Nancy: Boom and Bust

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?

Um, no.

When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Nancy: Is It Time to Kick Some Habits?

Humans are creatures of habit, and for good reason. Habits lead to predictability, which lends itself well to things like safety and survival. And as brain science and writing gurus have told us, engaging in habits surrounding creativity can boost our productivity. We’ve talked about writing habits, rituals, and routines a lot on this very blog.

But what happens when those habits become necessities, when we can’t write or create or function without them? Is it possible for writing habits to become too precious?

Sometimes life throws us out of our routines. Family emergencies, summer vacations, or business travel intrude on our plans for long hours of solitary writing time. Sure, we can abandon our writing until things go back to normal. But what if there’s a looming deadline, or the break will throw you out of your story at a critical creative juncture? Or, horror of horrors, what if things never go back to ‘normal’?

When it comes to attachment to habits, I know whereof I speak. I love my morning rituals, my writing routines, my writing spot, my editing desk, and schedules and timers to keep it all moving along. But I’m going to have some routine-shattering events coming up this summer, along with deadlines on multiple stories, which means it’s time to get over myself and my ‘must-have’ habits. 

I’ve decided to approach this like an athletic challenge. First, I’ll set up the end goal. Then I’ll set up a training schedule to meet it, and start working up to the challenge day by day, week by week. In case you need to train for a similar event, please to enjoy my training approach and adapt for your own nefarious purposes.

The Challenge: Write outside my comfort zone, achieving 5000+ words and multiple chapter edits weekly while traveling with family and friends Continue reading

Nancy: Learning New Tricks

New TricksA piece of writing advice you’ve probably heard is to make writing a habit. There’s a reason for that. We humans respond well to habits. Once we’ve developed them, habits are the well-worn road, the known quantity. Habits trigger our brain to do the same thing because, hey, we’ve done this so many times before, we know it’s safe. So writing every day, at the same time, in the same place, maybe wearing your ‘creativity pants’ (mine look a lot like pajamas), trains your brain that when I do A, it is time for you to do B, B being write the damn book.

But for all their usefulness, habits can be a double-edged sword. Habits can lead to ruts. Ruts can crush creativity. And before you know it, you’re writing the same stel things over and over, making the same mistakes, or worse – staring at a blank page. If this has happened to you, it’s time to mix things up. Write somewhere new. Change the time you write (or add another block of writing time to your daily writing time). Even do the unthinkable – put on pants!

Whether you need to create a new writing habit or breathe life into a stale old one, Continue reading

Nancy: NaNoWriMo: A Multi-Purpose Writing Tool

NaNoIt’s that time of year again. In the northern hemisphere, the air has turned crisp. Leaves are changing colors. Children are choosing Halloween costumes. And writers across the globe are stocking up on coffee, hoarding chocolate, and doing finger stretches in anticipation of National Novel Writing Month.

Here at 8LW, Michille has shared her plans for her own run at NaNoWriMo gold (finishing 50k words of original fiction in the month of November), Elizabeth has been getting us into shape with writing sprints, and several of the ladies are contemplating whether they’ll join the party.

Until this past week, I was undecided about my own NaNoWriMo plans. Continue reading

Michaeline: Getting to the Magic of Writing

Escape the things that are dragging you down, and get back into the magic of writing!

Escape the things that are dragging you down, and get back into the magic of writing! Via Wikimedia Commons, Benvenuti

I talked about positive triggers last week. I generally find that once I sit down to write, I can write something. But I’ve fallen off the writing horse more than a few times, so sometimes just getting into the saddle and putting my fingers to the keyboard can be a huge struggle. Creating a time slot, and having alternatives can be essential to creating a daily habit of writing.

First, let me get the negative out of the way. Know what your time-wasting triggers are. For me, if I check the mail, I’m out of the writing mode unless I can somehow majorly re-set my day (for example, I could take a nap, or change my venue). I have found that I can read Continue reading

Michaeline: Heigh-ho, Trigger!

Queen Isabella in a luxurious riding habit on a horse, surrounded by supporters

Heigh-ho, Trigger, away! (Oh, yeah, Trigger was the cowboy’s horse. Still, same concept. Get on the horse and ride.) (Queen Isabella brought to you via Wikipedia Commons.)

I’m talking about anti-procrastination this month, and I’ve got another link-heavy post, but I hope you find it useful. Last week I talked about using hypnosis to boost your motivation. I know it sounds crazy, but many writers talk about how the process of writing is a trance. In this YouTube video, Stephen King said, “You fall into a kind of a trance if you do the same passes over and over.” He’s talking about setting up habits and triggers. Eating breakfast with his wife, having a pot of tea, and so on. These things tell his backbrain, it’s time to write.

Musician and novelist Nick Cave also called the creative process “an altered state in itself” when he talked with NPR recently. “I wake. I write. I eat. I write. I watch TV.” It’s worth listening to his interview to get a really no-nonsense sense of process (and be sure to read the transcript for extra thoughts).

So, if writing is a trance, it helps to set up triggers to put you into this trance. Continue reading

Justine: Odd Habits of Writers

ernest hemingway, writing, writing life, writing habits, eight ladies writing, justine covington

Ernest Hemingway in late 1939. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Last Monday, my kids (finally!) went back to school. Since then, I’ve gotten back to the serious work of writing. By that, I mean quantifiable output and multiple, contiguous hours at the computer each day. Because I’ve been spending so much time on my book in this first week of “back to school,” I haven’t spent much time on my blog post.

I started thinking today about my daily work process:

  • Up at 5:30, shower and dress, make the kids’ lunches and breakfast and pack up their backpacks, then out the door at 7 a.m. to shuttle them to school.
  • Home by 8 and (ideally) at the computer by 8:15.
  • I’ll work pretty steady until lunchtime, then it’s either a couple more hours of writing or tae kwon do.
  • Once I pick up the kids, any semblance of writing goes out the window, although I have found that I can pre-plan scenes I need to write while my kids are in their own tae kwon do classes in the late afternoon.

While reflecting on my own schedule, I wondered what other writers do each day and was amazed at the variety, the consistency, and in some cases, the physical activity these famous writers engage in each day. You can read about them here.

What is your usual writing schedule?