Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Humble Guide To A Summer Writing Journey.

Writing endeavours are a lot like long road trips.

At first, you're so excited and full of energy, you can't even comprehend being bogged down by things like writer's block (the writer's equivalent to getting stuck behind a slow old lady only 20 minutes outside of the next state line).

Usually the start of road trips start with clean cars, coolers full of fruit punch, iced coffee, and all the beef jerky and gummi worms a human being could want. By the end, it's water bottle full of 80 degree water you found under the seat, a persistent sunburn peeling away, a case full of CDs you've heard 20 times, and so many fast food and candy wrappers in the backseat, you can't actually be sure if your luggage is back there or not.

Writing is the same way. The key to succeeding at both road trips and writing is to be prepared. The key is to have realistic expectations about how things are going to happen.

I think summer is the best time for writing. A lot of people prefer to go outside for picnics and walks, but there are bugs and bears out there, and I'll stay here in my air conditioning, please.

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If you're going to spend the hot (or rainy) summer days taking on some writing you've been putting off, here are some tips to stay inspired, cool, and energized.

1. Munchies (Not pictured, as they are hidden in my desk drawer. This also prevents me from eating ALL THE GUMMI WORMS in 2 seconds).

If you've ever taken a roadtrip, you know how boring it can get  with your hands on 10 and 2 for 16 hours. Sometimes you might see a deer, or a tornado, but eventually your travelling companion falls asleep and you're left to listen to the one Beatles CD you haven't gotten sick of yet, and you need something to do.

Enter: munchies.

Maybe eating isn't the best way to deal with boredom, but everything is good in moderation. I'm not suggesting you open a bag of chips and eat the whole thing before you get to chapter two. All you need is a little something to keep your hands busy for a minute so you can look up at your ceiling and decide whether or not your main character is going to lose a pinky finger or not.

Sometimes just something to do with your hands for a minute to look away from the screen will help get you through the next half hour (or more) of writing.

A glass of water is also a nice thing to have nearby, since there is no chance of overdoing it, and drinking a lot of water forces you to get up every so often in order to force yourself to stretch your legs and contemplate character quirks and motivations.

2. Coffee!

Coffee is essential to every roadtrip, and writing endeavour. Coffee needs no explanation. I think a lucky mug is also a bonus. As you can see, my lucky mug is my extra big Monogrammed mug.

My boyfriend once told me that coffee with a little bit of Bailey's in it is awesome for any kind of artwork, since the coffee ups your energy, and the little bit of alcohol lowers any tendency to criticize yourself too harshly, and you can write/draw in peace without feeling worried that you are doing it 'wrong'. This is not recommended for road trips, though.

3. A notebook.

Notebooks are freeing, because they are not your word document. They can have silly things in there, quotes you like, fragments of sentences, random ideas, or writing exercises. They can be snippets like "What if Miranda was a fire juggler in college?" or "Maybe Eric should have a moustache." No one will see these notes unless you want them to, and they never even have to make it into the Sacred Word Document. They are an opportunity to 'get off the road' for a minute to look at your map to see if there is another way to go, and to just take a breath of fresh air.

4. Books.

Reference books, dictionaries, thesauruses, vocabulary books, or even books your character might be reading at the time are awesome things to have on hand. These are the License Plate Games of writing. They are a way to continue writing, while doing something fun. It's essential to keep your eyes open, and it can be extremely refreshing to learn about chinchilla bathing habits, tarantula anatomy, a thing or two about your character's favorite physicist, or find out if the tarot card spread the fortune teller in your story is doing it right or not.

And personally, finding out that I used a big word correctly, and it sounds natural, is comparable only to punching your older sister in the arm as hard as you can at the sight of a bright red punch buggy.

5. The right music.

This seems like a no brainer, and it kind of is. Just be careful to not set your music on your Norwegian Black Metal playlist for your fight scene, and then forget to switch it over to your Indie Folk Playlist for the 'First Kiss' scene. It happens to the best of us, and sometimes switching to a new CD can make or break the next hour of your drive through Bumblefuck, Nowhere.


1. A fan.

Do I need an explanation? Summer is hot, and fans are refreshing. I have a small one that plugs right into my USB drive so I'm set for my entire summer writing adventure.

2. Outlines and edits.

I have a really awesome group of friends I meet with twice a month who tell me what I'm doing wrong (and right, of course). These friends give me edits and suggestions, and I like to keep them out as reminders to not make the same mistakes. It's also a way to have rough drafts of previous chapters available to me so I can look down and go "If she reacted poorly to that situation, then how would she react to this situation?" or "Oh yeah- I forgot that I gave her a pet fish in chapter 2...maybe I should mention that again?".

I also have (Not Pictured) Ready, Set, Novel! Which gives me awesome ideas about where I could go with my plot or my characters in case I get stuck, or wanna introduce someone new. These are like your travel brochures, maybe they're not completely necessary, but your trip will be a lot more enjoyable and well rounded if you have something to tell you where the cool places to go are.

3. Rain

Because, in my opinion, thinking, writing, and driving are all the most interesting and thought-provoking with the pitter-patter of rain to keep you company.

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4. A Day Off.

On your day off, gather all the necessary things, and hide in your room or your favorite coffee shop to lose yourself in your own world.

Always remember while driving and writing, that life is about the journey, and not the destination. Sometimes, what it all boils down to is rolling down your window, and laughing at the sky.