Every day at 6 in the morning, my alarm goes off and before I head out of my bedroom, I do my “morning pages” This is a writing discipline that I learned from creative facilitator Ife Piankhi a few years back. I like morning pages because I basically have to write; write anything that comes to mind. However, it is surprising that my morning pages have given birth to some of the stories I later come to develop. There are two challenges however with my morning routine, first, because I am on the move most times, I sometimes find it impossible to write because I cannot locate my notebook or because I worked late in the night and I have to wake up really late. The other coincidence about my morning pages work is that it tends to take on a certain pattern and theme. For some reason, sunrise has a big impact on me and most of the emotions I can master in the morning are related to nature. It is quite unlikely that I will wake up one morning and pen a political piece.
As I have said before, I guess I am not so centre right disciplined as writer and my writing routine varies with environment, season or event. There are weeks and months when I have generated a lot of work and then there are those weeks and months when my brain is literally blank. I am literally always struggling with writers’ block. However, with my professional work of running and organizing writing classes and workshops in East Africa with Kahini and Writing Our World, I have been able to put myself in an environment which enables me to develop new content. I met various writers and often in these classes, I do a lot of in depth writing.
Coffee, juice or water are the best companions to my writing table or desk. I have a special brand of coffee that I buy from Rwanda and since last year, my life has been rotating around it. The mere smell of the coffee in a room gives me a good feeling and I feel relaxed, able to think and have my creative energies hyped. With such an environment, I could write for an hour. That is realistically the biggest time I can spend writing, unsupervised. I sometimes listen to music when I am writing but most times, I prefer a quiet calm environment to think and concentrate. Writing in nature id by far the most ideal for me.
So tell me Nikolas, how is your writing discipline?
wow – I admire your discipline behind those morning pages. I recently read an article
about the website 750words.com
, that helps you to evaluate and optimize your writing habits. They call it Quantified Writing. The fact that you get up at 6 in the morning is even more remarkable. Germany is two hours behind Kampala right now. When I get up at 8 you have already finished 4 hours of writing.
“When” I get up at 8 is a good starting point to talk about my writing routine. I always wish there would be more of “writing” and more of “routine” in my writing routine. I still have to learn that consistence is an illusion. That there are simply periods where you write more or less. But my ideal writing routine in my ideal world (where you don’t have to earn money and life isn’t happening), looks like this:
I get up in the morning at 8 in order to finish each and everything human up to 9. That’s when I start writing. Every hour I try to have a 10 minutes break. At 1 in the evening I have a 30 minutes break. Afterwards I work another 4 hours. All in all 8 hours a day. Like my parents. Like every other human being.
I should first say that your software has intimidated me Wow! Those are really great tools and I am planning on trying them out or better still looking out for some online tools that will suit my style.
You say that the hardware bit is not so interesting but well, here is a young man who is pro Old school. I do most of my writing on hardware and especially the whole faithful Notebook which is always packed in my bag and belongings wherever I travel. I also have a small Notepad where I jot ideas and pen the starting lines to most work I intend to create later on.
I have for the past 2 years been a proud owner of Samsung Galaxy Tablet which I use for the software bit of my writing. I installed Kingsoft Office which is basically a mobile Word document application. I have a lot of my stories penned and stored here just as they would ordinarily be stored on a computer. I also have a NOTES application which gives me small leaflets on which I can write up to about 500 words. I have written poetry, created characters and brainstormed story opening therein.
since you talked about your writing tools last time
– here comes an overview of mine.
Let me talk about my software only since hardware can change from time to time and is – in my opinion – not that interesting for the writing process.
First of all there is Evernote.
I use the small green elephant to collect and organise my writing research, my private notes, my projects (“Bremen & Kampala” has it’s own folder, too). I have it on my mobile device and on my laptop. It’s everywhere I go, ready to clip everything – notes, photos, videos, articles, cooking recipes – out of my daily digital and analogue routine.
My writing tool is Scrivener.
Unlike most writing software Scrivener brings folder organization, text editor and notes on one screen. The binder binds together every possible content of your project, including text files, websites or photos. My character notes, my plot, my research (coming from Evernote) and the paperwork of three years of writing – it’s all in Scrivener. The possibility of infinite folder divisions – without losing overview – provides a comprehensive archiving at material level, a more flexible relocating at plot level, a structured section after section writing at writing level. And there is a full screen mode. So you can forget everything else and just focus on your writing. Honestly, I would be lost without this tool.
I once attended a literary exhibition and produced a small video, trying to give an atmospheric inside of the use of my writing tools. Here you can see Evernote and Scrivener (and me) in action:
How do you organise your material? What are your tools to put some words on paper?
I start this “Getting to know each other” by showing you my writing spaces. First thing you need to know: I move. A lot. Last year I finished my BA in Creative Writing – and left my home in Hildesheim, left my constant writing space, lost this perfect view:
Since then I´m always on the go. I was trying to save some writing time (and money!) by applying for residence scholarships in order to finish my first novel. Here´s a stream of my last year’s working spaces, each linked to googlemaps:
It was interesting to get to see your writing spaces. I have noticed that we have one thing in common; moving a lot. I am always on the move because of the nature of my work and interests and that means that on average, I do not get to stay in one place for a long time. For the past year 2014, I was mostly in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Germany.
In Western Kenya
Sunset through my window in Bonn
In all these places, I gather experiences that I turn into stories. If you look carefully I move with a backpack which contains my notepad, laptop and books I am reading. I should then say that my writing materials are simple too. Sometimes I write short poetry in the “Notes” section of my smart phone. Other times it is just a matter of jotting down the opening lines of a story idea I have that I later work on.