Editor’s Note: See Jane Write now publishes articles and personal essays by writers who identify as women, non-binary folks, and our allies. Learn more here.
By LaKisha Cargill
A few years back, I was a writer who did not write. I even wrote about it on my blog. I had several excuses, including not having the time, or so I claimed. I told myself that life was too busy for the luxury of just writing. Plus, I did not think receiving compensation for my writing could be a reality. The thrill of my first paid byline in college had become a faded memory despite receiving a free product or a gift card here and there over the years in exchange for an honest review on my blog.
Then things changed. A pandemic. A social reckoning. Me. And I thirsted for an outlet to share my voice. Watching the video of George Floyd was the catalyst for my hand to pick up a pen again and write. I began to write everything all the time. Poems. Essays. Children’s books. A 5th-grade chapter book and more. Most of it has been for my eyes only, and those I ask to proofread, but some have made it out into the world and landed on magazines’ virtual and actual pages. And for this, I am genuinely grateful to those who have helped me water these seeds. I am thankful that these seeds have been allowed to bloom within me. And I am pleased that I can now call myself a freelance writer who receives compensation for her writing.
But I must be intentional to sustain my love for writing. So here are my tips for nurturing a passion for writing, even when life gets busy.
1. Be intentional. Find time to write.
Yes. I know you are busy. But you can find time to write just as you find time for the other necessities and things you want to do. You do them. Or you try to. So, do this. Write! Write during your lunch break. Write during your other breaks. Write in the shower or the bath. Yes, in the shower. A fellow poet blew everyone’s minds when she advised the group during a panel discussion that there were waterproof notebooks. Who knew? Mind-blowing! Right?! Write in the carpool lane or while you wait at the doctor’s office or the beauty salon. Keep a notebook in your purse and car in case inspiration hits you, or use an app on your phone to capture that genius idea ready to pour out. Wake up an hour early and stay up an hour later to get a few pages in.
2. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Writing is often a solo endeavor. The act of writing typically involves you sitting alone, crafting your words with limited interaction with others. But finding “your people” — that special group of like-minded individuals that get you and understand a writer’s life — can make your writing life so much better. Prime example, I can’t wait for my waterproof notebooks to arrive. I learned about these because I was in the room with like-minded people discussing the need to be able to write your ideas down even during what seems to be the most inopportune time. Find a community like See Jane Write, where you can find your cheering section. There is a free Facebook group and I urge you to join the Collective when membership reopens.
3. Continue to learn.
I get it. You want to write. After all, you are a writer. It is what you do. But continuing to learn the art of writing helps you in so many ways. Continuous learning can help spark ideas, help you learn techniques and styles you may not be familiar with, and help you remain agile and relevant in an ever-changing writing environment. Not to sound like a broken record, but writing groups like See Jane Write can afford you to learn different genres such as fiction writing, poetry, or blogging from peers, the See Jane Write leader, and other industry experts. A host of other groups on Facebook will introduce you to many writing types and styles and help you build your network and skills. Just search for your interests, and check them out. One of my other favorites is the Six Figure Self-Publishing Secrets with Crystal Swain Bates. This is a free group where members and Crystal share tips and stories about their journey to help you on your writing journey. Look for learning opportunities in your community. See what the local college offers and even find distance learning classes. Plus, there are writing conferences offered by many writing organizations, you just have to look for the write right one. Here are a few of my favs: The Southern Christian Writers’ Conference (SCWC) which is fast approaching. This year’s event will be held June 9-10 in Leeds, AL and offers a virtual option. This year there are 23 different workshops. I always learn something here. Next, the AWC Annual Conference for Writers has been insightful in the past. Check out their website to get updates on potential offerings.
4. Read others’ writing.
To become a better writer, you must read others’ work. This fits well with the idea of continuous learning. Of course, your tutelage can be formal (think writing courses), but it does not have to be. Reading other people’s work can also provide valuable informal training. Reading assorted styles allows you to get an idea of what you like and what works. And reading what you want to write is essential to getting better. So, if you are a poet, read poetry. Check out sites like the Poetry Foundation to see a poem a day and read some of the greats, some of your favorites and discover new loves as well. If you want to write for specific magazines or outlets, read what they produce. Even attending the Sunday writing critique sessions hosted by See Jane Write can help you hone your skills while helping others better their work. That’s a win, win!!
5. Give your work time to breathe.
Let the words flow, and try not to edit as you write. This is pretty hard to do. However, your work needs time to sit on the page and fester. As the saying goes, your writing basically writes itself. So, it needs space. It becomes a living breathing entity. It needs an opportunity to come out. To speak to you. And then you can begin shaping and molding it into the best version of itself.
6. Remember that things will never be just right, so just write!
In a perfect world, you would have all the time you need to write. But we all know that nothing is perfect. There are many competing priorities, and you must find time for everything. So, be intentional and find the time to write. Spend time journaling, starting a blog, or working on that book you have been putting off. The key is to practice, practice, and then practice some more. Even if you only have 10 minutes daily, you can develop a writing practice that pays off exponentially.
LaKisha Cargill is a speaker, freelance writer, essayist, poet, and children’s book author from Birmingham, Alabama who loves sharing her voice through written and spoken word. You can find more of her writings on Sisters From AARP, Reckon, and her personal blog http://www.sizablechic.com.