“You have got to discover you, what you do, and trust it.” – Barbra Streisand
It’s a creative truth universally acknowledged that writers who say “I don’t like to plan” are significantly less productive than those who do.
Yet many resist this third stage of the writing process, considering the very word “plan” to be limiting — even stifling. Maybe it’s memories of school timetables and class plans; maybe a belief that creativity performs best when unbounded.
The truth is a productive, prolific creative life is always underwritten by good planning. Having witnessed and worked with hundreds of writers, I have yet to meet an exception.
The challenge is to put in place a scaffolding that enables your writing to flow, minimising your chances of suffering creative angst, procrastination or block — without being too prescriptive or confining.
Planning takes two forms: planning your creative time and energy and planning the actual content of what you will bring into being. First up, planning your time and effort.
Angst, procrastination or block are signs that we’ve forgotten who we are and why we are writing. So creative planng must begin with you — and your writing intentions.
Take an A4 notepad and begin to brainstorm around the following question: What is your intention for your writing? Take a separate sheet for each of the following time buckets and work your way down the list from your lifetime to today, then back again. What would you like to write:
- over your lifetime?
- during this decade?
- this year?
- this month?
When we begin this process, we usually have a project in mind – often something we’ve been dancing around for months or even years. Write that one down but don’t stop there.
What else would you like to write during the coming months? Does your notebook have any unpublished experiments that deserve a public airing? Is there something you mean to write, when you have time, when the children are grown up, when the idea comes clearer? Write it down too. Something you’d love to do but you’re not sure how? Write it down.
Work your way down the categories and back up and put everything you’ve ever considered making on the lists. Get discursive, wander, float, skim, go wide, go deep.
When you’re sure you’ve got it all down, without holding back, stop and take a look at what you’ve got.
Take this list of writing intentions — and it’s likely to be a long list – and transfer those that feel important onto a whiteboard or noticeboard in your writing space.
Proudly display this list of intentions where you’ll see them every day.
Now you are ready take out your diary for the day, week, month and year ahead and make an agreement with yourself about where, when and what you will write.
NEXT in this Series: The Eight Stages of the Writing Process, Stage 3: Creative Planning (Content).
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