In last week’s blog, Lindsay Ward encouraged us to lean into our creativity and reinvest in our goals during this truly bizarre time. For some of us, writing in the midst of quarantine feels like sanity and welcome routine. However, I have heard other writers mention that they are unable to write, that they are not in the head-space to be creative. And others’ writing time is consumed by keeping young children on track with school work, or working longer hours from home. So how do we keep our writing goals?
At 24 Carrot Writing we have always proposed two kinds of goals: Creative goals and craft goals. The beauty of setting these two kinds of goals, is they access different skill-sets and even different brain hemispheres, so we can always keep moving forward in one area when the other seems inaccessible.
If you are happily plugging along with your creative goals, writing your story and meeting your word-count targets, carry on. You’ve got this! However, I would urge those writers who feel as if their muse is quarantined in a whole different zip code to lean into those craft goals. Here are some ideas:
- Have you always been curious about Scrivener? Now is the perfect time to work through the tutorial and learn this amazing writing tool.
- Were the first couple couple of months of the new year filled with other projects and you missed out on Storystorm and ReFoReMo? Those blogs are still available to read. You may not have access to all the mentor books, but you may use this time to study some of the books you own as mentor texts, and discover why and how they work on a structural level.
- There are a myriad of online classes, webinars and author resources available right now, such as those from SCBWI. If you are experiencing writer’s block, taking some of these classes is a perfect way to develop your craft.
This piece of advice comes with a caveat, though. The abundance of online resources could be a distraction and might be overwhelming. it’s okay to miss some! My rule of thumb is: Does this webinar fit into my yearly goals or support my WIP? If so, go full steam ahead. If not, you might find yourself like a squirrel in fall, gathering a bunch of nuts, but not remembering where you buried them.
- Speaking of workshops and notes, when was the last time you looked at any? Kelly often wisely says that sometimes we need to stop taking classes and apply what we have learned. This is a great time to pull out your workshop notes on plotting, or tension or whatever, and apply it to your WIP.
- While you are at it, you could also create order in your work space by filing your notes in a way that makes them easy to find again. ( Francine wrote a wonderful blog about taming conference notes a few years ago)
- Offer to be a beta-reader or critique partner for a writing friend. Some of my favorite quarantine hours have been spent reading and critiquing others’ work. Asking Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? about someone else’s work is easier and less intimidating than trying to muddle through your own. The added bonus is that it trains you to spot these things in your own work as well, strengthening your craft.
These last few ideas are craft/ creative cross-overs:
- Start an idea notebook. (Click here for Annie's blog on how.) Most writing happens in our heads long before it happens on paper. If you are unable to write, but have thoughts about your WIP, or snippets of dialogue that wake you up in the middle of the night, it is handy to have one place to put it all. For picture books, I recommend Annie’s technique. For novels, have a designated notebook or folder per project. This way you will have your thoughts together for when you get back to writing.
- Do the behind the scenes work on your WIP. Tension charts and scene spreadsheets, story grids and all the analysis. This way you are staying in your novel, working towards your goals, and preparing for when the muse returns.
Above all, feed your creative soul with what brings you joy! If writing doesn’t bring you joy right now, that is okay. Step away. Follow a few online watercolor tutorials. Play with clay. Write some poetry. Go dig in the garden. Make music. Sew a few face masks. Because your marvelous mind will be puzzling at your story, carving out your characters, and coming up with fresh ideas, all waiting for you when you are ready to pick up the pen again.