5 Writing Crutches That Help MeI’m going to be straight-up, a la Paula Abdul, with you all today. I feel like crap.  My body isn’t awesome today, my mind is fuzzy, and I’m just downright exhausted. But I still got up at 5am, and I still wrote 1,000 words on the sequel to Steele Secrets. I have many more things to do today, but if I can’t do them, then I honestly feel like I’m doing alright with that one accomplishment. After all, in terms of work, that 1,000 words is the most important part of my day.

To get that work done today on a day when I feel pretty doggone awful, I had to rely on my crutches for writing.  Writing crutches are important because they keep me walking ahead on my work even when my literary knees are giving out or my verbal ankle is sprained.  Crutches get a bum rap, both literally for those of us who need them to function daily and metaphorically for all of us who can use a little propping up.  In fact, I think we could use a whole lot less “bucking up” and a whole lot more propping up in our lives.

So here are 5 little things I use to prop me up in my daily writing life:

  1. A Schedule. I’m pretty confident that scheduling writing time is one of the best things a writer can do for herself. A schedule just means we set aside time for writing instead of simply hoping the time will magically appear in our daily lives. My schedule is that I wake at 5, and then at 6am, I sit down and write. Simple.  I talked some about writing schedules on Periscope yesterday if you’re interested. 
  2. A Word-Count Goal. If you’ve read much here at Andilit, you know that some years ago Shawn Smucker suggested I write 1,000 words a day. That was, perhaps, the best writing advice I ever got, and it’s wisdom I still work with five days a week. I sit down at 6am and write 1,000 words.  With my goal met, I go through my day unburdened by some unattainable and unmeasurable idea of “more” writing.
  3. A Great Pen. I love me a Uniball Vision Elite, but lately, I’ve been journaling with Crayola magic markers (the ones with the skinny tip.)  For me, a great writing tool is one that moves fast and doesn’t take a lot of physical effort for me to move it across the page.  Just having this go-to set of pens means I take joy in picking them up because I love the way they feel and look as I write.
  4. A Single Notebook. I used to have notebooks for everything – one for each of my major projects. But recently, I’ve turned to one single journal that I carry everywhere and make notes about everything.  I put the date I start to use it on the inside cover, and then I label the top of the page with the date.  After that, it’s just whatever I need to write down that day – everything from budget reminders to meeting notes to research findings.  When a journal is done, I tuck it into a drawer in my office and pull it out when I need to reference something there. So much simpler than trying to write all the things about one thing in a single notebook.
  5. Knowing My Energy Cycle. I am a morning person through and through. I have my freshest, most creative energy in the morning, and so I have to use that time to do my most creative work.  In the afternoon, I can do editing or review manuscripts because while those take creative, I’m not making something new whole-cloth. By about 4:30, I’m toast, so I do physical chores around the house, cook and eat dinner with my husband, and work in the garden. By about 6:30 or 7, I may have a little more energy and so may work on a crafty project. At 8, I’m ready to wind down with a show, and I’m in bed at 9.  Some of you can probably work at night; you are not my people, at least in that way.  But because I know that, I plan my schedule to honor what works for me.

Those things work for me. Maybe modifications of them will work for you.  Or maybe you have your own writing crutches that help you do this work even on the crappy-felling days.  All I know is that anything that helps me actually do the writing is a good thing in my life, be it a crutch or a schedule.  If the words are down, I’m keeping that thing in my arsenal.

What about you? Do you have any writing crutches that you rely on?