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  • Karina Sokulski

Writing Solo: How to Manage Without the Help of Your Critique Group

The summer always comes with vacation plans and millions of excuses to take breaks from regular commitments. I am in a "work-though-the-summer" phase because of mortgage and other adult responsibilities demand it, but the same is not to be said for members of my critique group.

We've all resolved to re-adjourn in late August to facilitate many member's vacation plans (and of course, to put less pressure on those not traveling to have to produce so much content). My critique group has always been my rock when it comes to motivators that keep me writing. The temporary separation from it, on the surface, seemed to threaten an almost detrimental effect on my current writing habits. As I scrolled through my critique member's group email, I remember wondering if this was going to lead to my just never finding time to write again. Work's consumed so much of my time, leaving me dead on the floor as soon as I'm past the threshold, how am I going to motivate myself to write with the obligation that comes with my group missing?

Interestingly, I considered this thought a wakeup call. If critique group was the only thing that was currently ensuring my writing habits be done at the end of the workday, then something has become VERY wrong with my current habits. Life gets in the way sometimes but it shouldn't be perpetually inhibiting my ability to write. With that realization, the only natural step then is to set to the task of getting back to obligatorily writing for myself.

Now, how does one do that? Well, a structure is immense and the key to keeping a routine. With the excitement and dedication that was expected with my getting a new job, I admittedly lost my routine without any time to reorganize it. That's what this particular blog post will be changing.

1) Timers

I have a timer app I've been neglecting, which means its time to put it back into use. I'm the writer who admittedly hates worrying about word count (even though I put myself through NaNoWriMo every year) but still wants to get a lot done. That's where time comes in. There are hundreds on the app store (and I'm sure Google Play or whatever you're using) that are free to download and even customize. I'll set my timer for an hour and write. It doesn't matter how much will actually get put down or not, sometimes I'm inspired after work, sometimes I'm not. All that matters is just writing for an hour and doing absolutely nothing else.

2) Electronic Devices and Social Media Away

Nothing irks me more than the devices going off while I'm trying to focus. I leave my phone in the kitchen or bedroom, and it stays there. I even have apps on my computer that are for focus and will temporarily turn off notifications when the proper timers are applied. I don't care who watched what or why someone's mad about some face political news on Facebook. I'm writing and not getting distracted.

3) Get A Focused Environment Going

It's massively essential you make your environment work-worthy. You know I worship ambient-mixer to the very end, but that's not the only element that gets me writing. My favorite combination is an ambient mixer of a quiet Hufflepuff common room with my Hufflepuff inspired scented candle burning. I'm kicking it in my house's common room writing my next chapter, and I'm getting stuff done. Just the set up gets me inspired enough to click away at my keyboard.

4) Door Closed, Alert the Family You're Busy

Maybe it's just me, but I need my privacy when I write. I occasionally do write on the couch when company iss over, but I get much more done behind a solidly closed door. I highly recommend you do the same. I always tell my husband that when writing time starts, I need not be disturbed. I need to have all excuses to get up from my computer NOT cross the threshold of my door.​

5) Rinse and Repeat

It's all well and good to do it once, twice maybe three times, but the most prominent part of a routine is repetition. Commit to the routine and stick with it. That's the most significant challenge with any routine. Keeping track of progress (even immediate) is vital, so I'll be dotting my little calendar as I go. Marking progress is its motivator, and every edge is necessary to get you started.

Summer's in full throttle now and is shaking up a sizable amount of my schedule, but the most important thing is not to let it get in the way of writing. Guess that means less couch potatoe-ing after work for me and many more trips to the Hufflepuff house actually to get things done.

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