The constant struggle for me as a writer is the fact that while I love writing and want to make it my career I will also do just about anything to avoid actually writing. For a long time, I assumed this was something unique to me. That I was broken somehow and doomed to have big dreams that I constantly sabotage.
However, I eventually learned this is a pretty common problem for writers, both new writers and established professional writers. I’ve listened to and read interviews with published authors talking about how hard it can be for them to write sometimes and I instantly felt a sense of relief. I vividly remember thinking “Whew. It’s not just me.”
Once I discovered that other writers have this problem, it made me realize that there must be a way to overcome it otherwise these established writers would never have published a book in the first place. The last six months have been a series of false starts as I’ve learned through trial and error how I am able to make myself write. Right now I’m on a roll and I think I’ve found a route to constant, sustainable writing success.
With that in mind, I would like to share some tips on how to make yourself write that go beyond the pedantic “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard” advice I often see thrown around.
Surround Yourself With Other Writers
This is a kind of difficult one but I have found it to be completely essential to my writing. We often have this picture of what it means to be a writer where the writer exists in a vacuum, cranking out works of literary genius. I’m sure for some people it does work that way but it definitely does not work that way for all of us. I need support, I need encouragement, and I need someone to understand what I’m going through.
I know we all have busy lives and it can be hard to physically meet with other writers. Thankfully we have technology to help us out. There are numerous writing communities on the internet. The #WritingCommunity on twitter is an active, positive community where you can see plenty of other writers are in the trenches with you. There are also various writing forums for different genres which let you interact with people within your niche.
The other thing that has helped me is listening to writing podcasts (specifically Writing Excuses). Hearing people talk about their craft and their writing process always makes me feel inspired to write. It also provides a decent dose of guilt if I haven’t been writing lately and—thanks to my religious background—I find guilt to be a good motivator.
If you really want to meet up with other writers in person there are a couple ways to find other writers.
*Find and attend local writing conferences
*Take a writing class
*Check your local library, they often have writing groups
*Websites like meetup.com or craigslist.
Establish A Routine
Nothing is more likely to ensure that I won’t write than when I tell myself “I’ll write later”. I am a natural procrastinator so I need structure to keep me on track. The biggest change in my writing productivity has been the routine I’ve set for myself. For me, a routine is more than just making yourself write every day or meeting a specific word count. My routine is about getting in the right head space in order to trick my brain into writing. Here’s my writing routine:
* Take a walk around the block
* Make a French press of coffee
* Put on a specific playlist for whatever I’m writing
* Get to work
It’s not a super complicated routine, but by doing those things each time before I sit down to write I am telling my brain “Okay, you’re going to have to write soon”. That walk around the block is basically my commute to work. It lets me think about whatever I’m going to work on that day in a low pressure environment (namely not having to stare at a blank page). When I sit down in my office, coffee in hand, I get to jump straight into writing.
Give Yourself Options
A good trick I have found to help myself is to have more than one project going at different stages. Right now I have a novel I’m writing, a short story I am outlining, and a novella I’m editing. If I sit down at the computer to write on my novel and realize the words just aren’t flowing, I can jump over to my short story outline and work on that. It seems counterintuitive that if you’re having trouble writing you should give yourself more work but the variety has helped me tremendously.
As always, it’s important to remember that what works for one writer will not necessarily work for all writers. These are the tricks have worked for me specifically but I hope there are others out there who can get some value from it.
Good luck with your writing!