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Do you do these six things every day?

Advice for writers and bloggers

Writing is like parenting

When I first became a parent I knew very little about parenting. Now, looking back at the last nine and a bit years, I think I can break down the key skills into six main areas – see below. When I was thinking about this, it struck me that these skills are important when you’re writing too. Seeing as I’ve been blogging about writing every day I figured this was an appropriate point to make because with both parenting and writing, you’re doing pretty well if you do these things six things every day.

Let’s take it as read that the first one is a constant. I reckon if you score three out of five on the others every day, then you’re nailing it, as a writer and as a parent.

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It’s all about love

I don’t know about you but I’ve looked at the person who got me up at 3am after weeing the bed or who just scribbled on the walls or who threw his dinner on the floor or who puked in my hair, and I’ve thought: I don’t care because I love you anyway. The same goes to writing. You’ve either got to love:

  • the process of writing or
  • what you’re writing about or
  • your reason for writing – your why

in order to keep going for long enough, which brings me to:

Turning up is more important than shiny things

Being there, sitting on the sofa, watching Scooby Doo, cuddling up with a book, sitting in the garden, going for a walk round the block – these are all more important than buying swanky new toys for Christmas or going to amazing places on holiday. Again, the same goes for writing. Turn up regularly and you’ll get the result you want. Turning up is probably the most important writing skill to practise because if you turn up everything else falls into place.

Don’t get in the way

Because I didn’t know any different, when my son started to read the numbers of buses when he was two I thought this was perfectly normal behaviour, despite the funny looks we got from old ladies at bus stops. So we regularly went and sat in a café near the bus turn around and read the bus numbers. When he clapped as the 144 went past, I didn’t tell him to be quiet, I cheered too. My son still loves numbers and I like to think that because I didn’t get embarrassed and didn’t try to stop him from shouting out bus numbers, his enthusiasm grew! I quickly learnt that this was a brilliant parenting strategy for all sorts of things. Don’t get in the way or in other words: stand back and let them learn. ‘Don’t fuss too much’ is another one that I’m working on at the moment! Don’t get in the way of your writing translates to:

  • Don’t censor yourself – you can use freewriting and other short writing exercises to get round this.
  • Don’t talk about it at the expense of doing it – make sure you’ve got the time and space sorted out.
  • Don’t block yourself by saying that the topic is ‘silly’ or ‘uninteresting’ – try it for five minutes and see if you like it.

Modelling is the best policy

I don’t mean signing your kids up for Baby Gap adverts! I mean that if you want them to do something, the best way to get them to do it is to do it yourself. Try it: sit down and eat some broccoli without saying a word, get into bed and read a book, brush your teeth for two minutes – model the behaviour you want them to adopt regularly enough and they start emulating. (Yes, in some cases it might take a few years!) How does this apply to writing? Whatever mode of writing you’re into, be part of your writing community. Read and share other blog posts, rave about other romance novelists on Twitter, find out about online poetry events. Let other writers ‘model’ how to be the best at what they do, and then model it in turn yourself for beginners who come after you.

Have a routine (not a schedule)

This was a huge learning curve for me when we first had a baby. I know people sometimes say that parents should chuck away the books and listen to their gut, but I needed the books! One of that I loved was The Baby Whisperer, which suggests a flexible routine to try with your baby. Reading it now, it seems so simple, but at the time it was a life-saver. Note the word ‘flexible’! This was a routine and absolutely not a schedule (naming no names but if you’re a parent you probably know who I mean!). I’ve said that turning up is the most important writing skill you can practise. Well, I should add that it’s actually all about turning up regularly. That might be once a day, or it might be every Saturday morning, but it’s the habit you’re aiming for. Do that and the words will come.

Listen

I recently read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk, which contains some great advice. I also did a course last year where we learnt active listening skills. But I already knew from experience that if I simply listened to what my son had to say, he would me more willing to share his feelings with me next time. I love this one because it’s so simple, and also because I get a rest – I don’t have to give advice or take any action or get up and make a dinner or go and wash up – I simply have to listen. Often writing is like that too. Observe the world around you, literally listen to what’s going on. Also, listen to your authentic self telling you what you want to write about, rather than thinking about what you ‘should’ write – and that leads us right back to number one. It’s all about love.

What next?

If you’ve got any good resources you want to share with parents who are also writers, please pop them in the comments below.

Check out the other blog posts in this series here.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about my free course called Starting to Write – why I created it, and how the activities still inspire me. Until then, happy writing!

 

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