Monday, December 10, 2012

Write Better Right Now

by Samantha Wilde

The holidays bearing down on us may draw us away from our writing--for good reasons. But in truth every season and every day thows distractions our way in an unending variety of tempting forms. Who needs Santa Clause when we have the daily intrigue of Facebook? And annoying relatives have nothing on the commanding, persuasive hautning come-hither emitted by piles of laundry/dirty dishes/rug fuzz/unopened mail/unscrubbed bathtubs (such mocking! Worse, for sure, than family).

No, I don't need a season to disrupt me. I do just fine distrupting myself.

No multi-tasking here!
However, the holidays are the time for gifts and the gift every writer wants (other than a million dollar book contract, a movie of their novel and eternal fame, of course) is to write better. Following on the heels of Karin Gillespie's post, I want to offer as my holiday gift to all of you, my best tips for writing better right now.

1. Let's get the Velveeta taken care of immediately. You're going to find this cheesy, but persevere. Use affirmations. Wake up in the morning and say to yourself, "I'm an excellent writer. Ideas flow easily while I type. I'm incredible at devising plots. My books are so popular. It's easy for me to concentrate on my writing. I have a fantastic book contract." Or whatever is the OPPOSITE of the problem you're dealing with right now in your work. Positive, present tense affirmative statements have been shown to have a powerful effect on the mind-body. If you don't believe me, I dare you to try it (whole-heartedly) for one week and see what happens.

2. Use the margin. No, not the margin of your page, the margin of your life! Solitude, silence, the metaphoric white space is essential for the creative process. Walking, yoga, "doing nothing," staying late in bed, meditating, simply sitting, are some of the tools the greatest writers have used. This is much different than busy work or puttering or getting things done in a quiet house. It is an on-purposeness, a making space for space because it has value. The world of publishing may make the writers of books feel as if what they have produced is a "product." Writing is an artform and all creative work begins in the margin.

3. Write without pause. Be the writer at the keyboard first, the judge and the editor second. If this is hard, time yourself. Try to write uninterrupeted without rereading your writing, for a certain amount of time (ten minutes, five, twenty, an hour).
4. Use everything you have. Since my childhood, my mother, novelist Nancy Thayer, has said to me: "Put it in your work." Whatever is going on, stress or anger or sadness or joy or boredom or irritation, drama or exhaustion, put it in your work. Use it; write it out of you. Sometimes this may mean not talking to a friend or exercising the problem away but going first, with that charge of feeling, to your computer or pad.

5. Do one thing. Yes, that means you can't write a few lines then check your email or pick up the phone in the middle of writing or eating a cracker while you write or half-write and half-wrap Christmas presents. If this is hard, set a timer. Christian McEwen in her incredibly inspiring and profoundly beautiful book, World Enough & Time, writes: "The Internet encourages us to do everything at the top possible speed, and at the same time, to keep changing focus...Once interrupted, most of us take about twenty-five minutes to return to our original point of focus...." Save time! Do one thing!

6. Read. I honestly do not know a good writer who does not voraciously read. Reading makes you a better writer. Read well written books. Read all kinds of books. Re-read the authors whose words changed you or opened new worlds for you. Read the books that sell best and see. Reading, for a writer, is never wasted time.

Well, this could go on for a long time and neither of us have time for it! Go do something with yourself already! How about starting with telling me your number one best tip to write better right now?

Samantha Wilde is the author of THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME and I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS to be relased late February (both from Bantam Books). She was raised by a novelist in a house full of books. The mother of three, a certified yoga teacher, an ordained minister, and a perpetual reader (now that she has an electronic toothbrush she can read and brush!), she blogs at Wilde Mama. Join her on Facebook where she keeps posting silly videos of herself (oh, but that is NOT a waste of time!).


  1. Love the idea of using the margin, Samantha! You're right-- we are so programmed these days to just go, go, go, but sometimes the best stuff comes out of those moments of stillness.

  2. #1 tip? Have some wine handy. It may not improve the writing but if done right, you no longer mind. Great post, Samantha!

  3. Great post, Samantha! "Do one thing," is certainly something I need to focus on. When I have a block of time available to write, I'm always popping up to do this or that. So I guess my tip to myself is, STAY FOCUSED!

    1. "Just for a few minutes" helps at the end of that tip so the mind doesn't get anxious!

  4. You know what? I love Velveeta! Great inspiring post.

  5. Thank you for #2 - been doing a lot of that lately. Now, I must go pick at some of my rug fuzz.

  6. What a great message: " It is an on-purposeness, a making space for space because it has value."

    And my #1 best tip? When the words won't come, challenge a writing friend to 1K in one hour. It might be 1,000 words of drivel, but it's a start.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love the idea of a challenge, like exercise, a friend can really motivate.

  7. I LOVE your post. This is just what I need today. Thanks!

  8. i start workout on your ideas for improve my writing thanks for share it check my personal statement .