Mojo Monday: Tips from Midge Raymond on How to Be an Everyday Writer

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.

Give it up for my guest blogger today—the wildly talented Midge Raymond—who has recently published a terrific book that all you writers should be reading every night before bed: Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life. (And yup, if you’re scratching your head and thinking “Midge Raymond, Midge Raymond, I swear I’ve heard that name before,” you’re right! Midge was featured on Writerhead Wednesday nearly a year ago for her award-winning collection of short stories Forgetting English.)

How to be an Everyday Writer (even if you don’t have time to write every day)

As writers, we’re often told that we must write every single day. I’m the first to agree that having a daily writing practice is invaluable—but I’m also the first to admit that I’ve never had one. And I’m guessing that most writers—i.e., those of us with families, day jobs, and other responsibilities that make it hard to fit in our creative time—aren’t able to write every single day either.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t be accomplished, happy writers. We just need to be a little more creative about it.

This is why I wrote Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life.

My goal with this book is to offer tips on how to be an everyday writer even without every day, as well as to offer prompts to help you keep your projects moving forward when you’re short on time. Remember: Writing isn’t about sitting down somewhere and typing—it’s about gathering ideas, noticing details, and seeing stories in the world around you … in other words, it’s about thinking like a writer.

So here are a few Mojo Monday tips and prompts to get you started off toward a fruitful week of writing. (Note: It’s best to have a notebook accessible at all times.)

Tip: Take a good look around. All too often, I find myself using my idle time to check email on my phone or to text someone about something that’s not really very important. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Instead of turning to a device, look upward and outward; check out what’s going on around you. The following prompt will give you an idea of how to train yourself to use this idle time in a more writerly way.

Prompt: The next time you’re waiting in line at the post office, or at the grocery store, or at the hardware store, take a look around. Choose two random people you see and imagine them as a couple. Imagine how they met, where they live, whether they have kids and how many—create an entirely fictional backstory for these two people. When you have a chance, write down all that you envisioned and use your observations to start a new story, to write a poem, or to inform a scene in your novel. Let this exercise take you wherever it wants to go.

Tip: Open your ears. Some of my most successful short stories have been inspired by little bits of dialogue I’ve overheard. Eavesdropping isn’t always a bad thing, and it’s even better when you don’t hear quite enough of a conversation; filling in the blanks with your own imagination is the best part. The next time you’re out and about, prick up your ears and see what you discover.

Prompt: In a café, in your cubicle at work, or waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office, jot down bits of conversation you overhear. Don’t worry about accuracy or context; just write everything down as you hear it (the more random and open to interpretation, the better). Later, when you have time, go over the dialogue and create a poem, story, or scene based on a couple of these lines.

Tip: Just say no—to Facebook. I know I’m not the only writer on Facebook with a slight addiction. (It’s so much easier to hang out on Facebook than to write the eighteenth draft of the same difficult scene, isn’t it?) Yet I also know that this doesn’t do my writing any good, and every once in a while I ban myself from social media for a few days—usually with wonderful, creative results. Give it a try at least one day this week.

Prompt: Write about a day in your life without Facebook (you can write about a real-life, pre-Facebook day in your past, or create a fictional non-Facebook day in your future). As part of this exercise, consider how social media has changed your life in ways big or small, whether it’s changed how you interact with friends and family. Is there anything about your use of social media that you’d like to change? And if so, how might this affect your writing life?

I hope these help get your Monday off to a good, writerly start. Wishing you a great week of writing!

BIO: Midge Raymond is the author of Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life, as well as the short-story collection Forgetting English, which received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship. Midge taught communication writing at Boston University for six years, and she has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers and Seattle’s Richard Hugo House. She currently lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.