Writing Hygiene

Waking today, the first cup of coffee steaming beside me, I set out to do what I do every morning at 5:30am—write. I started typing, stopped, not for want of ideas or Writer’s Block. I stopped because my fingernails slipped off the keys, turning my sixty-five-words-per-minute to thirty and loaded with typos: my nails were too long.

I wondered how secretaries type at high speed and error-free (among other things) with nails stretching an inch beyond their fingertips. Mine are just beyond the tips, a small slice of white extending from the pink, and I mistyped a.

I regrettably left my desk, ideas still swirling through my head, and accosted the nails in the interest of personal hygiene (and production) while contemplating Writing Hygiene.

Like most writers, I have thousands of documents on my hard-drive submerged within dozens of folders, places for developing stories, snippets, a novel—complete with sub-folders devoted to character bios, plot summaries, world-building—and I wonder if there is a better way. There are instances when I cannot find the exact document I want, no matter how many times and with what key words I search. I make a note to find the document later and keep typing; after all, the only way to improve and produce is to type, preferably with short, manageable-length fingernails.

I have thousands of documents encompassing everything from archery skills to zoology terms on my desktop, and I have dragged many of the “In Progress” files to flash drives, then to my laptop for when I venture to the park to write in silence. Not only do I have the original files, but also updated and expanded files on multiple devices. Sometimes the various versions of a work-in-progress (I number them 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, etc.) get tangled in a web of Word docs.

How to organize in order to best utilize the available fragments of writing time?

Returning to the computer, nails now trimmed and filed, fingers flying over the keyboard, my subconscious unravels the organization dilemma. Or so I hope.

Two hours later and 1,000 words produced, a decision is made, one that began with trepidation and pretty much ended with it as well. Understand, I save all writing often, and on more than one occasion have been relieved I sent the most important documents to my email address as a backup (also onto a flash drive) just in case something weird or dramatic happened. It usually does.

In the past, there were times my heart sank when something I spent an hour or more writing disappeared; although just composed, I could not reproduce it exactly and knew something would be lost the second time. Long ago I vowed not to let that happen, hence the multiple back-ups. With the multiple back-ups come repeated and unnecessary documents.

My decision: put everything on a flash drive and start fresh with only the current files on my desktop. I view it the same as reformatting the computer hard drive and starting anew. Knowing that doing so will not relieve the difficulty of finding documents (and may even complicate it by having to plug in the flash drive), I have a sense of freshness that I only have the most important documents readily available.

Clutter-free, only my most important in-progress files available, will keep me focused on current works and prioritized items. At least I hope so.

I have a single file on my desktop now, entitled Writing Projects. Within that main folder, I have a dozen sub-folders, and inside each only the current, most important documents; thousands pared to a hundred. Ah, that feels better, unencumbered and ready to begin fresh. Now where did I put that story idea, A Writer’s Afternoon?

See you on the next page,

Rick

Important note: I may be taking the next week or two off, depending on the recovery (and pain med inducement) after surgery; see you then.

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Taming the Muse

The Muse is an unruly beast.

Writers love to talk about the Muse and how they wait for his appearance to tickle inspiration. I have learned to start without him. Being a jealous little bugger, he joins whenever my fingers tap the keyboard, offering input where appropriate. I found if I wait for him to appear in his own good time, he just sits by himself musing about how important he is.

I used to wait for the Muse, back when I produced little, drivel without consistency the norm, ideas and stories lacking continuity.

Writing every day tamed the Muse.

Several improvements arrived when applying the craft on a daily basis: stories were completed, characters took on life by adding flesh to their bones, Writer’s Block became a hazy memory, and the Muse turned from rapscallion to ally.

I am a proponent of the Write Every Day mantra, but only if you yearn to be a writer. If your desire to write some day is akin to, “One day I would like to visit Hawaii,” or “When I have time, I’ll take a pottery class,” then writing every day does not matter. For those of you who fall into the some day category, that is a choice you make, and it’s okay. Instead, turn on the TV and watch the Kardashians make a mockery of both entertainment and life.

For the rest of you, those who do want to write, many improvements happen when you write every day. For one, when the Muse is forced to appear or be left out, he will show up and offer his cooperation.

Whether you write 200 words or 2,000, whether a blog post, a single scene, or a snippet of dialogue, get those ideas out of your mind and into a tangible form every day, and amazing things happen.

Your skill improves, ideas will appear more fully formed, production increases (obvious, huh?), and Writer’s Block will be forgotten like pain long past.

The Muse goes by another name—Excuse.

Writers are masters of making excuses not to write. Why? Unlike many other professions, nobody lurks over a freelance writer’s shoulder prodding production, at least in the early stages of one’s career. Self-discipline and single-focused determination rules the day, or does not. The writer—and only the writer—decides when to write.

I challenge you to write each day this week. Take a ½ hour and do nothing but create. Great things will happen, and you will find the Muse becomes a trusted companion. I guarantee it.

See you on the next page,

Rick

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