Twenty+ Ways To Be More Writerly

Adapted from C.M. Mayo. I'm not so great at these and might be posting them here mostly as a reminder to myself. Do as I say and as I try to do.


Give up TV and social media. I'm 80% on this. Maybe 70%. I am less healthy in every way and write less when I'm regularly watching TV and checking social media. This I know.

Turn off phone notifications. The only notifications my phone makes are for texts and actual calls. Pro tip: shut off mobile data and you'll hardly ever look at the phone when out of the house. Even better, leave the phone home. My phone is more than a time-suck.

Avoid drama and gossip. I work in a dramatic school. Often, standing in the hallway, I hear gossip begin, wait a moment, then say something like "oh, I forgot," rush back into my classroom and look busy doing something so I escape that nonsense. Gossip is bad storytelling and a terrible writer's habit.

Ignore the news (more drama and gossip). I subscribe to two newspapers and should switch to weekly magazines, but I am weak. I'm trying to check the news no more than twice a day, but not succeeding. The news doesn't give me good ideas for writing.

Choose sports wisely. Go to sporting events, don't watch them on TV. Good Lord the commercials suck out my will to live and write.

Read and answer email twice a day. Checking email more than twice a day is crazy. And yet I've probably checked it a dozen times today. More fool me.

Minimalism & Organization

Attend to piles. Set a timer. Piles of bills, mail, articles, and magazines are obligations that suck energy and time from writing. Set a five minute timer and be ruthless at recycling and throwing away, then go back to writing.

Use a paper planner. It's flexible, doubles as a writer's notebook, and isn't a phone.

Minimize possessions and wear the same things. My older daughter is teaching me how to declutter. I'm okay wearing the same basic uniform to school daily. Easier than picking out clothes.

Stop shopping and spending. Ann Patchett turned me on to this. I'm reading Cait Flanders The Year Of Less and have kind of slipped into this. I write more if I spend less because I'm not so tied to a paycheck.

Everything in its right place. No searching. Keys and wallet in the drawer, watch and pen on the stand, phone on the charger, Radiohead song stuck in my head. Keep the house picked up too. Yeah, I need more work on this.


Drink only with friends. Every glass of bourbon signals my brain that I'm done writing for the day. Since I have a day job, I can't afford to give up my night writing times. Sometimes I still do.

Drink water. It's the quickest and healthiest thing. It's also inexpensive out of the tap. I'm terrible about this. I like water while I'm drinking it but want anything but water when choosing what to have.

Cook meals as a break. Crank the music and bop around the kitchen. Totally enjoyable. Also saves money and, if I make lots, is lunch for the next couple days.

Get good sleep. Early to bed, early to rise really is the best advice. Sleep when the sun is down and rise in time for sunrise. Mornings are ten times more productive than evenings for me.

Thinking & Feeling

Let go the past unless it's fodder for writing. Yeah, I suck at this. I ruminate on things and obsess about what has already happened. Total waste of time and a drain of my energy. Lots of work to do here.
Let go the future. Plans are for suckers. Goals are for losers is a good idea even if Scott Adams is a turd. Do things instead of planning them. I have a lot of work to do here too. Too many plans for writing, not enough writing.

Run your own race. Don't envy other writers. Also, though it's fine to try and emulate others, I have to accept who I am and how I work.

Be Writerly

Use the commute. I'm listening to podcasts on my short commute. I haven't tried audio books but that's the next step. One more way to surround myself with writing.

Always carry pen, notebook/planner, and a book to read. Duh.

Do Morning Pages. For me, nothing beats starting the day writing. Nothing. It makes me more likely to think, see, listen, and act as a writer.