Anne Lamott gives some solid advice on writing in this video, much of which is echoed in her book Bird by Bird.
Consistency is key for her. She sits down everyday at the same time to write. Writing is a habit and there is no time to wait for inspiration, she says. Relax. Then start writing.
There’s no agenda, no quota, other than to get something down on paper. She does, however, set mini goals for herself. For example: today I’m going to write about the freeway by my house during rush hour. Vignettes are what she is concerned with, not the overarching film plot.
The most striking line for me was a definition of writing that somehow perfectly captured that whimsical, nostalgic, and mysterious element of creative writing that is entirely unique to the craft.
“Relax into that well of dream material, memory, and imagination,” she says.
Here I saw a different look at the writing process- it is really one of recalling dreams, feelings, and textures that you are familiar with. It is a bit like descending into a well and immersing yourself in your thoughts, and allowing those thoughts to be opened and unstructured in the first place.
I’m all for the “writing as habit” approach. To some extent you can train your brain to get into that creative space just by repetition. Mini goals seem like a good way to go, too. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, after all.
What I wonder though, is what (if any) is the right balance to strike between structureless writing and goal setting? Both are elements in her writing process, but how do you meet a goal with no specific plan in mind? Obviously it can be accomplished, but I would point out that writing in this way goes against conventional goal setting methods.