The Mark Blog

RULES OF A WRITING DATE

At workshop a couple of nights ago, Antoine asked us if we were planning extra time for revisions before the final review. The manuscripts are due at the end of this month. There’s just one more workshop, early next week. The weekends will have to be marathon writing sessions. Other than that, I don’t have large blocks of time I can allocate to revisions. The only solutions I can think of are to block off shorter segments throughout the day and to set writing dates. Writing dates are something I learned about from Mae, an Emerging Voices fellow.

We have now been doing writing dates for close to three years. It started when our kids were still toddlers. I was so sleep-deprived in those days that it was hard to start writing again on a consistent basis. Writing dates were something that Mae had heard of from a friend who learned about it during an MFA program. There’s not much to the notion, but there is a method.

Once you have a partner, you need to decide on the logistics of the writing date. Mae and I chose to devote a forty-minute block of time for one evening every week. It’s important to always stick to the same day and the same beginning and end time. In this way, a habit is formed and you always know that no matter what is happening in your daily life, that chunk of time awaits your writing life.

The next component of a successful writing date is to set up a routine as to who is the initiator and who is the time-keeper. The initiator is the person who calls at the agreed-upon time. During this call, it’s important to exchange writing goals for the block of time you’re about to begin. Even if you plan on spending the time doing a writing prompt, it needs to be stated. I’ve found that verbally committing to an activity keeps me focused and accountable. It’s less tempting to get side-tracked by a different story or to switch from, say, drafting to revising.

The time-keeper is the one who (obviously) times the writing session and then calls the other writer at the end. During the closing call, it’s imperative to be honest about how it went. There are some days that are filled with fabulous focus and the writing goal is achieved. There are other times, when the writing didn’t go as well; maybe it was like walking through molasses. Either way, it’s all part of the process and that’s all right.

Writing dates transformed my writing life. They’re instrumental to building momentum. There’s something about being accountable to another writer that makes a person rise to the occasion—even if they’re sleep-deprived.