I don’t know about you all, but while I love writing and feel lucky to be able to be able to pursue my dream of writing and publication, I’m not one of those people who “has to write.” I can procrastinate till the cows come home and then some. There are a million other things I can find to do besides writing. “Gotta check my e-mail.” “Ooohh, there’s an NCIS marathon on TV.” “Must log into Twitter constantly to find out what’s happening with my friends and other cool tweeps.”
It’s not that I don’t want to write. I do. It’s just that writing is damn hard work sometimes, and on the days the muse decides she’s your mortal enemy, it can be frustrating, want-to-tear-out-your-hair-and-bang-your-head-on-the-keyboard impossibly hard work. I am here to tell you first hand that the image of a writer smiling away happily at the keyboard, typing away, with the words flowing smoothly from brain to fingertips to screen all day is inaccurate. Oh, those days do exist, and are to be treasured, but they are rare and elusive, like an endangered species. If you want to write only when you feel like it, when conditions are “perfect”, and you feel “inspired by the muse” you will never finish a book. Writing takes determination, hard work, discipline, and writing even when you don’t feel like it. So here are some tips that have worked for me for those times when I need to write but am “not in the mood.”
- Realize that the point is to write and get words down on the page. Forget about making it perfect the first time around. Nora once famously said, “You can fix a bad page, but not a blank one.”
Truer words were never spoken. This is a piece of advice I’ve really taken to heart. I need to stop letting doubts and insecurities get in the way. And let’s get real. If it’s good enough for La Nora, it’s certainly good enough for little old me, lol. It’s ok that what you’re writing is utter rubbish. The goal is to get the words down, and you can worry about fixing it up and making it all pretty and perfect later. That’s what editing and revisions are for. For me, if I was forced to make it “perfect” the first go-round, I’d end up in a downward spiral and write myself into a paralytic and very negative headspace. Not good. I have to trust that no matter how horrible I think the writing is at the first draft stage, I’ll be able to fix it and make it good. Also, if you are one of those lucky people who can churn out perfect first drafts, the rest of us probably don’t want to know because we’d feel compelled to hate your guts. 😉
- Find out what writing routine works best for you. I find that for me, I work best in short concentrated bursts, with small manageable writing goals each day. I have set a goal of 500-1k every day. That I can do, whereas if I have to write 2,3,4 thousand words a day, it seems monumental, and overwhelming. Some people work best with huge long stretches of time and they can knock out thousands of words each session. I don’t happen to be one of them. I found a system that works for me, which is crucial. Know thyself. You will use your writing time much more effectively if you find your rhythm and schedule your writing routine accordingly.
- Find a support network. One of the best things that’s ever happened to my writing and word count is finding fellow writers on Twitter. I found a lovely group of ladies to “sprint” with. We get together and set a goal of 500 words in 30 minutes. There’s also the longer version “1k1hour” but the shorter 30 minute “sprints” work perfectly for me. Writing can be a lonely business sometimes since it’s just you at your keyboard typing away. It can be very comforting to reach out and have a support of other writers who know and understand what you’re going through. They are there to cheer you on and celebrate when you have a good day and there to sympathize, encourage, and commiserate when you have a bad writing day where you can barely eek out a hundred coherent words. By sprinting, I have folks out there who are holding me accountable for that half hour to keep my butt glued to the chair and to do my best to make and surpass the 500 word goal. The point isn’t whether or not you get the 500 words, the point is that you’re writing. And speaking of accountability……
- Find incentives and rewards that work for you to keep you accountable. Whether it be that bowl of ice cream, watching the TV show you DVR’ed, or finally getting to read that book you’ve been dying to dive into, having a reward to look forward to after a job well done can be incredibly motivating. For example, I used this technique when reading Tessa Dare’s A Lady By Midnight.
- If I made my daily 500-1k word goal for the day, I got to read five chapters. If I didn’t, no ALBM. I have to tell you, it was sheer torture having to put down the book every day, but it was incredibly effective in getting me to make sure I got my writing done for the day.
So, there you have it. My ideas and tips for how to stop procrastinating and keep writing when it gets hard. A quick caveat: these are just my tips and what works for me. Feel free to use, discard, adapt, and disregard this advice as you wish. The point is to get the words on the page, and whatever techniques work for you are the right ones. Everyone is different and what works for me may not necessarily work for you. What’s important is to find what works for you, and keep at it!
What techniques do you use when the muse refuses to cooperate? And have you ever had those wonderful writing days when the words flow and you churn out pages and pages and pages? Do share!