Blogging is a superb tool for writing practice. Blogs offer the creative freedom to write about any topic at any time. You can control your content and the length of your posts; you can connect to others with similar interests by accepting and responding to comments; you can open the door to every writer’s dreaded (but necessary) angst: feedback on your work. The majority of blog templates allow you to set the parameters for public or private viewing, permitting you control over your audience. Some people blog every day; others blog once a week, once a month, or whenever the desire strikes. You have the power to set your own targets for posts.
I use my blog posts as writing exercises; they help me polish my writing skills. I try to keep my posts short so I can focus on the quality of my writing, rather than the length. I use my blogs as a tool to teach me the skill required for meeting deadlines; by setting a weekly goal I can practice meeting them; but I’m not obligated – we all have lives to manage so there’s no pressure if time is limited.
Blogging breaks through the barriers of my imagination and helps me tap into an alien world of creative energy. What does it do for you?
The sweet smell of sweated onion in olive oil floats under my noise, only to be drenched by the sharp scent of fresh cilantro and the intense sizzling aroma from scarlet chillies. I slice crimson tomatoes and vibrant orange peppers, enjoying the mottled collage of color against the backdrop of my white cutting board. My glass of red wine emits a peppery scent, adding an extra bit of zest to the robust seasoning emanating from the pan. I add each ingredient, one by one, listening to the serene hiss of tender veggies surrendering to heated oil, and allow them to simmer for thirty minutes; the result is a rich homemade salsa designed to tease the taste buds…and an unexpected formula for writing.
I discovered that writing is identical to cooking. The same techniques can be applied: create your recipe (your idea); prep your working area (the skeleton of your story); gather your ingredients (characters, plot, setting, action); put them together in the same pot (first draft); simmer for a while (put it aside); come back and give it a stir (first editing); try a small taste (first reader); make your adjustments (editing and rewrites); and plate you creation (ready to submit).
I wake before dawn, the scattered fragments of my dream crumbling in the light of my consciousness. I reach for my journal on my bedside table, turn on my tiny LED reading light (so as not to disturb my partner) and speedily write down the last lingering images.
I find stories in my dreams. Sometimes it’s only the residue of a fading image or feeling, perhaps a hint of an idea; other times it’s a sweeping epic that rushes through from beginning to end. There are times when I am the protagonist and there are times when I am the narrator. I may only need a few key words to unravel a story or poem. I refer to my dream journal when I am seeking new ideas or when I’ve become blocked in a current project. I’ve learned to pay attention to the subliminal messages of my subconscious. Dreams are a wonderful source for stories; and sometimes, stories can be a springboard to our dreams.
I set aside certain days to write, and on those days I have a routine: I wake early in the morning, do some yoga, drink some coffee, finish a bit of housework and settle down at my desk prepared for a day’s work. I usually have a strategy on what I want to accomplish in my day. I begin with networking and answering emails; I move on to reviewing new ideas; and then, I dive into the writing and editing. It doesn’t always work out as planned; on some days the spark isn’t there and I can’t seem to grasp the core of a new idea. I lack the energy to finish what I started; I can’t get through the number of pages I promised to complete; and in the midst of my frustration, I hear my partner’s voice say” You are not a machine.”
He’s right, of course. I can’t force myself through a piece if I’m feeling drained. I work best when inspiration strikes and when my energy is sharp. When I don’t have to meet a deadline, I can write at my own pace. When I get frustrated because I didn’t hit my target, it helps to remind myself that I am not a machine – I am a human being who enjoys writing – and, in the words of my partner, I will write when I am ready to write.
Distractions are everywhere. They surround us like a thick fog, always jabbing at us, always demanding our attention. Like most of us, I have been guilty of surrendering to distractions that steal my focus from writing– doing housework, returning emails, taking a walk, going for coffee with friends or reading a book. I try to do what many of my reference books suggest – I turn off my phone, hide in my study, and go off the grid in order to concentrate on my work. On most days, I am disciplined enough to adhere to those suggestions; however, I have discovered that, now and then, distractions can be a refreshing intrusion.
When I am struggling with a piece, I find it helpful to walk away and engage in a different task. I often acquire flashes of inspiration while doing something unrelated. In the middle of washing dishes, I will suddenly realize what my character should do; while relaxing in a hot bath, I will have an insight as to how to approach a piece that has grown stale (I now keep a notebook in the bathroom, to record those unexpected revelations). By sometimes giving in to my distractions, I free my mind to stumble on ideas for future stories and discover new ways to approach current projects.