Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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How to be alone with your writing (#1)


How to be alone with your writing, a non-comprehensive, ever-growing list.

(I expect to post new additions to this list from time to time. Feel free to add your tips in the comments.)

Turn off distractions.

Put your cell phone on "silent." Then turn it face down so you don't see it light up with new text messages. Finally, stick the damn thing in a drawer and do your best to forget about it. It might take some practice, but eventually you'll untether yourself from that slim electronic brick of light and mayhem. You may even begin to leave the room or the building without it from time to time.

Let yourself wonder.

When the urge hits to check social media and email, or to conduct random Google searches for things you must know RIGHT THIS MINUTE, turn off you computer's WiFi. Do it. Facts and news and updates can wait. Let yourself wonder a little longer. Let your mind wander a little further on the page. Sit in the questions; they make for the best writing.

Make friends with your fear.

Afraid you won't be able to write anything good? Afraid you won't be able to write anything at all? That's okay. Shake hands with your fear, pour it a metaphorical cup of hot tea (spiked with whiskey if necessary), and tell it that you've got this. You do. Fear can chill out. You will be fine.

Acknowledge -- and then ignore -- any urges to flee the scene.

Is the laundry calling your name? Are you overwhelmed by an intense desire to weed the garden? Do your toenails need clipping or painting? Fair enough, but your dirty gutchies, the weeds, and your ten little piggies can all wait. Your job right now is to sit and write. Do your job.

Reframe to privilege and joy.

Do you have to write or do you get to write? Maybe it's both. If you can string words together in the service of art, beauty, meaning, connection, or whatever else matters to you, this is a privilege. You might not feel joyful in the moments when writing is difficult, but you can always be looking toward joy in the work. Reframe your mindset to the privilege and joy it is to make stories.

Stay seated. Stand up. Stretch. Sit back down. Write.

Repeat as necessary.

Reader Comments (6)

Okay, so you got me. I've gotta do all of these things. And I'm gonna do it right now. But first I needed to thank you for challenging me this way. I hope you are well.
May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGailNHB
This post is awesome.
I'm going to print it out and read it again and again.
May 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterliz
I especially love your suggestion to reframe to privilege & joy. Seems that could apply to lots of things in life... Thankyou
May 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchangesofheart
I so needed to read this right now. Or should I say, write now? lol I've just begun writing and the TV was calling my name. Thanks Jenna : )
May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Great point about the Privilege and Joy. It is easier when I "get" to write. It is an honor and service instead of a chore or the one more thing on my list. I would add to you list, Wake up early when everyone is still asleep, or conversely, stay up late and write when everyone is asleep. Most of the time it is the people in my life who distract me from writing and I have a hard time saying no to.

Oh yes, I had never thought of turning off my wifi. great scary idea.
May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKira Elliott
Love this. The fear is strong and the urges to flee often seem too hard to resist. Thanks for reminding me that I've got this!
May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMinh-Hai

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