You may think that running a hit blog followed by readers in the low zillions is easy, but actually it requires a lot of time and hard work. The three of us also have individual pursuits in addition to day jobs. We’ll just assume you wonder how we do it (because oftentimes, we find ourselves begging for these answers ourselves), so here they are. Our Urchin secrets revealed!
I used to be in the wonderful habit of free-writing everyday. For about 5-10 minutes, I would just write – completely uncensored and with little to no direction. Usually, my word-spew was worthless, but it did serve to loosen my mind up for whatever projects I was working on. Now, since I haven’t been writing fiction recently, I have fallen out of the habit. (Maybe this will encourage me to start again!)
However, since I have been writing primarily short, non-fiction articles for various local publications, an extremely focused version of free-writing helps me wrap my mind around whatever my topic is. Between interviews and frequently many different angles, I need something to help me know what I’m writing about For me, the hardest part of an article is the first paragraph. Once I get that done, the rest usually seems to flow (I hope…). The important thing is to write everyday!
I’m a pretty particular writer. Because I am very easily distracted and will flit around like a magpie dazzled by shiny objects if given the opportunity, I usually need complete silence and solitude to work. Unfortunately, such circumstances can be hard to come by, especially when travelling and staying at other people’s homes. Over the past year of travelling, I have taken to writing either very late at night after everyone has gone to bed, or very early in the morning before anyone else has woken up. The stillness of those late and early hours allows me to focus completely on the task at hand. If my mind happens to wander, it’s much easier to command it back to attention without conversations or television adverts happening around me.
I usually spend anywhere between two and five hours researching an article before I begin writing to ensure that I have a full and comprehensive basis from which to discuss or analyse any given topic, and I often complete the research (and accompanying copious note-taking) well before I begin writing. If I come to a fact, quote, reference, or spelling I don’t know or am unsure of but want to include, I insert a series of asterisks that I then come back to when doing my final edit and look up the necessary information. I learned this from a professor at university, and it has proven some of the best advice I have ever been given as it allows you to maintain your flow and train of thought without interruption.
My last phase of writing an article is the final image selection. Before I begin writing, I compile a folder of images and photographs I think I would like to include in the article. Once the article is complete, I review the images again and decide which fit best with what I actually wrote.
My writing process for poetry is generally pretty similar, though it is far easier for me to write poetry in public both because the activity around me can be inspiring and because, being lost in the world of my own imagination or emotional thoughts, I am less likely to be distracted when writing creatively. My fingers can keep up with mind much better typing than writing with a pen or pencil, so I far prefer to type both journalistic and creative writing.
During these first few years of self-proclaimed writerdom, I’ve experimented with different techniques and rituals, usually borrowed from other writers, to see what works best for me. Recently I’ve adopted a practice that has really made an impact on both my writing and my life in general.
It’s pretty simple. Every morning I wake up at 7:24am, put on an essential pot of coffee, and write. The amount of time spent writing varies, but waking up at the same time everyday ensures some time, however large or little, to work on the things that are most important to me. I keep a notebook that keeps my agenda solely for these morning sessions. Each night, right before bed, I write down what the project I plan to work on in the morning, along with a few notes to get my mind started. Because of these notes, I’m usually ready to write in the morning, rather than wasting time gathering those initial thoughts.
Having a designated time to write everyday frees my mind and my schedule. I no longer have to worry about when to fit in quality writing time during a busy day. Also, because I wake up so early, the day is longer and less hectic, which not only results in better, clearer writing but also a happier me.
You may be wondering why I wake up at 7:24 and not 7:00 or 7:30. As I mentioned earlier, I adopted this from a writer friend, who told me she wakes up at 7:23 every morning to write. When I asked why, she told me it’s because her writer friend wakes up at that time, and he has done so for ten years. He picked the hour because it seemed the appropriate time to start the day, not too early and not too late, and he picked the minute because it was Michael Jordan’s number. My friend adopted the time because she likes the idea of waking up at the same time as her friend every morning. I loved the idea and the sentiment, but I had to make the ritual my own somehow, so I chose 24 because it’s Kobe Bryant’s number. (Also, I need the extra sleep.)