I’m Just A Teenage Mailbag Baby: Student Questions
Yesterday was the last day of a class I taught at the Loft Literary Center called Real Problems, Fake People. It was a super fun class and as usual, it whoooooshed by before I could catch my breath and do all the things I’d hoped to do.
Our last day, I had students ask questions about writing and publishing and anything else that they wanted to know and of course, we didn’t get to all the questions. So I will do a few of them every day here in order to atone for Time’s Winged Chariot and all that.
How do you get organized enough to make writing a daily priority?
This is a two part question.
You have to make space for it. Physically, I mean. Find a place. A desk. A corner. A treehouse. Whatever.
Then stock that space with things you need. Your favorite pens and notebooks. Your computer. Your iPod or music source. I like to have lipbalm around when I write as well as something to drink. If you want to be serious and organized about your writing, then act the part. Set up the stage for the performance to begin. And the fun part of this is that it can be customized to all your likes and needs and superstitions. Put up inspirational quotes or poems or pictures. Get a file cabinet to store all your drafts in. Hang up fairy lights and arrange some candles if you want that kind of ambiance. Surround yourself with the books you love. Maybe a dictionary or a Thesaurus, too? It’s really your deal.
Here are some famous creative people’s work spaces, in case you need some inspiration.
(My own office is boring. A desk, a chair, a file cabinet, a bookshelf. Yawn. But it does the job okay.)
Now. It’s nice if your writing place/space can have a door, so you’re not disturbed and distracted, but that’s not always possible.
If that’s not possible, then you’ve got the second part of the question. Which is, once it’s all set up to your liking, how do you do the writing itself?
There’s no one way to be a writer.
You need to understand your own personality and habits. Night owls write at night. Early birds at the crack of dawn. Some people need music. Some people need light. Some people need silence. Some people like to work in a busy cafe. This is why ‘I don’t prescribe to writers any advice beyond LEARN ALL ABOUT YOURSELF OKAY.
The other part that might be helpful is this quote I keep by my own desk:
“Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.” – Albert Giacometti, sculptor
The reason people persist in writing, despite the difficulty making a living and the world being full of distractions and awful rejections and criticisms and publishing being in constant turmoil and nobody is reading unless they’re reading shitty books and people are idiots and sometimes I just want to lay on the beach and fool around and why is everything so haaaarrrrrd…
…is because for these people, writing is fundamentally enjoyable. For these people, nothing feels better than writing. Time stops and you forget yourself when you’re writing. You can’t stop thinking about what might write next.
If that describes you, then I say, be motivated by pleasure. We only go around once here on this Earth. Find a way to feel good while you’re here.
If writing’s your Feel Good Thing, let that guide you.
Life is fundamentally a time-management hassle. Writers must work to fit their Feel Good Thing into that equation.
(Note: our culture doesn’t really value Feel Good Things. Sucky, but true. But prioritize your writing anyway).
If you make writing a priority, the people around you will learn to respect that. But they won’t respect it unless you do first.
Now – go make a cool writing space! Send me a picture if you want! And then figure out how you do your best work. And go do that, too.