This week, my turn came around to post something on writing for my writing guild’s blog. I’m in awe of the other Redbud members, confident that they are all miles ahead of me down the writing/speaking road. Not just in awe, but a little intimidated. These women are in the big leagues. And me? I’m hoping to be recognized by a single-A farm team.
So I wrote for the reader, not for the other Redbuds. For someone browsing Christian women’s writing guilds who might possibly think – gasp! – that I’ve arrived because I’ve published a book.
They may feel God tugging at their heart, urging them to write, but they’re frightened of the prospect. Not sure how to begin. Wondering how in the world they can wring time out of their schedule to write.
If you’ve felt that way, too, these practical tips are for you!
When Writing Is (just) a Part-Time Gig
Women’s lives are busy. You came to this website because you suspect God has called you to write. But what if you work 40+ hours per week? How do you squeeze one more thing into your already-bursting schedule?
We fantasize our best-seller enabling us to hire a housecleaner and write full-time, but that’s not usually realistic. Instead, we reprioritize and rearrange to steal moments to write.
Develop a routine. Many writers claim that early in the morning, when the house is quiet, is the best time to write. If I attempted that, I’d nod off at a blank screen. Creatively find your optimal time and make it a habit. If you can only free up 2-3 hours each week, make that time count. I’m surprised how much I can actually write in a couple focused hours. Elicit your husband’s support and sneak away to a café. Or swap babysitting with a neighbor. What matters most is that you stick with it.
Write. Sit at your laptop. Ask God to place his message in your heart. And write. To guard my sacred time and place, I close the blinds, lock the door, and ignore facebook. It’s my time. When I wrote my first (only!) book, I negotiated one day per week off work. The minute my husband left, I plopped at the computer with my latte, ready to go. Simultaneously, my renovation-obsessed landlady (who lived upstairs) started the jackhammers, but I refused to budge. My book was conceived with a doozy of a headache.
Keep a notepad handy. Even with a well-intentioned routine, inspiration heeds its own timetable. Be prepared. You never really stop writing; you just change location. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, says she always carries an index card in her back pocket. My best ideas come while I walk — something about nature and fresh air — or while I sleep. When I learned two languages living overseas, I discovered my unconscious brain continues to process. I’d wake knowing what “niciodata” means or how the dative case functions. These days, it’s more concise words or better phrasing. I multitask in my sleep, blindly jotting ideas on my ever-present nightstand notepad.
Determine your goal. Why do you want to write? Put your answer in large letters where you will read it often. Relate all your writing activities back to your goal. Ruthlessly cut away whatever doesn’t fit. Let go of it, delegate it, or postpone it. You can’t do everything. For me, this part-time writing gig is just for a season. I’m building for the future when I can devote more time. I hone my craft one small brick at a time: articles, blogs, short stories. I stretch my mind by devouring books on writing and crawling toward a graduate writing degree, continually reevaluating whether academia helps or interferes.
Live fully. Yes, writers observe life, but you must also participate. How else are you going to get your material? Avidly look for God’s fingerprints and be sensitive to his nudging. Robert McKee, in Story, turns Socrates on his ear by writing, “… while it’s true that the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s also true that the unlived life isn’t worth examining.”
Network. Build your platform now. Become prolific with social media. Get to know people in groups related to the topics about which you write. You’ll learn more about your subject, expand your vision of how God might use you to make a difference, and make great friends.
Read. How can you write unless you read? According to Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Read in your genre and outside of it, good writers and not-so-good ones. In today’s world of self-publishing, anyone can become an author. But to write well? Go through the steps. Other writers become a little cranky if you try to circumvent them.
Keep writing. Don’t give up. Write in the midst of the drudgery and distraction of daily life. If you write, you’re a writer. So call yourself one. Mark Twain advises, “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” It’s that simple. Writers write. Writers must write. As Madeleine L’Engle says, “God created me to write. I’ll write no matter what.”
You have a unique voice. It begs to be heard. God put his song in your heart to be shared. Sometimes that song is a whisper enticing us with its lilting beauty. Other times it’s a kick-in-the-butt shout shaking the complacency out of us. Or a fresh way to see something, a way the world would miss if that voice had been mute.
God never wastes his burdens or his gifts. Be a good steward of yours, and write!