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First Monday Mentoring November 2018 – gifts writers can give themselves

With the festive season racing upon us, the question I was asked recently is very timely. I was in Canberra recently presenting a workshop on rebooting your romance writing when one of the group asked me what are the best gifts to give a writer.

I had to think for a while, considering all the usual suspects from coffee mugs to stationery and not surprisingly, chocolate. All would be welcomed by writers, but they aren’t the gifts I decided to write about. For the most part these gifts cost almost nothing.

Failing this…

For me the best gift you can give yourself – or another writer in your life – is time. It’s astonishing how easily we find time for everybody else’s needs, yet invariably put our own need for time last. But how can we write if we don’t allow ourselves time?

We need time, not only to do the work of writing, but for dreaming up ideas and developing them before we ever sit down at the keyboard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter who conceives every detail of a story before you start writing; or a pantser, so-called because you write “by the seat of your pants” with no idea where you’re going until you get there. You still need time to get your head around the story you wish to write.

Who are the characters you’ll write about? Where will the story be set? What time period? What is the big problem (the conflict) stopping these people from riding off into the sunset together?

Even an hour a day of uninterrupted time is enough to write a hundred words toward your eventual manuscript. How can you set this time aside for yourself? If you have family, can they be persuaded to give you this gift every day, either by doing some chore you might otherwise do, or by leaving you in peace for an hour?

If you like, create some gift cards promising you the hour – more if you can manage it. Hand them to whoever will give you the gift, or pin one above your screen as a reminder to give yourself this time. Choose your most productive time, whether it be early morning or late in the evening as suits you. Then regard the time as sacred to your writing and don’t allow anything other than a dire emergency to interrupt.

        It’s important to manage interruptions

The next best gift is a place to write. Virginia Woolf made much of having a room of one’s own. If a whole room isn’t possible, then find the next best thing. Could you put a small desk into a little-used guest room? Some garages or laundries are large enough to provide writing space, provided they aren’t too hot or cold. A hallway might have cupboards you can adapt with a desk and shelving inside, and doors to close when not in use. Imagination is a writer’s stock-in-trade, why not use yours to find and re-purpose a space for your writing?

The final gift is comfort, not something writers think much about until a physical problem hits, forcing you to confront it. An ergonomic chair may seem extravagant but will repay you many times over in supporting your health. Buying second-hand can reduce the cost but be sure you try the chair before buying. Other comfort options are largely cost-free – making sure your screen or device is at a comfortable viewing height, with suitable lightning and quiet surroundings. Earplugs or headphones can help here.

Santa might not have these gifts on his list but you can take care of them yourself or invite family or friends to assist, letting you look forward to a Happy New Year of productive writing. What gift could you give your writing self? Share your thoughts in the space below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

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