Stepping up to the Mic

morning pages

I used to be a big fan of taking my time. I loved free writing morning pages by hand in my journal, then reading a few stories by a favorite author, then thumbing through old story drafts before actually starting to write new material. I could easily spend four hours at the desk, only 25% of which was spent composing new words. For many years, that approach worked, and eventually led to my first book.

But the new-mother-writer in me has dropped the preamble, and it’s working. If you feel short on time, pulled multiple directions, or lack long stretches of uninterrupted focus in your life, dropping the preamble can be both effective and empowering.

My decision to “drop the preamble” began one January at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, which hosts a week-long, by-invitation, artist residency called Pentaculum. In 2017, I attended with my 7-week old infant son. Without the pressures of work deadlines, each time my son napped, I turned immediately to the blank page. I never knew how long I’d have to write, so I didn’t waste a single moment. To my surprise, I found I could be highly productive, without the preamble.

Gentle accountability helped this process along; knowing I would be stepping up to the mic and reading what I wrote during this residency kept me focused on doing with work. Each night the artists would gather as a supportive community to witness each others craft and honor the process we took getting there.

Enjoy this recording of Ep. 212: Pentaculum Writers Night Vol. 3 where myself, Robert Vivian, Nathan Ballingrud, and Kane Smego read from new work.

If your curious about how to add more gentle accountability into your writing life, whether it’s morning pages or a novel, you’ll be interested in Airstream Dispatches. Experience the perks of a book club and writing group; we’ll talk craft, generate new writing and check in with a greater literary community at regular intervals, so that the conversation of writing stays present in your life. Writing is hard enough. Enjoyable, yes, but also–let’s be honest–hard work. So many writers I mentor make it harder for themselves by acting as their own biggest bullies. But bullying doesn’t help in any sustainable way. Community and gentle accountability are the antidote. Join me!


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