7 things I learned about writing in 2018

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Happy New Year, all!

First, an apology for long absence. I won’t bore you with excuses, but suffice to say 2018 was rather challenging, and all thing writing-related ended up taking a bit of a back seat. Not that I didn’t have the time, but I certainly didn’t have the head space to write. Anyway, here’s seven things 2018 has taught me:

  1. Writing regularly and setting a weekly word count goal really works! In the first eight weeks of 2018, I bashed out 40,000 words on a new project. I set myself the target of writing 1,000 words a night for five nights out of seven. Sometimes I wrote more, but overall I kept to 5,000 words over each week. I charted all my progress on a calendar in orange pen (because I like orange!). I now also know that I am motivated by interesting ink colours!
  2. Dictation is quicker than typing. I had doubted whether I’d be able to compose aloud, but was flabbergasted to discover that five minutes of stumbling narration recorded on my phone whilst doing some other manual task equated to quite a chunk of text when typed up and edited later that evening. It’s also interesting to discover the subtle differences between your style in spoken and written form. (It isn’t necessarily that either is better, but just noticing the difference is enlightening.) Lots of writers use voice recognition software such as Dragon to help prevent RSI when producing their text – I’m not sure that would suit me personally, but I’m certainty less resistant to the idea than I was.
  3. Sometimes your writing mojo will desert you – and you must not beat yourself up about this. Perhaps it was particularly disheartening after such a promising start, but I wasn’t prepared for my writing to grind to a complete halt. Perhaps it was reaching the trickier bit of my new project, perhaps it was work/life balance. It certainly didn’t help when Woman’s Weekly announced that they were changing their contracts for short fiction (I won’t go over that again – you can read about it in a previous post here) – this left me feeling completely disheartened with short story writing too.
  4. The writing community is a supportive one. Both my online writing friends, and the members of my local writing group were encouraging, and at least ensured that I occasionally picked up a pen. (I’ve posted about this here.)
  5. If you can’t enjoy writing, you can still enjoy reading. Especially the kind of books which pull you in with that childhood joy of a really good story. (In fact, I’m re-reading Watership Down at the moment, following the new adaptation over Christmas.) And I’m allowing myself to give up on books that I’m not enjoying, rather than adopting the Mastermind-style “I’ve started so I’ll finish” approach.
  6. If you don’t watch out, your phone can take over your life. I love my smart phone and, as I’ve posted about before, I think it’s a great tool for writers. Nonetheless, I’ve realised Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Messenger, texts, email, et al is eating away at all of my free time, so I’ve made a conscious decision to reduce my phone time. To this end, I’ve turned off social media notifications, and unsubscribed myself from kazillions of mailing lists. (This last after I’d reached over 200 unread emails, none of which came from a real human being but were automated notifications.) I’ll still catch up with news and messages, but in my own time and not at the expense of the book I’m reading, the conversation I’m having, or the project I’m working on. (At least, that’s the theory.)
  7. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t achieve any of your goals last year. I’ve looked at last year’s list and instead of being disheartened that I’ve only scratched the surface of a few of them, I’m simply taking the ecological view and recycling them for 2019! Think how much goal-setting time I’ll save too!

It’s safe to say that currently I’m not convinced I can wear the “writer” badge with any authenticity. Rather, I am someone who has written. But, there’s a whole freshly minted year ready and waiting ahead of me, so I’m feeling positive. And since this blog post is the first sustained piece of writing I’ve done for a while, I think I’ll count it as the first step… 😉

4 responses »

  1. I’ve wondered about dictation. I often wish I’d taken my phone when I get ideas walking the dog, but I still don’t remember to take it. Looking at the number of times I cross out when writing by hand, I suspect my dictation would consist mostly of errs and ums. But I will give it a go.

    • Oh, I have plenty of ‘errs’ and ‘ums’ when I come to transcribe my efforts, Cathy, but the beauty is you only need a few usable minutes to make 500 or 1000 words – and even if you don’t like what you’ve got, it gives you something to work on which (for me at least) is wholly preferable to a blank page. Good luck if you decide to give it a try. Once you get over the self-consciousness which comes with talking to yourself, it’s great!! 😀

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