I’m usually all about daily practices. Yet for some reason, for years I did not commit to an ongoing daily writing practice. I wrote 2-3 times per week, generally. If I was immersed in a specific project or had a deadline, I wrote whenever I could, obsessively, days after day, till it was done. Otherwise, I wrote a few paragraphs or pages a few times per week and called myself done. Often, if I wasn’t feeling it, I’d stop after just a few minutes of feeling uninspired and try again another day. For a while, that sporadic approach felt like enough.
Until this August, in recent years most of my writing time focused on this blog and other non-fiction projects like Tiny Pockets of Time. I felt comfortable. Every once in a while I felt like I wanted to try fiction again, but none of my dabblings in it really grabbed me the way they used to back in the day.
None, that is, until a kid’s chapter book about space fairies simply insisted on being written. I was in love with the idea, but the manuscript kept fizzling out after many false starts. Super frustrating. What I really wanted was an immersive experience with other writers to get me back in the fiction-writing groove again. If I didn’t have a nursing toddler, I’d have dashed off to a weekend writing retreat on an island somewhere, but that is not currently feasible for me.
So when I saw Janelle Hanchette’s online Renegade Writing Group, I signed up. A chance to choose a daily word count goal, post my success at it daily + see others do the same, have video calls and get support in making an editing plan… it all sounded like just what I needed.
I thought writing 500 words of fiction each + every day would be hard, but I was surprised. Most days, it was easy. Every bit of me was ready for this change, ready to show up at the keyboard, ready to admit that writing fiction was not just a hobby I’d dropped in my 20s but a lifelong dream that needed me. I just needed the right nudge to get me there and the right environment to write in, and Janelle’s group turned out to be it.
I know my current sense of ease + flow around creative writing won’t always be here. The committed creative life has its bumps + tough stretches; more surely lie ahead. But I’m devoted and ready for whatever shows up, and the truth is I know I’ve just majorly levelled up. The bumps might jostle me and slow me down, but they won’t stop me. No matter what, I will come back to the keyboard and the page, and the worlds in my mind that want to come out.
And yup, turns out that I can write fiction while also still writing about parenting + productivity + life balance. I’m creating a sustainable creative practice that holds all of it. (And it holds the ukulele too. Still in love with that as well. I am large, I contain multitudes.)
So here’s what I learned (or remembered) about myself while writing daily for 30 days:
- My muse knows when I am doing the work. And she shows up way more often when I show up too. After all, I like friends I can count on, and I think my muse is the same way. “Hey, muse… I’m right here, doing my part. Won’t you come and play with me today?” If I flake on her, she gets mad and ignores my texts for days.
- But I still have to write when she doesn’t show up. I don’t know ahead of time which days will be good writing days and which won’t. Sometimes words flow right away, other times I start out rocky but then get into a good groove. Still other days l feel like I’m smooshing my head into a wall the whole time. But if I quit too soon, I’m missing out on a bunch of good writing days that would have happened had I kept going. Some days really do suck + feel useless, but the thing is… I never know which days will be which until I’m done writing.
- I need to write a lot of crap to write good stuff. Sometimes I need to write about something off-topic before I can focus. Sometimes I need to take bold, weird risks and see what comes out on the page. Sometimes I just need to write something until I get into the zone because there are days I can’t get there until my fingers have been on the keyboard for a while. Either way, my dislike of writing bad stuff used to get in the way of my devotion to the writing that’s my best. Now I just figure I’m getting the crap out of the way so the good stuff has room to flow.
- Write first. I’ve decreed that naptime is for writing, and I sit down and do it first thing. There were a few exceptions when I was sick or extra-sleep deprived, but most days whether I feel like writing or not is totally beside the point. To make it happen, I do it first because kids are great at waking up before you’re done. If anything is going to get interrupted, it’s least likely to be whatever I did first.
- It’s all interconnected. I’m learning a bunch of new things about what keeps my soul in tune + ready to create. I need to do the things that I know work for me, and I need to notice if what works is changing. And I need to remember that whenever any one of the things I do from the heart– parenting, spousing, writing, playing, singing– is going well or struggling, it affects the whole. Which means that lighting the fire of my creative writing again? Filled up my whole life with a new influx of warmth + light.
- Choose sustainable, just-right goals. The right-size goal can make a difference in whether a new habit sticks or not. I wanted a goal that would stretch me a tiny bit, but still be easy for me to meet over + over again. Audacious big goals can be thrilling short-term challenges, but for the day-to-day work I need to be a tortoise: small steps, done faithfully, adding up. Larger more intensive bursts will come into the rhythm too, but I don’t need goals for that to happen. And it will happen more if my daily practice is easy to achieve– if I aim too high I won’t find that sustainable middle ground. I’m finding it right now with writing; it feels good. Your rhythms might be different. Find what works for you.
- Accountability + support rock. As a playful productivity coach, it’s always good to get a visceral reminder of just how useful the right support in the right form at the right time can be. And how motivating it is merely to know that others will notice if you are actually doing something. Our writing group continued after the formal program ended, and the support continues to be motivating.
And I’m still writing.
I decided 6 days per week work better for me than 7, so it’s not quite every day. I’ve developed new time-based goals that make sure both my playful productivity writing + creative fiction writing both get time. The practice will no doubt evolve in other ways too, but what matters now is experimenting and writing and showing up.
Not to mention enjoying the heck out of writing about space fairies and space dragon pirates… and exploring what Tiny Pockets of Time wants to be next.. and, of course, writing right here to share with you.