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Tidy Up Your Writing
This post is longer than usual, but since I skipped last Tuesday, I figured that I can make a two for one. 🙂
One difference between being a full-time writer and being a full-time writer who can live off of a salary from their work is well, yeah, the cash. But there are other things that stand out to me as I make the painful, terrifying, exhilarating transition from one type of writer to another.
Like any writer who knows what’s up, I’m hopping along on Twitter (generally hiding behind virtual bushes and quietly “liking” things), and I’m marginally a part of the #writingcommunity. (I’d love to have more friends in this community, so if you’re on Twitter, say hello @Atina_Atwood). During a particularly frustrating day while I was working on Love Games (preorder now!), I did the next thing that any writer who knows what’s up does — I took a break from my frustrating WIP and searched for solstice in Netflix.
What I ended up finding was Marie Kondo, and after a few episodes, I realized that the KonMari Method® is exactly what some of us writers need for, well, writing.
If you’re not familiar with Marie Kondo, her Netflix show Tidying Up has been trending for a while. It basically helps people find a way to wade through the junk that they have in their household, throw out what they really don’t need or want, clean up, and adopt an organizational system that supports their new, decluttered lifestyle. Because I deeply appreciate organization, strive for a Taoist perspective in many things, and have incorporated traditional Chinese medicinal practices in my lifestyle for years (chill out — I KNOW that Marie Kondo is Japanese), much of the KonMari Method is nothing new or revolutionary to me. But I like her personality, and I appreciate how people on the show are so grateful and often in awe.
Never before have I seen so many people befuddled when it comes to expressing gratitude for what they have.
Using the KonMari Method for Writers
Anyway, although my home is lived in, yet thankfully Hoarders-level clutter free, I thought about the messier part of my life and how the six basic steps of the method can totally be applied to us writers.
- Commit to tidying up your writing schedule.
This isn’t hard; just make an editorial calendar. Every day, week, or month, tell yourself specifically what you intend to write or publish. If this is still too intimidating, aim for a specific daily, weekly, or monthly word count. I know a lot of you are Nanowrimo participants (and winners like me!), so use this method to motivate you and keep you focused on your publishing goals.
- Imagine your ideal Story OR your ideal target audience.
Let’s face it — you shouldn’t aim for both. Either you’re writing your story for the sake of it being told, or you’re writing to a specific audience that you have in mind. Either one is fine, as long as that specific focal point suits your purpose. You need to get things done, and you need to write in an authentic manner. If your target audience gets you to do that, great! If your story is the one driving up your word count, let your characters take the rein. The main thing is to use your imagination to inspire you to actually up your word count.
- Discard excessive text BEFORE you write.
Like the actual KonMari Method®, this part is often the hardest. We writers fight hard to push up our word count, and the higher it climbs, the more accomplished we feel. How DARE you tell me to get rid of words! My mojo is flowing. I’m getting things done. Hands off my word count! Okay, well, if this is your knee-jerk reaction to getting rid of a few words, then this tells me a few things: 1. You’re like the folks on social media who flipped out when they thought Marie Kondo was telling people to rid themselves of their precious books (not true) 2. You’re really going to have a HARD TIME when your work finally gets to an editor.
One of the hardest things for a writer to do is to cut the fat. Streamline our words. Write succinctly. But, that often leads to the best reading experience for our readers, especially in contemporary fiction. Now, before I get rid of huge sections of words, AKA unnecessary scenes or backstory, do I sincerely thank each word for serving its purpose, KonMari style? Um, no. Not really. But it’s a nice idea to do that when you’re editing instead of tossing curse words around. (If you can get to that point, though, please write a book about it.)
- Tidy by sequence, not action.
To me, this feels like outlining. I’m definitely a Plantser, so while I need structure, I need a lot of play room and autonomy within the confines of that structure. By focusing on the sequence of events that take place, this gives the writer the ability to check out the Big Picture. The action comes in when you fill in the blanks.
- Follow the right order.
Duh. We should do this in all things, but the never-ending question is, what is the right order? If you want to improve your craft, look for the greats within your genre(s). See what they’re doing to get things done. Keep an eye on the trends to learn, but do remember to stay true to yourself. Your writing may not be earning food for you yet, but respect it enough to remember that it still feeds you. In time, the correct, or right order will come to us.
- Ask yourself if it “sparks joy”.
It’s awesome that Marie Kondo has pretty much made this the phrase of her brand. “Does X or Y spark joy for you?” It’s so simple, and difficult at the same time. Asking the question is easy; providing an answer as an adult is not. Ultimately, you will only write if you know that it will ultimately lead you to feeling good about it. Every day won’t be joyous, but that’s as necessary as rain is to sunshine.
Write if it sparks joy. Period. All of the other things, like getting an agent or being published by the Big Five or being on the best seller’s list, etc. are all byproducts of that. Focus on the root of the matter, and follow your calling.
Sending Love and Light to all of you.
©Atina Atwood 2015-2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™
– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.