Monday, March 07, 2016

Writing and your Creative Process

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Someone asked me today what my creative process was like. Did I use a pen and paper, or type directly onto a computer? Did it really take me four years to publish The Tao of Turning Fifty? And that started a long conversation, in which the following tips came up. Some of them I am trying for the first time, like doing different kinds of writing at different times of day.

Make it special: I’ve moved my desk three times in the last year, and each time there was something ‘not right’ about the spot – view great, internet connection lousy, or no view, great desk and internet. Or Room is too cold! I need some sun and a warm sweater. So finding the right spot is important, in the quietest corner of your house preferably, or if you need noise and stimulation, find a busy cafe somewhere out of the house, but make it your “special” spot. It helps to create a routine.

Ritual: some of us don’t like to do the same thing twice, others like to perform little rituals of preparation. It could be as simple as lighting a candle or making a cup of hot Chai, but if you prime your subconscious mind that ‘this is how my writing time begins’ with an additional signal or ritual, it can help you get past the mind blocks your inner critic throws at you, like ‘now is not a good time, there’s all that laundry waiting’, or “now is never a good time, you suck at writing”. I may need to light some incense or play some 70’s music (David Bowie) to inspire me to write about my teen years, for instance. That’ll put me right back in my 16 year old bedroom with the turntable and my younger sister sharing a room...egads!

Treats: add a treat to the ritual! Don’t look at writing as a punishment, and crack the whip. Get out the licorice or dark chocolate. Give yourself a reward for getting your bum into the chair and doing it. Make it something not too distracting: vodka or rum may lead to relaxation, but you might not get very much writing done. Then again, whatever turns you on....

Writing schedule: this has never worked for me. Every year, I make resolutions, I rearrange my priorities, I skip yoga so I can I decided that realistically, mornings are best for creative writing: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings I will write for 90 minutes, in my journal, long hand. And in the afternoons, I will give myself another 90 minutes for ‘business’ writing on the computer: Facebook posting, quote gathering, promotional blurbs and blog writing. We’ll see if this works. My theory is that as I finish meditation at 8:30 a.m. or so, and  my journal is close by my bed, the morning time will be best for musing and creative writing. Then again, my kids are studying away from home, and once my husband leaves for work I have the house to myself. Choose a time that works for you. And one you will actually be able to do.

Know your self: this sounds obvious, but you need to be able to describe who you are, what you do, what your expertise or area of knowledge is, why you want to write this book – I am a powerful beginning. Think of those 30 second elevator speeches that force you to summarize everything you know into a few short lines. You’ll need this on your book jacket.

Network with the people who love what you love: there are many more readers of books out there than you realize. Don’t get discouraged by all the books already published (I know the feeling, it hits me whenever I enter a bookstore). Join a writers club ( for example), connect with other writers and you’ll learn tips, share experiences, and maybe find your audience (depending on whether you are a fitness instructor or a romantic novelist). MindBodyGreen  has published several articles of mine, and now I’m looking at TinyBuddha to find like-minded readers.

Hire a copy editor: if you are self-publishing, and want this to turn into a viable book, don’t just proofread and correct your own spelling. Hire an editor, a neutral third person whose only job is to see what is working (or not) in your syntax and punctuation. They will also be a good first reader in general. Get a few quotes and compare. I found a good one, in Canada, at

These are just some of the things that help. If you have anything else that works for you, please feel free to share it with us!


1 comment:

Beth Oldfield said...

Thank you Jennifer. It is wonderful to have a summary of our conversation. I will use all of these tips to stay motivated and on track. Once again, thank you for your kindness. Beth