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Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: Habits of a (Slightly More) Productive Writer

I’ve discerned a couple of trends in my writing practice over the past couple of weeks.

First, I’ve been getting up earlier each weekday, and sneaking in either a) more writing before I leave for the day job or b) a workout at the gym before the same. Both activities seem to be boosting my mood and energy level. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something important for myself before heading off to the land of 9 to 5. (Please remind me that I wrote this if and when I slip back into less-productive habits.)

Slightly more interesting, or at least unexpected, is the extent to which I’ve been taking to heart from Midge Raymond’s Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life. As part of her counsel on ways to meet our writing goals, Midge advises: “Don’t dismiss unfinished projects.” She explains: “I’ve found many gems in long-abandoned projects….Never abandon old ideas; you never know when they’ll suddenly be relevant. Revisit all your ‘old’ stories, poems, or essays at least once a year.”

And what do you know? Some interesting things have happened since I’ve taken Midge’s advice to heart. First, I stumbled on a call for submissions that instantly reminded me of a quirky piece I’d drafted nearly a year ago but done nothing with since. I dug up that piece, spiffed it up a bit, submitted it, and received an acceptance shortly thereafter.

Then (and with some extra encouragement from one of my writing friends), I returned to my novel manuscript-in-the-drawer and extracted one of the chapters that I’d always believed might hold some standalone potential. I spent some time polishing that piece, and have sent it out as well. (We’ll see what happens there.)

Finally, motivated by one of the writing exercises in Áine Greaney’s Writer with a Day Job (the exercise included the suggestion to write about “the most shameful thing” one has ever done), I dug up an essayistic piece that I wrote at least 15 years ago—and thankfully printed out and stored in a binder—about an elementary-school misdeed that still haunts me. This is one of the projects I’m working on now, with no discrete deadline or call nudging me. But in my ongoing effort to sustain this momentum in my writing practice, I’m following Midge Raymond’s advice. I’m simply returning to an unfinished project. An old idea.

We’ll see where else it takes me.

P.S. I’m *not* starting my morning earlier today, because it’s Independence Day here in the U.S.A., and I’m not going to the away-from-home office! Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans!

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8 Responses »

  1. Hi Erika,

    As usual, some excellent advice. I’ve been trying to get back on track with regular writing hours since the teaching year ended and in summer, I find it hard to do. Building some spare moments
    into the daily routine is a good idea. And I, too, have some “orphans” from my earliest years of writing that I produced without any training or support. Fortunately I did keep most of it and sometimes when I look it over I get an idea. It could be that 80% of it is awful, but then I discover some passage or situation that sings. I like to think I have a more developed eye for work that is
    viable.
    It is exciting to follow your career as it develops and see that persistence and a positive attitude
    have brought you a string of successes (both small and large) that have become the foundation for
    your future as a writer.
    I learn so much from you. I remind fellow writers and students about your site and sometimes they say to me, “Yes, you already mentioned her.” (laughter)

  2. Erika, I’m so thrilled to hear that you dusted off an old story and got an acceptance — congratulations! I love such happy endings. Wishing you the best of luck with the other piece as well…and a very happy 4th of July!

  3. As always, your observations and suggestions inspire me to do better. To that end, I’ve just ordered Midge’s book for my Kindle. Her website looks wonderfuland is added to my list of “to be followed”. One bad habit I have to break is researching and reading “about” writing and not doing enough of it. I hope Midge’s book will help me break that habit and get more to the business of getting the work done. Love to hear about your methods and successes!

    • Amy, thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, I definitely recommend both Midge’s website AND her book. And believe me, I know what you mean about that tricky balance between researching/reading ABOUT writing and actually WRITING. Good luck to both of us with that!

  4. Erika,
    Delighted and inspired by your new morning routines. I had a few days off, and it brought me back to the realization that these American summer mornings are, indeed, creative and delicious. I love the idea of dusting off old projects, too. I did that recently with an unfinished story, and I think it has good potential for a piece of micro-fiction.

    Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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