Sometimes discipline is not enough.  Sometimes, you’ve got to use the force.  In last week’s article which you can read here, I wrote about the importance of reading, writing, and revision in a regular writing routine.  This week, as promised, I will share a few of my favorite JEDI MIND TRICKS that help me keep my routine inspired and imperfectly buzzing along.

Part 1: 4 Jedi Mind Tricks for Keeping your Reading Obligations

  1. Subscribe to a few of the awesome sites out there that will e-mail you a story, article, or poem each day or week.  I subscribe to POETS.ORG and Poetry Foundation.  This simple subscription tactic ensures I always have an e-mail folder full of reading material and it also forces me to read across the spectrum (ensuring I’m not just focusing on stuff I like).  This folder often makes me sigh but I do the work of reading anyway and I’m always glad I did.
  2. Take yourself to school and create a reading list.  Mine is here on Goodreads.  Some of the books are also featured on my blog (look to your right!).  Far from what it appears, it actually takes long, hard work to compile a reading list so it is especially generous to share it.  The reading list should be alive and constantly growing.  It should be your own personal MFA program.  Cool yeah?!  This is indie done right.  You get to DESIGN YOUR OWN EFFING MFA PROGRAM FOR FREE!!  EFF YEAH, FIST PUMPS for real!!  Rest assured, I never have to face the question: what am I going to read? If you’re interested I can tell you how to go about researching and compiling your list.  I also encourage you to browse mine if you’re a poet.  Right now, I’m reading 3 books from my reading list: Kimiko Hahn’s The Narrow Road to the InteriorSharon Old’s Blood, Tin, and Straw, & Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms Ed. by David Lehman
  3. Educate your people.  If you have some smart-ass partner, roommate, or family member who sees you at your desk or laying in your bed reading and makes a comment to the extent of Oh boy! You look like you’re hard at work, don’t stab them in the throat.  Just breathe and remember it’s your job as a working artist to educate the masses that in fact, you ARE working.  Explain why.  Keep explaining until they get it.  I have made a personal decision to only accept a partner who fully supports my goals and work as an artist.  But I sometimes still need to gently remind and explain what I’m doing over here.
  4. Read lots of other, non-work related stuff.  The fluffier, funner, most joyful, insurrectionist & inspirational these are the better.  Right now, I’m reading:

Part 2: 3 Jedi Mind Tricks to Keeping your Drafting Obligation

  1. Reading often leads to writing.  If it doesn’t, have 2 or 3 favorite prompt books at hand. Check out my reading list for some good ones or hit Amazon and find your own because yours will be different from mine.
  2. Protect your drafting time, no matter what.  Draft time is when you devote yourself to producing NEW work (but if your dog wants to snuggle and give you a kiss, let him).
  3. Try emphasizing productivity over time-at-desk (T-SAD).  It’s a lot easier for me to tell myself I’m going to write a draft than I’m going to spend four hours writing a draft.  I usually draft really quickly.  Then I declare myself satisfied.  I’ve done it.  I put it down and get back to life.  Of course, if you’re pushing a project or prefer to emphasize T-SAD, that’s cool too.  When I work on projects, my drafting practices change.  But I do know that my basic routine ensures I write 1 draft a week.

Part 3: 3 Jedi Mind Tricks for Keeping your Revision Obligation

  1. Time limits are good.  Since this is my LEAST favorite activity, I have dropped it down to 5 minutes.  I tell myself that I only HAVE to spend 5 minutes and then I can stop.  60% of the time I do more.  Jedi Mind Trick!
  2. Organize & keep your revision work visible.  I’m building a publication manuscript so I have a folder dedicated to it.  The babies I don’t kill go in there.  If you write in another genre, well, I don’t know.  Do you have a sorting or organization tactic to help you with revision?  Writer routines absolutely fascinate me and I would love to hear yours.
  3. Work on self-trust.  Feedback from educated readers is essential in building self-trust.  As you learn how an educated reader sees your writing, you integrate a lot of that understanding around revision.   Read To Share or not to Share your Writing Part 1 and Part 2 for more ideas and insights about finding the right readers.  This is so important.

Understanding reader response helps you learn to trust your instincts.  Somewhere in the middle you reach a place I call inspired editing.

Remember!  There are always 3 of you in the room: you, your writing, and your process.  Take good care of all 3.

BIG WRITER HUGS + a little inspired editing (because it never hurt anyone . . .)


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