Monday, April 1, 2019

Recipe for a (Semi-Productive) Writing Day à la Emma Tilley

-         Room with a door that closes properly
-         Laptop that likes to update whenever I finally sit down to write
-         Writing music
-         Editing music
-         A clear head that got maybe six hours of sleep yesterday
-         A warm beverage (preferably hot chocolate or Earl Grey tea)
-         Pen with a comfort grip
-         Highlighter
-         Designated writing notebook (one for poetry, one for everything else)
-         Too many random papers scattered over several rooms
Optional: Hard candy to eat while spaced out (unless you’re like me who recently had three cavities filled and had to rethink this)

Step 1: Go to a room with a door that closes properly and find a comfy place to sit. This could be my desk, bed, or reclining chair. I like to know that I have a safe space to write where no one is lurking over my shoulder. The closed door also helps if, like me, you have a pesky cat who wants to climb on your shoulder and slobber all over you while you work. (Sorry, Rascal.)

Step 2: Put on the appropriate music. I listen to music constantly throughout the day and what I listen to depends on the time of day, the weather, and what I’m doing. If I am writing, I prefer music with more energy like pop punk, throwbacks, and Top 40. If I am editing, I listen to slower songs by folk artists and singer-songwriters. The music helps me to sit still and drowns out the cat who now sits outside the door howling and scratching. (If the cat is being too overpowering, then I will break down and go to a coffee shop for awhile. I don’t get as much done there though.) On an in-the-zone kind of day, I won’t even hear the music and it will become background noise. On a “bad” writing day, I will break out into air drumming and daydream I am at Warped Tour.

Step 3: Some days when I am easily distracted by random videos on YouTube and Googling celebrities, I turn my laptop onto airplane mode. I will even put my phone in another room so that I don’t have the urge to incessantly check it every five minutes.

Step 4: When I sit down to write, I go through the work I already have in a file folder on my computer. I like to read through poems that I have forgotten about. I try to read them aloud and figure out where the clunky lines are. If the poems are unfinished, it is now that I will add or take away lines. Some poems are written in one session, others are pieced together over various writing sessions. If I can’t figure out how to complete it, I leave the poem for another time. It also gives me enough distance to change parts without feeling bad about it.

Step 5: I look at how far along the project has come as a collection. I separate the poems into folders depending on if they all fit within a certain series or theme. This helps when I try and locate them later on. I often will write an idea on paper first (or on Notes on my phone if I’m out and about) before putting it into a Word document. I do most of the manipulating of text in the document as it is easier to do than in my notebook.

Step 6: I print out my drafts when I want to edit them. I will read through the piece and make changes with a pen. Then, I will go through the computer document and make changes. I cross off which changes I have made on the paper version with a highlighter as I go through it. This way I can easily remember that I have made all the necessary changes. If I feel like it, I will read through the new edits that day. Otherwise, I will come back the next day to look at it with fresh eyes.


Input Steps 1-2 from A Poetry Kind of Day

Step 3: Check Pacemaker (a website that helps track writing progress) to see how many words I should be writing on this day. I’m more of a wordcount person as opposed to a page person or someone who has to write for a certain amount of time. I will try to push past the bare minimum I have set (if the ideal conditions are met).

Step 4: Read over last part of the chapter I worked on. I won’t edit it, but just use it as a jumping off tool to kickstart the next part of the story and remind myself where I was.

Step 5: Lose interest in the part of the story I was just working on the other day.

Step 6: Move on to that idea I wrote down at midnight when I was supposed to be sleeping. This idea will seem way more exciting to work on even though I know the scenes in-between are just as important.

Step 7: This is the point where I stare at the screen hoping that that really cool idea, the one I had at midnight, writes itself. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

Step 8: Continue writing and occasionally laugh at my own jokes with regular air drum breaks taken to improve productivity. Mark off whatever sections of writing I have completed from my outline (if this current novel project was even graced with an outline in the first place).

Step 9: Update Pacemaker so I can keep track of my “productivity.”

Step 10: Write a poem to decompress.

Emma Tilley’s writing has been published in Popshot Magazine, The Anti-Languorous Project, and EVENT. Her debut chapbook Carp Dime is forthcoming from Rahila’s Ghost Press. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter @foodiebestie.

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