After You

Nano count: 13,386 words

Despite my plan to spend all of yesterday on Nano, I had to go out of the house twice. I’d bought something that had to be returned that day or I lost my chance to do so. Then I had to send the large project back, so a trip to the post office in the afternoon. I still had plenty of time for Nano, but the scene I was writing was tough, so I managed only 3,300 or so words – maybe a sign my character isn’t well defined. Today I have a little more time to devote to it, so I fully intend to give it my all. These next few scenes I’m seeing in my head are stronger, easier to write (I hope).

I see a lot of people struggling with Nano because they’re not finding time for it. I’m about to propose something really wild, a crazy notion that might actually work – put your personal writing first.

It was a tough lesson for me to learn. It’s one I’d learned a few years back during a coaching session with Lisa Gates, who said to put yourself at the top of your priority list. Likewise, if you bump your own writing to the top of your priority list, it no longer seems so daunting to find those fifteen minutes to an hour for your writing. Isn’t that why we all became writers – to write what we’ve been dying to write? Mind you, I love writing for clients, but inside me are stories and ideas and poetry that have to come out.

Some ways to make that happen:

Put everything after you. Start your day with your own writing. Make those first keystrokes every day yours.

Insert heavy doses of discipline. Hemingway used to sit down at the typewriter in the morning and not move until noon. Every day. It worked for him – no reason why it can’t work for you.

Find your sweet spot. Maybe your brain doesn’t start working until noon. Maybe you love writing in the evening instead of watching television. Write when it suits your own creativity, but write.

Make an appointment with yourself. Literally. Use that Outlook or Lotus Notes calendar and schedule your personal writing.

Give it the same level of importance. Don’t think that because you’re not seeing money from your personal writing (yet) that you have to put clients first. What do they say on the airlines? Secure your own mask first before assisting others. That advice applies to making you a happier writer.

What gets in your way? How can you prioritize so that your writing is first?

About the author




  • Devon Ellington November 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    It's not just Lisa Gates who says that. I've been advocating doing the first 1K of the day (or more) first thing for years, and THEN going on to the other projects. Carolyn See says you must write 1000 words per day, five days a week for the rest of your life. Even Ray Bradbury talks about writing 1000 words a day.

    It's not just when you feel like it. It's EVERY DAMN DAY.

    If you do your own writing first, no one can take those words away, no matter how crazy your own day gets.

    The requirement in the year long intensive is a minimum of 1K/day on the novel, and now we're also working on short stories and exercises IN ADDITION to it.

    There will never "be" time, and the choice is simple. Write or don't write. How badly do you want to write? If you're serious about it, you write. If you're not, you make excuses.

    And your book remains unfinished, un-revised, un-sold, and un-read.

  • Lori November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Actually, what Lisa had said then was "put yourself first." She was referring to women prioritizing everything else first and leaving their own needs last. Let me go back and reclarify that point in my original post.

  • Lori November 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Devon, I'm not a fan of required word counts (the irony of it is I'm doing Nano, but hear me out). There are days writers can do 4,000 words and there are days they can do 10 (My post tomorrow, already written, is about this very point). I'd much rather say "This is my time to write" rather than saying "I MUST write at least 1,000 words." And you know there are writers out there who would see it that way – I would because I'm anal when it comes to organization. 🙂

    And maybe it's all in what motivates. Maybe that minimum word count would work for other writers just fine. It's just the Aquarius rising in me that makes me want to resist. LOL

  • Anne Wayman November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    sigh, I'm way behind on NANOWMO, but not because I haven't been putting myself and my writing first. Just too damn busy… which is why I wrote about needing time to stare out a window.

  • Lori November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Anne, I get that busy sometimes, too. Monday was too busy for me. I made up some time over the weekend on it, but admittedly not a lot. Today I'm making up for some lost time. Just finished a scene and am starting on another. LOVING some of these characters and where they're taking me.

  • Paula November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    All week it's been nagging at me: I never put myself first. Well, almost never. I probably come across as a dormat, but I don't ever want to be like a couple people I know who will push, scheme, and argue as much as it takes to get their way. Usually it's simply not worth my effort to push back.

    This week I started thinking, "Would so-and-so go to the same lengths for me?" My sister? Yes, even if she needs occasional reminding that watching her dogs for weeks at a time isn't exactly a picnic (even if I have it down to a science). But with everyone else I know, the only times they go out of their way for me is if/when they can fit it into their schedules – and then they usually make it clear to me how much they're sacrificing on my account. The message: Their time is worth more than mine. It's not true, but some people actually beleive it.

    Me? If someone asks me to do something for them, I'll find a way to do it and I'll make it look easy. I like making other people happy, but not at any cost.

    I'm pretty good at putting my needs first when it comes to work, but not outside the office. I guess I need to hang out with Devon and absorb some of her no nonsense approach to life.

  • Cathy Miller November 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Am I the only writer in the world who is NOT doing NANO? 🙂

  • Wade Finnegan November 9, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    No Cathy you're not. I don't have the "novel inside of me" mentality. I really like writing articles, profiles, and features. Finding out about something new drives me to write. Maybe, sometime I will have a story I must tell, but right now I like telling the story of others.

  • Damaria Senne November 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the advice Lori. And you're right – I do need to start putting myself first. Usually my personal writing happens at the end of the day, after I've done everything else. So it's the first to suffere when my schedule gets hectic.

  • Damaria Senne November 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the advice Lori. And you're right – I do need to start putting myself first. Usually my personal writing happens at the end of the day, after I've done everything else. So it's the first to suffere when my schedule gets hectic.

  • Damaria Senne November 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the advice Lori. And you're right – I do need to start putting myself first. Usually my personal writing happens at the end of the day, after I've done everything else. So it's the first to suffere when my schedule gets hectic.

  • Devon Ellington November 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Minimum daily word counts make you sit there and deal with the problems in your work. If you haven't worked out a plot point or some other hole or problem, you sit down, flounder, write ten words and give up. You keep making excuses, more and more days go by when you're "stuck" and the novel falls by the wayside.

    If you do 1K/day, you have to deal with it. You push through. It won't be perfect, but now you've got something to shape in the revisions.

    And, once you get into the rhythm, after a couple of weeks, it's easy to sit down and drop into the world of your book. So, instead of saying, "I only have ten minutes to write, it's not even worth starting", you can drop in and write for ten minutes and come up with nearly a page or so.

    If you're on a roll — go and write 4000 words in a day. I often do.

    When you're on a publishing schedule, you don't get to have more than a day or two per book to only write 10 words, no matter what you feel like or what the time frame is. It's like any freelancing gig. You sit and get the job done.

    If you don't train yourself to do it before your first novel, you blow it when you start going on contract, and your publisher drops you.

    Books aren't written doing 10 words one day and 4K the next. They're written through building a steady, daily rhythm, and not walking away from the page when it's tough.

  • Pamela November 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Hi, Lori. The advice is good, it is applying it that's a challenge for me. I have a day job that won't allow me to do my writing on the job. Getting up early enough to fit in writing time and getting ready for and getting to the day job would mean waking up so early my eyelids droop just anticipating it. I wish like Hemingway I had the luxury of sitting til noon every day in front of my laptop. And I can't ditch the day job just yet. Or am I making excuses…?

  • Lori November 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Do you think you're making excuses, Pamela? Only you know the answer. 🙂

    Give yourself five minutes in the morning maybe. Or maybe get up ten minutes earlier and write. I bet you could find five or ten minutes, no?

  • Lisa Gates November 11, 2011 at 2:30 am

    I love it when you write about me when I'm not paying attention. It's like getting an unexpected bouquet 🙂

    Boy do women suffer this issue in spades. Our diffuse awareness, our natural penchant for the word yes, our desire to be of service and beautify our corner of the world — all good things. But really, busyness is a choice. Doormat is a choice. Post office is a choice. And writing a novel is a choice.

    I always find that if the WHY isn't compelling enough, no amount of goal setting and "intending" is going to amount to squat. We all have circumstances and things and people and stuff that we allow to stall our commitments, but can we tolerate the thought that "dishes" might be the things that will define us in the end?

    At then end of our days do we want to say, wow, I got those dishes done…but oops, I never wrote that novel? Can we tolerate setting aside the BIG FAT SOUL SERVING SATISFACTION our writing and storytelling and self expression gives us (and the world)? Can we tolerate the thought of never being who we really are?

    You know the person who was 300 pounds and ends up running a marathon at age 50 because she finally made the connection between her self worth, her health and her limited time on the planet?

    We have to chunk up to the bigger space our writing lives in to make actual space for it in real life.

    My 2 cents and I'm stickin' to it 🙂

  • Lori November 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I love your two cents. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it, Lisa. So true about choice – we're free to make ANY choice, yet we defer that for someone else's choice, someone else's benefit. I've always said the world won't end if Lori doesn't dust. So far, it's been true. 🙂