Some days you just have to re-learn the same lessons you picked up a year ago, or a decade ago and forgot. Here are the 5+ writing lessons I re-learned today. I hope they help and inspire you!
#1: Your Reader Changes
Writing Lesson #1 Your Reader is Not the Same Person at the End of Your Book as She Was at the Beginning
I came across this note I’d made to myself this morning while cleaning my office. I remember saying it to a client a few months ago (that’s how long it’s been since I straightened up my office)!
How do you write with this lesson in mind? Imagine your reader before she’s read your book and then imagine her after reading your wonderful book. What is she wearing? Where is she? What’s her body language? What thoughts and emotions does she experience? What’s her life situation and what do you see her doing?
Answer those questions about the instant before she reads your book and the same questions by imagining her after reading your book. You will be so much better able to serve your readers when you understand them in this fundamental way.
#2: Move and Breathe for Creative Flow
Writing Lesson #2 Moving Your Body and Breathing Deeply Can Make All the Difference in Creative Flow and Inspiring You
I’ve been making myself crazy filming about 75 video clips for my new book: The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. I am super excited about this project but it has meant late nights at the computer until midnight and then another 45 minutes to an hour to wind down (I read a novel) and fall asleep.
I’ve read some great novels that way in the last few weeks: Wildswept by Octavia Randolph, American Queen by Ginger Moran, Gilded Dreams by Donna Russo Morin and I’m in the midst of Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything. But this lifestyle doesn’t make for a well-rested body and mind in the morning.
Feeling logy today, I took my own advice (after all I’m working on a separate book that explores various breathing and writing exercises to support creative flow). I did my qigong bouncing, several deep abdominal breaths and even hummed! That helped.
I also made myself a sourdough and red pepper hummus sandwich with the last of my farm share bib lettuce. Yeah, I needed food. Okay, I’ll admit, and some Theo’s organic dark chocolate with cherries and almonds.
I can’t begin to tell you how much better I felt after that movement, an infusion of oxygen and nourishment! Ready to write.
#3 Make Writing a Priority and Snatch Time When Your Can
Writing Lesson #3 Take Advantage of the Little Moments in Your Day to Write: You Don’t Need Hours
Since I was teaching my Get Your Writing Done program today, it was easy to do some more movement and breathing with my class, as we always begin, and then get to writing. Yet, temptations arose. My amazing video developer, Dan Thibeault of Fast Twitch Media, had just uploaded and sent me final and near-final versions of some of the videos that go into my new book, The Joy of Writing Journal.
These videos were my bright and shiny object, calling, “Watch me! Watch me! Don’t you want to see me?” I’d put hours into creating these videos with amazing people like Dan and my friend/producer/director/coach Portland Helmich. But I held my ground and wrote. “I’ll watch after.”
It took willpower to focus on writing first. If I can tame my monkey mind, so can you.
#4 Use Intention to Propel and Sustain Your Writing Practice
Writing Lesson #4 Set an Intention and Use it to Motivate You and Keep You Engaged
Our first two steps in the 5 Step TENER Method for Creative Flow are to a) Tune In and b) Engage Your Muse. After that, we c) Set an Intention. In class, we each set a one word intention by typing in the chat. While mine was “Re-energize” (remember my late night spent on video creation and novel-reading), half the class wrote “FOCUS.”
I find group intentions especially powerful. As one person reads the one word intentions in the chat, it often sounds like a poem. Today, though, it sounded like a message. Someone knocking on my door saying, “Focus. Focus. Focus.”
I think that intention of focus helped me even more than the idea of re-energizing. I stuck with my intention to write and welcomed the opportunity to write a whole blog post quickly. And here we are. I have 15 minutes of writing time left and only one more lesson to share.
#5 Get Help from Professionals Whose Strengths Compensate for Your Weaknesses.
Writing Lesson #5. Details matter, especially when working on a big project like a book.
Missing the details can result in time wasted–and not just your time but the people you work with who are counting on you.
I recently discovered that I would likely be considered ADD. Or ADHD. Or whatever acronym and initials are being used today. That explains a lot, says my husband. And my kids. And everyone who’s worked with me on a project. Such brain wiring can make us creative but it can also make for “scatterbrain,” errors, and wasted time.
While I can be surprisingly focused on a task like editing (and very detail oriented), working on multiple projects at once, or multiple windows on the computer, drives me batty–as I open window after window and flit from task to task, the stress mounts.
In my case, this divergent wiring resulted in my sending my publisher the wrong URL’s or links to the videos in my book even though she specifically sent me a template for organizing the videos. A linear mind would have had no trouble reconciling that template with the links in the manuscript, yes? Apparently not my brain. I added an extra subdirectory in the manuscript but not the video organizer, so that the URLs in the two documents did not match.
Now, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and I am a big believer in hiring people who make up for your strengths. In this case, after my friends, clients and colleagues served as beta readers and offered feedback, I hired a wonderful editor and proofreader, Lynne Heinzmann. I thought I’d covered my bases.
But I didn’t have her read the video organizer document and check it against the links in the manuscript; it just didn’t cross my mind to do that. The task seemed simple. I feel like a heel for wasting people’s time with my error.
Which I suppose leads to my bonus lesson.
My BONUS Lessons
Writing Lesson #6 Double Check Your Work and Go Through it Slowly (I tend to rush).
and my other bonus lesson:
Writing Lesson #7 Get More Sleep (Better rested, I may not have missed the inconsistency).
My writing time is up in one minute, and if I had one thing to leave you (and me) with, I think it would be that one can find many fruitful lessons in one day’s work.
What writing lessons and life lessons have you learned today?
Mason Engel says
Only while writing a character who works in a bookstore did I realize #1. We all take for granted that a protagonist should change throughout a story … why shouldn’t the reader?
Excited for your Joy of Writing Journal! I love when people incorporate a multi-media approach to their teachings, so I’m sure the videos will be incredibly helpful.
Lisa Tener says
Thank you Mason! I appreciate your insight. I bet you learned a lot about readers working in a bookstore! What kind of books do you write?