How I Write

Well, if you thought Day 2 of the 10 Days to a Better Blog! challenge was a jumbled pile of disparate ideas, just wait for Day 3! Today we’ve been asked to think about our writing locations, what is the current habit and what would be optimal? The quick answer to this challenge would be for me to simply say, “Good question!”

I’m currently homeless. Or better put, I currently have three semi-homes and the option of several couches if need be. I finished up my Iron Yard course a month ago and I’m currently working on my portfolio so I will hopefully be hired soon. In Cypress, TX, I write on a plastic movable table meant for picnics or playing cards. I have the cheapest folding chair I could find that had at least a little padding to it. In Baton Rouge, LA, I have a small kitchen/dining room table that is almost the perfect size to have my laptop and larger monitor for working. In Pascagoula, MS, I have a small desk that fits my monitor while my laptop sits on the bed next to it.

In both places I keep my laptop to the side either playing Pandora 90s Hip Hop or a Civil Wars radio station for background noise. If I’m working on a larger project or coding, I’ll have Netflix playing TV shows or movies I’ve seen a million times (The Fellowship of the Ring is especially great for this). If I’m learning something or searching for an answer on StackOverflow, I usually have to have complete silence, mainly because I actually read things out loud at times or have to read some “helpful solutions” a few times before they sink into my brain.

I am a avowed podcast addict and one of my favorites is Scriptnotes, a podcast by John August and Craig Mazin focusing mainly on screenwriting, but also just about the process of screenwriting and what it means to be a professional in any sense of the word. As people who write for a living, and who at times have to produce material quickly, they’re both big proponents of both having a plan and a process for writing and being able to write anywhere at anytime. I think I’ve almost mastered the writing anywhere/anytime dynamic, but I always struggle with the plan/process/ritual/discipline part of this equation.

When I was still in school, I was smart and talented, which is great for getting a scholarship to college but terrible for instilling any sense of work ethic when you need it most. I still operate on a quasi “last minute” mentality for a lot of things, for example I’m literally writing this at 11:30PM so it will still count as me writing “daily”. When I’m switching locations so often it’s hard to keep that consistency, but as I’m getting older I see the wisdom of developing a routine, especially one I can replicate anywhere I find myself.

One habit I’m generally consistent with is writing Morning Pages, popularized by Julia Cameron’s great book The Artist’s Way. I’ll be honest and tell you that book might not be for everyone, but it has been invaluable to me as far as exploring creativity and expression in varies and surprising ways. When I wake up, I have a notebook that I hand write two or three pages in, not censoring myself or worrying about any of it even making sense.

This is really great if you’re a person like me who loves to self-edit. If you sit down to write and immediately envision everyone you could possibly be offending or disappointing with your words, this is a discipline you should investigate immediately. First, they’ll never see it anyway, so you learn to just write whatever you want. I’ve thrown probably a dozen or so notebooks away filled primarily with words I’d rather nobody actually read.

Second, when you learn to write this way, you find some really surprising things in the midst of just putting pen to paper. I’ve discovered I’m currently angry or upset or stressed about things I had shoved deep down into my Scotch/Irish psyche to never be thought about again. I’ve also discovered some great ideas to explore and share with people around me; almost revelatory in scope and nature, and weirdly liberating for me personally since I would almost certainly have censored the thought before it got anywhere near the page/screen.

So, there you go. One consistent habit. Is it enough on which to build other habits? We’ll see. I’ll revisit this as I mix and match. If I find a place to call my home – or if it’s the gypsy life for me – I’ll share my expreriments on writing consistently and developing a routine that works for my life, and hopefully informs and guides my life instead of grinding against it.

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