I recently returned to homeschooling my daughter after taking a couple of years off to write full time. As I studied “teaching tips” from various homeschool groups, I realized that much of their advice would be helpful to writers trying to increase their word count or improve their craft.
Here are a few homeschool tips I found useful in my writing life:
You get more done if you start out with a plan. I’m not talking about boring outlines or the dreaded synopsis here. In writing, I have always been a pantser. But it helps to start off the day with a realistic idea of what can be accomplished and the determination to reach that goal.
The same thing can be said for writing a scene. Writers often seem to write several unnecessary paragraphs “warming up” or setting the stage before they get to the heart of a scene. Since those paragraphs are almost always cut in editing, it’s worth taking a moment to think about scene goals before writing.
They’ll remember what stands out from the ordinary. It’s better to do hands-on research than to read a textbook. Take a field trip. Meet an expert. When writing, go for the big scenes, but pay attention to the telling details.
Tackle the important topics first. Things that are scheduled for late in the day don’t always get finished. Start with what’s hard or important, and save the easier tasks for when your brain is fried.
Persistence pays. Just as no new student learns an entire year’s curriculum in one day, no writer becomes a published author overnight. It’s recommended that homeschool students put in 900 hours per year. The average writer needs to make a similar time commitment in order to learn their craft.
Exercise is important. Get up. Run around. Go outside. You’ll feel energized and get more done.
Sometimes you need to take a reading day. In writing, as in homeschooling, there are days when the plan just won’t work. Maybe the words aren’t flowing or you’re not feeling 100%. Don’t feel bad if all you can manage is a reading day. We all need down time to process what we’ve learned. Just make sure you get back to work as soon as you’re recharged.
Snuggle often. The joys of homeschooling and writing are remarkably similar. What other jobs can you do in your pajamas with your loved ones close at hand? As writers, it’s easy to get caught up in the work and neglect family time. Don’t miss out on the greatest perk in our chosen career, staying home with out families.
Keep in touch with your friends. Homeschoolers know the importance of avoiding social isolation. Buried under our manuscripts and rejections letters, writers need support too. A weekly coffee date with friends can be the perfect way to jumpstart your writing.
Does your day job teach you anything about writing? I would love to hear your stories of writing lessons learned in unexpected places.