By Leslie Lindsay
A curated newsletter on the literary life, featuring ‘4 questions,’ a mini-author interview, reading & listening recommendations, where to submit, more
Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book
~MUSINGS & MEANDERINGS~
I recently went on a writing retreat/workshop. Before I left, a thoughtful grandfatherly-type man in my yoga class, asked, “So do you know what you want to work on while you’re there?”
“Yep,” I nodded.
It seems knowing what you want to write is half the battle. The workshop/retreat had other plans for me and I got completely thrown from my intentions. So, here’s a little cheat sheet I came up with to help YOU:
Strategize what you want to write.
If you’ve got a work-in-progress (WIP), do you know which chapters you want to work on? I made notecards of topics I wanted to explore and brought those. Also leave my writing sessions a little unfinished so I am still mulling over the last line(s) when I walk away from my writing desk. Maybe you hope to ‘just’ draft or scribble or daydream. If that feels like a good fit, do a little pre-contemplation on what that might consist of.
Commit to what you want to accomplish.
Can you say to yourself:
“I am going to finish this proposal/essay by the time I leave the workshop?”
“I am going to write a new poem every day for that amount of time (say, two weeks). Or: I am going to commit to editing the first third of my book.”
“I’m going to write one snapshot of no more than 750-1200 words/day about [topic] so that by the end of the week/month 7/30(!) snapshots.”
Say it to yourself or a friend. There is a real energy to uttering those words out loud. There’s real power in writing it out, too, and POSTING where you’ll see it everyday (I’m talking your fridge, door, dashboard, pantry; not social media).
Carve out time in your day.
Do you know when you’re going to write? I write in the afternoons. This practice started when my kids were little and “napping,” (which they didn’t, but we pretended), and it’s sort of been ingrained into my creative conscious. Saturday afternoons work for me, too. Can you identify which part of your day, or day of the week works best for you? Perhaps glance at your calendar in advance and make sure you can clear some time for the commitment. Claiming that time for yourself is empowering.
[Tip: You can start small. Maybe go with 20 minutes and see what happens. I have a feeling 20 will turn into 40 and so forth. You might surprise yourself.]
Find your spot.
If you got some good writing done once in a particular cafe, maybe you need to become its best customer. For me, it’s a circulating family of coffee shops, but also my desk at home. Can you ask your roommate/spouse/partner if you can have a quiet hour in the kitchen to yourself every day? Does the babysitter need to stay an hour longer? Maybe it’s just identifying a desk in the furthest reaches of your local library and making sure you get there early enough to nab it. Knowing where you’ll be every day to write can be a stabilizing force and prepares your mind for the work.
Gather the supplies you need.
What objects inspire you either intellectually or emotionally? I have several friends who claim to be neat-nicks and cannot do any kind of writing until their desk is tidy. Another likes to purchase a brand-new notebook just for the project. I need a black Pilot G-2 07 pen to do my work and unlined paper. Sometimes I need to read something for inspiration. Do you need a special drink or music? View?
Here’s what I do:
I like paper. I like pens. I must doodle and feel the flow of ink. Writing digitally might be more ‘green,’ (but maybe not…there’s battery and electricity involved; those are resources), or efficient (honestly, the words flow just as fast, maybe faster for me if I go longhand). I truly believe sitting down and collecting one’s thoughts in a handwritten fashion. (Studies have shown your brain operates differently when you handwrite versus when you type.) Isn’t that cool and miraculous? I tend to be more experimental when I handwrite. That’s because, I think, the inner editor isn’t there. No blinking cursor that has you mentally/subconsciously analyzing your choices. Also, there’s that thing that if you have committed it to ‘print’, meaning type–it’s harder to tweak later.
None of this is required, of course, just meant to trigger some helpful thinking in advance. Showing up feeling ready to work/write is the real goal. Entering a project with confidence and enthusiasm is important! What I wish for you most is that you feel nourished and as if you can take chances as a writer. The activity of writing is so much BIGGER than being ‘good’ or ‘publishable’ or whatever, it’s a spiritual endeavor.
~Leslie : )
There’s more to this newsletter…keep scrolling!
What I’m Distracted By:
- The power and excitement of small presses.
- Abandoned homes and lumbering piles of salvage. How it’s sort of a relation to hoarding but not.
- How books might be a communion with ghosts and God and I wonder if they are alive, but also simultaneously dead.
- Space. In real life and on the page. How openness invites questions.
- The color white. Is it a color or devoid of one? Is it clean or blank? Sterile? Other white things: teeth, bones, eye sclera, snow, paper.
- Hybrid forms of writing. Hermit crab essay. Playing on the page.
Recently-published Stuff You Might Have Missed:
- The Midwessay: Fragmented Thoughts on Being a Missouri Girl in ‘the north,’ by Leslie Lindsay Essay Daily, May 9, 2022.
- “Making Space: Cicadas & My Mother,” by Leslie Lindsay, CNF in ANMLY
- “Breaking Ground,” by Leslie Lindsay, flash fiction in The Tiny Journal
- In Conversation with Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of THE EVENING HERO (Simon & Schuster, May 2022), The Millions, May 19, 2022.
- In Conversation with Maud Newton, author of ANCESTOR TROUBLE: A Reckoning and Reconciliation (Random House, March 29, 2022), Hippocampus Magazine, May 2022.
- In Conversation with Kim Adrian, author of The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, The Florida Review, spring 2022.
You are reading Musings & Meanderings, a consistently inconsistent weekly newsletter about the literary life from Leslie Lindsay, and home of an archive of bestselling and debut author interviews. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can. Feel free to find my book suggestions on bookshop.org, and also check out the authors I’ve hosted in in-depth interviews HERE.
In the meantime, catch me on:
Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.
Thank you for letting me guide you on your bookish journey.
Let’s walk this bookish path together.
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