I Got This Like A Bad Habit

Last night I went to a Salvatore Scibona and Patricia Smith reading. Smith read several memorable poems. One of my favorites was “Medusa”, spoken in the voice of Medusa. I feel so, so glad I got the chance to hear that poem read. It made me shiver.

Scibona read his short story “The Kid” (a heartbreaker). Before the reading, there was a very informal Q&A session. He started off by discussing his writing process (basically, one of the three questions writers are always asked): he writes at the same time every day, six days out of the week, for at least three hours. He started this habit when he began at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the advice of Frank Conroy, kept it up, and over the years he’s found that he is able to write for longer and longer periods of time. Then he talked about how you had to do right by your unconscious, and it would deliver, etc.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this advice. I read somewhere that another writer said this was really the one practical advice about performing writing. As Scibona said, it’s something you can control. You can’t control whether something will happen or get done, but you can control the showing up part.

I used to have a semi-habit, which was I wrote after school and at night, like every day. That was nice. That could be why I was so productive back then, and satisfied at the time with what I was producing. That’s not the case anymore; my writing is sporadic. I still mostly write at night, but this semester it’s become a “when I have time/the urge” thing, instead of setting aside a dedicated block of time. No other real habits. Sometimes I have music on in the background, sometimes not. Sometimes it has lyrics, or is bluesy, or acoustics or live performances. I keep my desk lamp on instead of writing with the floor lamps, which are warmer but not as bright.

There is definitely a difference when there is blood going to it, versus when I’m sitting there, no flow or zone or whatever, and it’s all just forced. Maybe one of my dreams is that one day, all of it will just work. Or maybe there won’t be anything being forced. Or maybe even the forced stuff comes out good.

Next month is NaNoWriMo, which I won’t be doing, but I should be producing 50,000 words for my thesis anyway. Time to lay down a schedule. Let’s do this thing.

(Photo credit: Eleanor Hardwick)

9 thoughts on “I Got This Like A Bad Habit

  1. This is where I especially wish we lived close by or are in the same time zone. I’ve been meaning to set aside blocks of time every day for keeping I’m touch with friends and reading. So far it’s been a fail. Would be great to have a buddy!!

  2. Oh man oh man. “Medusa” gave me the chills. I loved it — thanks so much for sharing! I can’t imagine hearing it read aloud. It must have been amazing!

    I had the same “semi-habit” you mentioned in your post. After school, for sure. But, perhaps writing your thesis and creating a schedule for that will help you get towards the writing habits you have in mind!

    1. Yeah! And Patricia Smith was a great reader. She really read all the breaks and punctuation.

      I’m hoping I’ll write my thesis if I follow these habits haha. We’ll see how it goes. We could try getting back in this habit together!

      1. We should! I’m not sure how this would work, though, unless we just stuck to weekends. Maybe we can set aside a block of time every Saturday or Sunday? Unless you aren’t a weekend writer?

        Also, now that I think about it, during those after-school writing sessions I had in high school, a good chunk of it was spent IMing you…

  3. @Jenn
    What the, WordPress won’t let me reply to that thread. Lame!

    Anyway, haha yes, I remember those writing sessions. Collaborative genius, ok. And yeah! We should both make goals to designate some uninterrupted writing time.

  4. I also need to get cracking on some kind of schedule. If I can learn one thing from this program, I think it should be self-discipline. I decided that I’m going to try for an hour a day six days a week starting on Monday, but I have serious doubts in my own ability to stick to that. I did it today, but it’s a weekend and I have a deadline for workshop lighting a fire under me. We’ll see. Want to hold each other accountable somehow?

    1. Yes! I like this accountability idea. That’s a really good goal – at LEAST an hour, six days a week, and I feel it needs to happen in the same hour period as well. I’m stalling/stumped on what hour that should be. I like writing in the afternoons around 5, but during the week there’s class…

  5. I totally understand. Usually I fall into some kind of small routine, maybe writing snatches here and there while I’m in my office. But this semester has been so hectic that, before I knew it, any semblance of schedule just went out the window. I’m hoping that NaNo will put me back into gear – even if I can’t reach 50k, I’ll hopefully have earned a forced sense of writing… and be able to hang onto that for next semester. Fingers crossed.

    Yes, a thesis! That thing. I was supposed to be spending my NaNo on starting that… but I got overly excited about Figment’s part in the festivities and had to fully participate (who knows? I might not get to do it on Figment next year for a number of reasons). But this double feature just might help me out. I was freezing up when writing the first chapter of my thesis, but when I wrote a little of my Fig novel, suddenly the first chapter just flowed. With working on BG hardcore over the last couple months, I guess I forgot how helpful it is for me to multi-task :)

    Stick with it :D I know you can do it. Form those writing habits, haha!

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