Monthly Archives: April 2012

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Can’t get motivated to write? Maybe you need a change of scenery. Truth is, sitting at a desk all day can get old. Of course, it may be more practical to write where everything you need—your computer, writing resources, files, phone, etc.—is at your fingertips. But do you really need all those things to write all the time? Sometimes, a pen and paper or even just a new environment will do the trick.

I can think of several places I like to write besides at my desk. One is the public library. There, I have millions of books and periodicals at my disposal for research and note taking, plus a friendly staff, plenty of quiet spaces to write, and even a little café. On a rainy or snowy day, it’s a perfect alternative to my desk. I also like venturing to the local historical society, where I can take advantage of everything it has to offer writers.

Coffee shops and restaurants can be good writing venues, too, as long as the noisiness and busyness aren’t distracting. For me, going to a different room in the house—like the sunlit porch or the dining room, where I can spread out my work on the long table—is sometimes all I need for a change of atmosphere. But when the weather’s nice, there’s nothing better than the great outdoors.

Peaceful Lake Atmosphere - Ideal for Writing

Where I live in Minnesota, the public parks can be perfect motivators for writing. Many of the parks here are spacious and peaceful, with lots of inviting spots to set up shop—at picnic tables, under shade trees, and in pavilions. The area lakes offer another relaxing and inviting writing place, whether sitting on the dock in a comfy lounge chair or under an umbrella at the beach.

My favorite place to write outdoors, though, is on my daily walk. I usually take the walking paths near my house that cut through the woods. And no, I don’t bring a pen or paper with me. In fact, the only thing I have with me is my dog. Amazingly, on those walks I’ve done some of my best and most productive writing. I’ve figured out sentences, written conclusions, brainstormed for ideas, and made important writing decisions. The best part? I return home eager and ready to write.

Writing at a desk is practical and often necessary, but for those times when you need a change of scenery, there are plenty of options. Find a place that works for you, and get re-motivated to write.

Have a favorite place to write beyond your desk? Please share it here.

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cropped-bridge2.jpgWhen my dad died unexpectedly years ago, I suffered tremendous grief. It got to the point where I had to seek professional help. One piece of advice I received at the time was to write about my loss and how it affected me. I was to keep a journal and pen with me all the time, even at my bedside, and scribble down my thoughts.

This idea seemed ludicrous. The only thoughts I had were unpleasant ones—why would I want to write about those? Worse, why would I want to associate something that brought me great joy, my writing, with something that made me feel so sad?

Needless to say, I didn’t do as told…at least not then. But as time went on and my grief lessened, I discovered that I had a lot to say about my dad’s passing and my grieving experience. In fact, there were things I actually needed to say. Nearly a year after my dad died, I finally took the professional’s advice. I not only wrote for myself, I wrote for family, friends, even publication. And it really did help.

Looking back, though, I’m not sure I would have listened to that advice any sooner. I think whether to write about something bad that happened boils down to asking yourself three questions. First, would writing about it make me feel worse? Second, would writing about it make anyone else feel worse? Third, am I writing about it for the wrong reasons (because I was told to, strictly for profit, etc.).

If you can honestly answer “no” to these questions, you might want to pick up that pen or hit the keyboard. In fact, writing about something bad that happened might just do some good. But there’s no harm in waiting either. Like many things in life, when it comes to writing, timing can be everything.

(Image by Paul Birrell)


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If writing a “to do” list sounds like one more thing to do, it is. But if you’re a writer, it may be one of the most useful things you can do. I keep a total of three “to do” lists for my writing—a long-term project list, a weekly goals list, and a daily task list. They take a little time to write, but I couldn't be a writer without them.

My long-term project list is the longest of the three. I write a new project list every season. Starting with my "active projects" (those I’m currently working on), I jot down each project, along with its status (waiting for reply from magazine, finishing final draft, etc.) and possible markets or deadlines. Next come the "future projects" (those I haven’t started), which often consist of mere ideas. Then I list any non-writing tasks I plan to complete in the next few months, like subscribing to a blog or joining a writing group. My project “to do” list is neatly typed, placed in a folder, and set aside for easy access.

My second "to do" list is a handwritten list of weekly goals. I keep a 6 x 9 notebook, with each page devoted to a week. Every Friday, I draft a new list of things to do for the upcoming week. My weekly list usually contains five to ten items, things like doing research for an article, writing a query letter, and preparing an outline. I keep the notebook on my desk, open and with a pen for checking items off.

Finally, I write my daily task list on a sticky note pad. If I have many tasks to complete in a day, this list comes in really handy. On it I scribble everything I need to do that day—make a phone call, send an email, write a first draft, mail a submission—and put it in a spot where I can’t miss it, like on my computer screen or desktop.

As you might guess, I refer to my long-term project list when creating my weekly goals list and my weekly goals list when creating my daily task list—which makes the whole process of writing my "to do" lists pretty simple and smooth. And the payoff? They help keep me organized, disciplined, focused, and on track. Even better, they make me productive.

Sure, writing a "to do" list is one more thing to do, but it's a task I can't afford not to do.