becoming a better writer, publishing short story collections yourself, in the StoryADay Shop.

**Q. How can I find it more about StoryADay?

A. Sign up for updates

Q. Any other tips for story of the success?

Yes, come back to the site often. Listen to the Podcast, and sign up for updates.

 

Get The Results You Want, For Your Writing

picture of a winner's medal

Get the free Get Results Worksheet,
and catch all the ideas this post gives you

Let’s be honest: fame and fortune would be nice, but it’s not really the reason we write, is it?

We write because we need to. It should be enough but sometimes we want more. This post will lead you through three ways to get yourself closer to your image of ‘writing success’. Continue reading “Get The Results You Want, For Your Writing”

SWAGr Tracking Worksheet – Your Key To Accountability and Productivity

Every month we get together to declare our intentions for the month in the SWAGr post’s comments.

But when the month rolls around to the 20th or so, it can be a bit hard to remember what you committed to doing this month.

Sign up here to receive a handy-dandy worksheet you can download and print out every month, when you make your writing goals.

Swagr Tracker screenshot

Write 12 Stories This Year – A Challenge From Alexis A. Hunter

Alexis A. Hunter Twitter ProfileI’ve always been impressed with how much fiction StoryADay friend and participant Alexis A. Hunter pushes out into the world: over 50 short stories in publications like Apex, Shimmer and Cricket.

In 2017, she has committed to writing a new short story every month.

That sounded like my kind of challenge, so I asked her more about it. Continue reading “Write 12 Stories This Year – A Challenge From Alexis A. Hunter”

Stay Excited About Your Writing This Year

To stick to our good intentions and create good writing practices, we have to stay excited about our writing. Meeting a word count goal or an hours-in-chair goal isn’t always enough of an incentive to break through our resistance to sitting down and creating something out of nothing, every day.

So, in this article, I’m offering you some alternative ways to get yourself jazzed about your writing practice.

'I'm Excited'
Photo: Stuart Dootson

Of course, being me, I’m going to recommend you incorporate short stories into your writing practice, but you can use these ideas even when you’re working on a scene in a longer work.

I’m going to show you how you can stay excited about your writing practice by:

  • Understanding the purpose of your story and how it affects the final form,
  • Experimenting with new formats and new ideas,
  • Focusing on your audience (but not too much)

I’m also going to give you one foolproof way to make sure you finish your stories, every time.

And then I’m going to invite you to make a very specific commitment to your writing this year—if it seems right for you—one with built-in accountability and support.

Take A Break

Continue reading “Stay Excited About Your Writing This Year”

How To Set Exciting Writing Goals for Next Year — And Actually Meet Them, This Time!

This time next year, you could be staring at a list of achievements that are directly related to the goals that matter to you…

Listen to the podcast episode that goes along with this post:

The Allure of the Fresh Start

I love the idea of a fresh start, don’t you?

It doesn’t matter when it happens (New Year, the first day of spring, the start of a new academic year), I’m always ready with my list of “this time it’ll be different” resolutions.

  • This time I’ll get my assignments done ahead of time!
  • This time I’ll write every day, even if I don’t feel inspired!
  • This time I’ll floss three times a day!

    And What Happens Next?

    You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

    I’m excited to follow through on my plans for about three days.

    Then I start to force myself to stick to the new regime.

    Then I start to miss a day here or there…

    …and suddenly it’s June and I’m flipping through my journal and I find that massive, guilt-inducing list of Things I’m Going To Do Differently This Year, and my shoulders slump, and I spend the next three weeks in a slump, wondering why I can’t get anything done.

    Sound familiar?

Continue reading “How To Set Exciting Writing Goals for Next Year — And Actually Meet Them, This Time!”

I Hereby Grant You Permission To Write

In the middle of the 20th Century “Art” because professionalized, to the point where we felt we didn’t deserve to tell stories unless a New York publishing house was slapping it between hardcovers, or an overpriced university program anointed us “Writer, MFA”.

This was an aberration; a moment in history that did not exist before and does not exist now.

Humans have always sat around and told each other stories, without the benefit of editors or tutors or anyone giving us permission. We told stories to audiences, and we gauged their reaction in order to make our stories better next time.

The success of the “amateurs doing things on TV” genre (American Idol, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars) along with the boom in indie publishing, indie movie making, indie everything making, are signs that the artificial workshop of creative professionals is over. Humans are taking back control of our own creativity.

Are you?

Tell your stories. Show them to people. Make them better. Write new stories.
That’s all there is to it.

You have every right to write. In fact, print out this certificate and write your name on it.

Permission To Write Certificate Thumbnail

There. You have my permission to write.

Can you give yourself permission to write?