Dump the P Words and Get Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo. People all other the world sign up to completing a novel within a month. I don’t sign up for it because I normally start writing a new book in September having had a break over the Summer holidays, but I like the idea of Nanowrimo as it helps you focus on writing.There are many factors to being a writer that writes rather than a resting writer (the same as a resting actor but with more guilt). As it happens many of these factors begin with the letter P so here are my thoughts on dumping the P words.

Make writing a PRIORITY in your life. Tell people you are a writer. Get on and write. I had a ten year hiatus from writing and during that time I stopped telling people I was a writer because I was embarrassed that I hadn’t written a word for years.

I regret those years now, because if I had been using that time to PRACTISE my craft I might have become a better writer earlier. Musicians spend hours practising to get the piece write and the same applies to writing. I suggest write every day or at least most days. Get the words on the page and keep the flow going. It’s much harder to write after a break, says one who knows.

PUT yourself first. So what if you are a parent or a carer or a CEO of a multinational company. Or all three. If you are a writer you need to put your writing-self first sometimes. It’s not selfishness. It’s self preservation. You will lose your touch if you don’t write.

PROTECT your writing time. If you have defined hours when you write, it’s easier to protect that time. Tell your family and friends and ask them to respect your writing hours. If the phone rings, don’t answer. When you return the call later, tell them  you weren’t able to come to the phone because you were writing. Ask them not to call at that hour again. At home have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign outside your writing cave.

When my children were small, I often got up at 5am in the school holidays to write. They knew I couldn’t be disturbed until 8am. I could hear them on the other side of the door saying ‘It’s ten to eight. We’ve got ten minutes.’ And they would sit on the stairs until eight o’clock before bursting in to demand breakfast. Not ideal, but at least I got my writing hours in before I had to switch back to being a parent.
NB Parent is not a writing P word. It’s a non-writing word and should be avoided if at all possible!

Be PROFESSIONAL. So you are not earning any money from your writing – yet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it as a job. A second job maybe, but still a job. If you ever sell a book, the money you receive is an advance against sales. It isn’t compensation for the hours/days/years you have spent creating your masterpiece. Don’t bother working out your hourly rate, you will weep at the dismal figures. There is no such thing as the minimum wage for authors. If you don’t be professional in your approach to writing, submitting or working with publishers, you will never get paid anything. Start as you mean to go on.

Banish PROCRASTINATION. Work out what your procrastination vices are and deal with them. Turn off the internet, get someone else to do your housework, only shop outside of your writing hours.

I have suffered from procrastination-itus on and off over the years. For me it is all about fear of failure and that usually strikes when I don’t have faith in what I am doing. The best way to regain your faith is to do all of the Ps above and then share your work with your PEERS. My critique group is at the heart of my writing practice. I couldn’t do it without them. They bolster me up when I am feeling down and if I do nothing else, I write something to discuss with them when we meet.

Despite my fear of failure, I don’t suffer from PERFECTIONISM, but I know plenty of people who do. I think writing a first draft quickly whether in the wrapper of Nanowrimo or not, is the best way forward. For me, all the work goes into the second draft which takes a lot longer than the thirty days of November. You can read about my writing process in earlier blog posts.

If you suffer from serious perfectionism it can be totally paralyzing. I can’t offer any advice on this, but maybe someone who has overcome their perfectionism will comment below.

The most important thing is to get your PEN and PAPER out and make a start. I’ve just treated myself to this little bundle of loveliness from www.bureaudirect.co.uk and I’m going to give it a go now.

NB Buying green sparkly ink – that’s how you turn PROCRASTINATION into a POSITIVE move towards words.

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