Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing Habits

A morning walk had this scene as a reward
I had the privilege of attending a Choice Literacy writing retreat this past week in Hocking Hills.  The theme of the retreat was "habits."  One of the books that guided our thinking together was The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.   I loved that we dug deeper into this topic because I know that good habits are the foundation of success whether I'm thinking about writing, exercising, drinking water, filing papers, doing errands... the list goes on and on.

One of my writing spots (pic courtesy of Karen Szymusiak)
One of the habits I will begin in my writer's notebook and also here in my blog thinking place is to begin to develop my "writing territories."  I heard this term mentioned by Carl Anderson and Penny Kittle at the All Write conference this summer, and it really stuck with me.  Then recently, while perusing Ruth Ayres' blog, I noticed that she had defined some of her writing territories and why they are important to her.  I will need to muse on this a bit, but I know right away that two of my writing territories would be my family and my teaching.  I think if I can define these writing territories and identify a few more, I won't always be fumbling around looking for the next topic.

Another habit that I've already begun to work on is when a topic comes to me, writing it down as close to that moment as possible, and capturing as many details as I can before they elude me, and then find myself asking, "What did I want to say here?"  After I got home from the retreat, I realized I had a Nerdy Book Club post due in one week.  I had decided on the topic, but I hadn't really fleshed it out a lot.  But then Saturday night, right before bed, I was inundated with all of these ideas that might work in the post, so I quickly filled up two notebook pages with that thinking.  When I sat down to actually write the post on Sunday, things flowed fairly smoothly because I had captured that thinking in the moment of inspiration.

We also talked about the importance of brain breaks while writing.  Writers need to go with the ideas and the flow while they can, but when we reach a point that requires a break, we need to take a true break.  NOT one that requires more screen time; it was pointed out that's not a true brain break.  We need to literally walk away from the computer and do something else.  That could be having lunch or a snack, taking a walk, engaging in any form of exercise, or visiting with a friend, to name a few.

So, during the retreat and the past few days since I've been home, I've tried to gauge when I need those brain breaks and plan accordingly.  Yesterday, I had two projects that needed my attention - my Nerdy Book Club post and editing a presentation.  I got up at 6:30 AM to begin, and had the stamina to work until  8:30.  After two hours was a perfect time to stop, have breakfast, and read a book that was getting really good.  I was away from my writing tasks for about a half hour, and when I came back, I was rejuvenated, and the words started flowing again.  I worked for another two hours, and then I stopped for the day, and gave myself the reward of a walk in our nearby Metro Park.  For those of you at the Central Ohio retreat, I also thank Stella for this concept of work and reward!

One of my 3 affirmations to guide me as a writer.
One final habit I want to instill is the habit of meeting regularly with fellow writers for collaboration and feedback.  We set goals at the end of the retreat, and mine was to begin a writing response group that lives with us back at home; not just in the lovely setting of Hocking Hills.  I am so grateful to all who were there for supporting me in this.  We had 100% of the group sign up to continue writing/responding together.  We actually have set dates for the next calendar year, and we have our first location for meeting (thanks Julie!).  I am really looking forward to establishing this habit of writing response group.

As I write this post, there is another group of Choice Literacy writers gathered in Indiana, sifting through the powerful mini-lessons our incredibly smart leader, Brenda Power, provides for us, and then applying those ideas to their own writing.  I bet they are also beginning to think about habits of a writer as well.  I'm really looking forward to hearing about the take-aways from their writing retreat, sifting through their thinking  for both commonalities as well as differences.


    1. Karen, this is a great reflection of the writing retreat and all that we learned together. I am looking forward to our response group meet up.

    2. It was an amazing few days. I'm so glad I had the time to spend with you during our car ride and at the retreat as well!

    3. Thank your for sharing your insights into the importance of habits. I've been working on my writing this summer and agree with you completely about the need for breaks that take us away from our desks. If I don't take a break when I need one, I'm not nearly as productive as I could be. It looks like you were in a lovely spot for your retreat. I would have enjoyed writing on that love seat, too!

    4. Brain breaks really are a smart strategy! So hard to believe it took me this long to realize that fact.