We can only truly appreciate what is involved when we dedicate ourselves to taking action rather than mulling the idea of writing over as a future possibility.
If we want to avoid our book taking forever to complete, we also need to create a writing rhythm that works for us as individuals.
The most effective rhythms usually combine a mix of short to medium bursts of regular writing alongside longer stretches of what I call “immersion time”. This is when we schedule time out from other commitments to dive deeply into our topic and our writing with as few distractions as possible.
Immersion time can be anything from half a day to one, two, three day retreats or more. That may sound like a lot of time if you’re used to writing in shorter stints. However, once we transition fully into writing mode, most of us would happily continue with it full time!
My own experience of scheduling immersion time for writing my book reminded me of the immense benefits of what many writers feel is a real gift to themselves – that of prioritizing creative writing. Here’s why…
1. Time and space to live and breathe the content at every level.
When we release ourselves from everyday distractions, we can truly cultivate internal as well as external space. This opens up a rich creative flow that far surpasses what we may be able to achieve with a snatched hour here or there for writing.
Julia Cameron puts it like this, “It’s a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well.” I recommend taking a total or partial break from email, web browsing (other than what may be directly related to your content), social media, and especially the news.
Be creative about using the time and space you have, and in addition to actual writing time, immerse yourself in your content generally. You can take a topic with you on a walk, do some yoga or other conscious physical activity or soak in a relaxing bath with it simmering at the back of your mind. Incubating your ideas in this way means that when it’s time for your next writing session, you’ll be ready to write with far greater clarity and insight.
2. Face any challenges that arise in your writing process with acceptance instead of evasion.
Writing a book is full of challenges. Some are relatively insignificant and easily overcome. Others have a far greater capacity to stop us in our creative tracks.
There comes a moment for most of us in the book writing process when we feel as if we have “hit the wall”. This is the point when all of our everyday fears and anxieties rise up to bite us where it hurts the most! It’s when we feel the, “Who am I to write …?” question, and other similar expressions of self-doubt.
Under normal circumstances, it is all too easy to find ourselves too busy to face these challenges head on. Conveniently, other commitments then become a refuge from our writing and we can evade the issue for days, weeks or even longer if we’re not careful.
When this happens during immersion time, you have a real opportunity to stand firm in your commitment to writing your book. I recommend stepping back and gaining a perspective on the big picture by reminding yourself why you are writing it, what purpose it will serve – for you and your readers – and then reaffirm where you are heading with it overall. This approach usually provides a way around, over or through the wall, especially when you have appropriate support.
3. Experiment and discover the most conscious, creative and productive way of writing that works for you.
Learning to put writing first is a significant threshold for writers to cross. It often takes time to reach this point of commitment and make it a reality in everyday life. Yet once we do, writing for however long we are able to manage before the rest of the day begins becomes a way of life. Writer’s write, that’s what we do.
When we have immersion time, we can expand greatly on this theme.
As we have already chosen to prioritise our writing for the duration of our immersion time, we can write first thing in the morning, take a break when we want to, potter about for a while – indoors or outside – and return to our writing again and again. Essentially we can go with the flow in a way that is usually not possible when our lives are ruled by clock time.
In this way, we truly get to know ourselves as writers and what works best for us as individuals. We cultivate the ability to know when to step away from our writing rather than plug away at a section if it isn’t working, and we are free to find a pattern that supports us to be the most conscious and creative writer we can possibly be. Enjoy!
Question for You: Have you ever done a writing retreat, either on your own or with other writers? If so, how did your experience benefit your writing and the development of your ideas? Share your reaction to this article and your own experience with your fellow writers in the comments below.
PS. Read about the Conscious Writing Retreat that was inspired by my personal immersion time and created to share the experience with groups of new and experienced writers here.