Before I studied creative writing in college, I had many illusions about the writing process. For years I had written in a journal almost daily, but it didn’t occur to me that other genres of writing required the same steadfast dedication. As I learned from my poetry professors, however, every writer must develop a writing ritual. Athletes must exercise their muscles. Writers must exercise their talent.
For most of us, waiting for the muse to sing in our ears won’t cut it if we want to improve and increase the volume of our writing. In practical terms, this means writing regularly (around the same time of day, if possible). Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, describes this as “making an appointment” with our muse. If we honor our writing ritual, we’re more likely to encounter the muse more often. Granted, adhering to a writing schedule doesn’t guarantee beautiful writing every time. I certainly understand the frustration this can cause, but if you’re serious about writing, whether professionally or recreationally, I encourage you to push through these less than rewarding moments. (The reward will come eventually, I promise!)
Even if you don’t have dreams of becoming the next poet laureate, if you’re interested in developing yourself professionally, creating and maintaining a blog about your professional interests will increase your online presence and serve as a cumulative portfolio of your writing. Even if the career of your dreams isn’t writing intensive, a writing portfolio is an excellent way to illustrate your communication skills to potential employers. Plus, blogging is also a fun way to network with others in your field!
As a blogger, I’ve called on some of the same skills I practiced when I was writing poems regularly. I’m no longer counting iambs, but I do follow a writing schedule. Half the time when I sit down to write, I have no idea where to begin. Sometimes I write a paragraph that almost puts me to sleep, but I know I need to move on and write more. Since I began my blogging routine, ideas for subject matter come more fluidly. (If I’m really feeling stuck, however, freewriting or responding to another’s writing are both great ways to “warm up” and locate subject matter).
Try to make your writing ritual as enjoyable as possible. Ideally, you want to look forward to it! Consider what writing environment makes you most comfortable. Do you like to type at a desk or scrawl in a notebook at a café? Are you more creative in the morning, or does your mind only wake up once it’s dark out? Cultivate a ritual that’s truly you. I usually handwrite a few notes (in a cute, polka-dot notebook) but do most of my writing on my laptop while sitting on the floor. I also like to have a warm drink close by (preferably coffee), and soft music playing in the background.
How about you? If you’re not sure, get ready to experiment, and no matter what—write, write, write.
Also by Mary: The Importance of Forgiving Yourself
Photos: Mary Hood