How I write

I’ve been reading about bloggers having struggles with writing during the pandemic’s changes and, despite being fortunate in not having to share my working space with anyone, it gave me pause to review my own process for I’ve long struggled with trying to carve out a writing routine. Naturally a night owl, my life is now lived (with struggle) as a lark. No matter what I try, the early morning hours are simply not my best time for anything other than a cup of tea and a quick browse of my emails. But in December 2018, I had an ah-ha moment (more of which later).

I write both fiction and blogs – but the basics of my process are the same regardless what I’m writing. I used to prefer to write in pen & ink, but have trained myself to write straight to the keyboard. It’s a way more efficient process as, having been a secretary for a couple of decades, I’ve a really fast typing speed, so can keep up pretty well with the flow of my thoughts.

I write in splendid silence. If my surrounds are distractingly noisy, then I plug into my headphones and listen to suitable music to drown it out. Fortunately, I’ve a small selection of music which I’ve previously listened to when writing essays in a shared home for my university course, for I find most music to be a distraction when I’m writing. I know plenty of writers have a playlist they’ve specially curated for the book they’re working on but, with my writing time being limited, I don’t have time for finding music which is inspirational rather than a distraction, as well as for the writing itself.

If it’s a fresh piece of writing, I just put my hands on my keyboard and start. Sometimes my thoughts have been fairly well honed and I’m clear on what I want to say and how I want it put together – at other times, it’s a mess. But it isn’t my aim to to be able to produce a properly crafted piece first time out and sometimes – especially with fiction – I’m not even starting at the beginning. My aim is simply to get my ideas down before I lose them. If I’m re-working an existing draft, I start by reviewing it, before either tinkering with bits & pieces and moving things around if it’s one of my better drafts, or completely re-writing if it’s not.

There’s something about sitting at my desk and knowing that I’m there to write which gets things flowing. I’m not in the position of having set times or days which I can ringfence for writing, so I have to be able to turn it on whenever the opportunity presents itself. And I do that by thinking of it as a job of work. While I don’t earn my living via writing (however much I’d like to), the only way to make sure I take it seriously by turning up on a regular basis to write, is to treat it as if it does. So, when I sit down at the keyboard, I write. If the fiction isn’t flowing and it’s not on a deadline, I turn my hand to one of my three blogs. There’s always some writing to do.

Of course a deadline is always a terrifically efficient generator of flow. Over on my fiction site, we publish a writing prompt every month, writing a story inspired by that prompt the week after it appears. The prompts are set up at the beginning of the year, and by the time they come round, I’ve entirely forgotten them, so they get written in real time. It’s very much a case of having to sit down and write something new, and to a deadline. I admit I often leave it to the last minute if I’m lacking in immediate inspiration – except I find that once I get sat in my chair, inspiration generally follows.

Somerset Maughan famously said “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” Reading this was my ah-ha moment. I recognised what I needed to do was to get into the habit of sitting down at my desk to write, and expecting inspiration to turn up when I did. It took some time and practice, but that’s now how I write.

Do you have a process or a routine for your writing? Have you experienced writer’s block? Do you have any tips for getting out of a writing funk?

© Debra Carey, 2021

11 thoughts on “How I write

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  1. I need quiet…which has been impossible. For blogging I have endless energy. For my other stuff I’m totally shut off…hoping to get to some semblance Fe order after I go back to school

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  2. I’m definitely more productive at the keyboard. “Bum in seat” is a powerful starting point, or, as Nike says, “Just do it!” But the early morning thing would never work for me!

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  3. One of the oddest most unexpected unintended consequences of living in a coed party dorm in college is that I can write with constant chaos and noise going on around me. It was rarely quiet in that dorm and I learned how to focus on my work. I didn’t really want to be in that building but my friends did, so I lived there. Anyhow, as it translates to today, I don’t know that everything I write is worth much of anything but I can show up to the keyboard and screen regardless of what’s going on around me– and plop down some words.

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  4. I think it was Jack London who said “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to chase after it with a club.” That quote has always resonated with me. Time for rest and reflection helps too. You can’t go to the well for water unless it has been replenished.


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  5. Interesting LA. I’ve taken time away from blogging in the past to try and focus on fiction, but missed blogging too much. As a result, I had to re-do my writing process. Because I need to be in the right headspace for fiction and having noted the need to write a blog post will take me out of that headspace, I now stack my blog posts, leaving me with periods of blog free headspace to work on my fiction. Hopefully your change in routine will sort that for you too.

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  6. Yup, the term I had in my head was “arse in seat” 😀 My other one added an adjective to Nike’s famous saying 😉 I take my hat off to those who’ve managed to carve out an early morning writing practice despite being natural night owls – maybe I’m too old for such a significant change.

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  7. Now that is a most useful skill to have Ally. Nice bit of self-deprecation there, but you only have to look at the numbers who turn up to comment week-upon-week to your blog to know that you have a niche and fill it extremely well.

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  8. Deb, that has given me a hilarious (but helpful) image which I now plan to stick to my inspiration board 😀 You’re right about the importance of downtime too. I’ve really learned how valuable regular breaks are to me & my process.

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