How To Keep Your Fire As a Writer Alive, Even If You Can’t Just “Be a Writer”

Scriptorium-monk-at-workThere have been years when I’ve been able to dedicate a lot of time to writing and years when I haven’t.  But even when I wasn’t  doing what seemed like “real writing,” I never really stopped working with words.  There were smaller things I did that kept me thinking like a writer.  If you don’t think writing fits into your life, I would suggest re-thinking how you view writing.  Life is full of writing.  Here are some things I’ve done:

  1. Keeping a journal.  I have never been a terribly faithful journal writer, but when I go back and look at entries I’ve written, I am often surprised by how much of my own heart ended up on those pages.  (It was good practice writing emotions, even when I felt like I was just dumping.)
  2. Writing a blog.
  3. Writing songs.
  4. Writing poetry.  (My poetry wasn’t very good, but I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.)
  5. Writing articles for a church newsletter.
  6. Writing letters.  And I’m not just talking about the email kind.  People treasure letters.  When my mother died, I found that she had saved letters I’d written her twenty years before.
  7. Learning (okay, trying to learn) a foreign language.  Not a literary skill per se, but there’s nothing like it to make you pay attention to the words you use.
  8. Writing dramas for my elementary students to perform.
  9. Teaching high school students to write.
  10. Grading high school papers. This is probably not high on anyone’s list of favorites, but you really learn to spot what works and what doesn’t.
  11. Editing technical reports.  This was my first job out of college.  I really had to learn the stylistic rules, and they’ve stayed with me.
  12. Writing explanatory materials in the places I’ve worked.
  13. Proofreading.  Seriously, this is unbeatable practice.  At present I volunteer as an English-language proofreader for a bilingual newsletter.  I read articles translated from Hungarian and edit them so that they sound like natural English.  It’s taught me a lot about the patterns of both languages.
  14. Editing and critiquing the written work of friends.
  15. Reading.  Actually, this should be at the top, bottom and center of the list.

Many of these activities didn’t seem very creative at the time, but I can’t regret doing any of them.  They were “word work.”  And word work is to writers what scales are to musicians.  They keep us in shape.

But this is just my list, and other writers have theirs.  What about you?  How do you keep on burning when it would be easy for the fire to die out?

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