By: Nicole Donadio
Writers have the special job of taking themes and ideas and reorganizing them to make something new, something that takes on its own meaning within the landscape of our work. Our job is to make connections between things where connections were not obvious before. To do this, we have to become innately open to finding the “things” to put into our projects.
So how do we find the “things?”
We become inspired! But inspiration does not arrive without work. And with writing work, we need to form writing habits.
1. Plan ahead. The shared message I’ve found from reading a number of books on the writing life and the creative habit is that we have to plan to be creative. That is, in order to be productive we have to write habitually. The gift we receive from being habitual is inspiration.
2. Prioritize. Of course, we don’t become habitual until we prioritize our writing. It sounds easy enough, but for many of us, finding writing time every day means we give up a few hours of sleep, or we swap our work-outs or TV time for writing sessions. This habit-building becomes even more necessary if we’re working with deadlines like I was last winter and spring as a student at the Humber School for Writers. I had a biweekly deadline of twenty (polished as can be) pages. So for thirty weeks, every lick of time I had I spent writing.
3. Set timely milestones. Having a deadline pushed me to prioritize my writing and in prioritizing I found myself becoming habitual. My writing apprenticeship forced me to treat my project as something that had meaning. More, it forced me to be generous to myself in the process – what better gift to hand over to a writer than time and space to write?
Now, it was never easy. Twenty pages of work every two weeks with the end result of a finished draft is a ton of work – research, revisions on top of revisions, fighting with sentences, figuring out plot points – but, somewhat miraculously, it happened. And in the “it happened” is the most important lesson I learned at Humber: when writing becomes a daily practice, ideas begin to come from everywhere. It’s as Picasso said: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”
When writing becomes a daily habit, our writing brain (and heart and guts and soul) opens up. It wants to find things to write about. It wants to translate our everyday junk into things we reconstruct with fresh meaning. This starts to happen without us forcing it to. How many of us have stopped in our tracks to scribble a perfect phrase that just leapt into our consciousness? Sometimes, these small inspirations are exactly the pieces we need right then in our work – they break us free from stuckedness, add colour and poetry to our prose, or urge us to add a new layer to our story. That’s the reward for being habitual: finding beautiful and fitting things that make our writing shine.