Dear Writerly Woman,
Today, I'm sitting at my desk and writing to you while looking out my window at the magnolia tree in front of the building next door.
The sky is bright blue above the wintery browning leaves that wave slightly in the breeze.
My writing desk is my favorite place in my apartment. It's cozy and sweet. I have just the right monitor, keyboard, table lamp, and view.
It's taken a while to get to this point with my space. I've tried all the other possibilities this small apartment offers, like the bed, the couch, and the little desk in the bedroom. But this is the one, because it offers two very important things.
One is that I can sit comfortably. I need to be physically comfortable while I write, so my back and neck don't ache. If they do start aching it becomes hard to stay sitting at the keyboard.
The other is that I can easily see something natural from where I'm sitting. When I write, I take long pauses to stare out the window and think. When I do this it helps to be looking at a tree or the sky. They nourish my soul and bring calm to my heart while I think about my writing project.
I always have a cup of hot cacao by my side when I write. Cacao is energizing, but it doesn't make me jittery like coffee or black tea. It's the perfect drink for connecting to my creative flow. (Read today's P.S. for how to make hot cacao.)
With my drink by my side, my tree in sight, and my desk set up just the way I like, I am ready to begin, but beginning for me probably looks different than what most people think of as beginning.
I don't begin by actually writing. I start things out by doing a meditation where I breathe, calm my fear, and connect energetically to the core message I'm sharing in my writing. I spend time imagining generous, kind readers surrounding me, and I imagine any negative people I might be thinking about leaving the room.
I start my writing sessions this way because writing can feel pretty vulnerable for me, especially when I'm being myself on the page. Starting with meditation helps me write in a way that feels peaceful, so I can enjoy the process, instead of being overwhelmed by fear while I write.
After I get centered, I begin typing.
I tend to work on three different types of writing projects. I'm currently writing my first novel, which is a middle grade book. I write online courses, like Find Your True Self Again, and I write blogs. I completed a big blog project last year called The Magical Healers Blog, and now I'm crafting this one, our School of Wild Authenticity blog.
For all my writing, no matter how big or small the project, I walk through the same phases.
I start with a draft where I write as fast as I can in stream of consciousness. This is the draft where I never expect my writing to be good or make sense. It's the draft that shows me what it is I want to say with my writing. I call this draft the "zero draft", which works for me because it takes all the pressure off my words.
After that I usually do 3 drafts in which I edit my piece. I re-organize it. I wordsmith it. I make sure it's conveying the message I want to convey or the story I want to tell.
Then I do a 4th draft. This is the one where I read my writing aloud to myself in order to make sure everything flows in a natural way. This is also the draft where I catch most of my spelling errors (except for one or two that always slip past me.)
Sometimes I ask someone else to read my 4th draft. This can help if it's someone who I know is on my side, but who I also know is willing to tell me the truth. I tend to do this when a piece I'm working on needs something more, but I can't see what it is. Having a kind but honest friend read my draft usually helps a lot.
With a blog post, I walk through this entire process in one day of writing, typically on Wednesdays. I take breaks in between my drafts to talk to friends, go for walks, eat, and watch stand-up specials on Netflix. I need to refuel my creative batteries throughout a day of writing.
With my children's novel, this process has been going a lot slower. I've been working on it for about three years, and I am now on draft #2. I spend Sunday mornings writing my novel. I'm not one to work on the same project multiple days in a row. A lot of writers recommend that, but I'm highly multi-passionate, so what I like to do is make sure I have at least one writing session scheduled each week for my novel. I'm comfortable with it taking longer to write if it means I don't get burned out in the process.
I'm in between writing online courses at the moment, but an idea for one is starting to brew. When it feels like the idea is ready, I'll look at my schedule, and I'll set aside a time each week for a writing session. Then I'll begin by making hot cacao, meditating, and writing sentence after sentence of the zero draft.
I often think I should tell you just what it is I love about writing. Why would I commit so much time and energy to writing when I have no idea what the commercial success of anything I write will be? Why writing and not another craft, like painting? This is a tough question to answer.
I know I love the feeling of channeling words, like I'm tuned into some kind of energy that has something to say. That's really fun.
I know I enjoy editing. I love the craft of simplifying, clarifying, and making everything more of what I truly want to say. It's like solving the world's best jigsaw puzzle.
But if I'm being honest, I think at the core of who I am, (at the core of my personality, my soul, my creativity), I am simply a woman bent towards word-craft, and so it thrills me.
Being a woman in the world who gets to dedicate herself to a craft she enjoys is a great and wonderful thing. I'm blown away by it each and every day.
My journey as a writer included an entire decade of not writing at all, because I was lost and sad and things had gone strangely wonky in my life and no creative ideas came to me. I felt like my soul was dying.
So now when an idea moves through me, and I set aside the time for a writing session and actually write, it's a marvelousness that defies words.
I want you to know, as we approach the New Year and the new decade, that what I want for you is for you to be able to come alive and live your dream of being a woman who writes (even if those words are only ever a private romance between you and your journal), because if you're like me, and your personality, soul, and creativity are bent towards word-craft, it truly is the best thing ever.
If my writing process inspires you and you want to learn how to create a peaceful, lovely writing process for yourself, I invite you to experience Write In Peace.
Write In Peace is my online course you can do anytime, anywhere that teaches you how to create a 2 hour writing session. I call it a writing retreat, because it's time away from your regular life (even if it's just a short time), where you get to go somewhere that feels safe and cozy to you, do something completely different from your day-to-day life, and write.
If you're interested in Write In Peace, but you're worried because you don't have a writing idea to work on or you have too many ideas to choose from, I have a special treat for you that I'll announce this Sunday. It's my special New Year's bonus, and I can't wait to tell you about it!
I hope you're having an amazing day.
P.S. How to make hot cacao:
1 tablespoon powdered cacao
Mug of hot water
1 to 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
Milk or non-dairy milk of your choice
Dash of cinnamon
Heat your water in a small sauce pan or kettle where you can see the water. Turn the heat off just as the water begins to bubble to the top. Don't let it boil. (The heat of boiling water kills off the vital nutrients in cacao.)
Add the cacao to a mug, pour in your water. Stir. Cacao tends to clump, so you might want to leave room at the top of the mug so you can stir a little more vigorously than usual.
Add milk, as much as you like.
Add honey or maple syrup to sweeten your drink. Cacao is much more bitter than regular cocoa, I usually do one heaping teaspoon of honey, but you might want more if you that's still too bitter for you!
The reason I use cacao instead of cocoa is because cacao is raw, unprocessed chocolate, and that means it still has all its nutrients. Cacao can be a little more stimulating than cocoa, so I suggest drinking half your mug and seeing how it settles before you finish the rest! Happy writing!
Emma Veritas is a writer and writing coach. She's a committed blogger and is currently working on edits to her first novel. She graduated with her Bachelor's degree in English from the Honor's Program at the University of Massachusetts, where she wrote her thesis on the power of story during hard times. She has completed Martha Beck's Life Coach Training and is an endorsed Soul's Calling Coach. She is a life long learner in the craft of writing, most recently completing courses on fiction writing and plot development through WritersHQ. Her most recently completed writing project is her online course, Find Your True Self Again.