Climbing Skill Mountain

My classes at Lane Community College end tonight. I’ll give a pep talk in addition to the info on literary agents, submissions and query letters, but some of the students will begin to loosen their grip on writing as soon as the pressure is removed. Especially in book-length writing projects, finishing, keeping up momentum from the 10 week class, is the hardest part. What can writers do to develop their own discipline and commitment to writing? It’s all about climbing Skill Mountain, and here are some tips that work for me:

  • Enlist a buddy. Just like tandem diet or exercise, being accountable to produce writing helps prevent excuses and encourages word count. Join a face-to-face critique group with peers from class or find other writers, through a writer’s organization, at a conference or workshop, or online.
  • Set Goals. Be realistic and take into consideration your day job or other responsibilities. Better to be consistent about writing for 30 minutes each weekday morning than to set yourself up for failure. You can set goals according to time, wordcount, chapter or other strategies. Write down these goals and review once a week.
  • Divvy Up Tasks. I’ve discussed this in other posts, but it makes sense not to combine creating with editing, plot research with marketing, character sketches with big picture analysis. I often assign a different mode for each writing session of the week. Fridays or Mondays, for instance are often interrupted by holidays, so I will do marketing (writing cover letters, getting proposal packages put together and mailed) on these days.
  • Write Something Different. If you’re overwhelmed by rejection letters, suggested revisions or other challenges, start something new. Maybe mix things up–if you haven’t written articles, try one. If you think poetry is your worst area, let yourself write a limerick or two. Try to keep an idea folder for the times you just can’t face your WIP.
  • Don’t Forget to Write Crap. Finally, the farther writers get up the skill mountain, the more apt we are to forget the basics. When I’m concentrating on finding the perfect agent, I might forget that agents are people (well, most are, ha ha) too. If I’m so determined to write well enough to sell my novel, I easily forget to write crap just to get it down, to see what my subconscious thinks or has to say. When the mountain seems too steep and everyone is passing you by, go back to basics: Write crap to get it down, lots of it. Be willing to fix it up, lots of times.

Most writers have to scale Skill Mountain, and that takes time. Sometimes you slip a little, sometimes you don’t feel like trying anymore. Don’t give up. Keep writing. Enjoy the view.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comments on “Climbing Skill Mountain

  1. Hi Linda,
    I enjoyed class tonight. So did my tummy.
    It was great to see the class pull together as well as it did. Seemed like it took longer than last term, but it was sad to say good bye to all tonight. I will really miss Thurs. night class.
    You do a great job. Hope you enjoy a little break.

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