Sometimes I’m hanging out, probably doing something mindless like playing The Sims or listening to music while I do dishes or something and the urge to write a particular scene sneaks up and propels me to the computer. And then I type like a maniac and when I look over what I’ve done, it’s genius. It brings tears to my own eyes. I’m sure that’s happened to everyone– you blackout and come to and see that you’ve written the most genius scrap of fiction of your life.
But most of the time, you probably get all geared up for writing, sit down and freeze up. Everyone is afraid of a blank page. Hell, I’m even more afraid of pages with stuff written on them, because I’m afraid what I’m about to add is going to somehow completely ruin everything! It’s especially hard for me to edit and change stuff I’ve already written because I’m afraid of the repercussions– whether it be that I write something so stupid that it ruins everything or I write something so good that I realize I now have to rewrite my whole novel to make that perfect section work with the rest of the story.
But being a writing means getting past these pitfalls. So here are some ways I get myself geared up to write, followed by some ways I avoid being avoidant.
- Get a ritual. You probably have a ritual you act out every night before bed: eat a snack, watch an episode of your favorite anime, brush your teeth, shower, read, etc. It signals your brain that it’s time to get sleepy. So come up with a ritual for what you’ll do before you write to tell your brain it’s time to be creative. My ritual is to get a Special Beverage. No, not whiskey. I either make a fresh pot of coffee, brew some peppermint tea or heat up a cup of apple cider. I do the same thing when I’m about to play a video game or read. It’s like telling my brain that it’s time to have some self indulgent me time. After a while, whatever ritual you chose will start to have the same effect on you. Plus, it just makes your writing time feel more planned and orderly and it kind of eases you into the process.
- Take care of business. Run to the bank, get dinner started, let your dog out to poop: do whatever you can to ensure you’ll have a little bit of uninterrupted writing time.
- Listen to music. Have a playlist set up just for whatever project you’re working on. Add songs who’s lyrics inspire you and music that reflects the mood of your piece. A lot of what I listen to is moody and melodramatic because that’s what my writing is like, but I’ve been inspired by silly pop songs too, so don’t limit yourself or try to be cool. Put headphones on so no one will know that you’re inspired by Katy Perry or Third Eye Blind. Music will help you visualize your scenes and it will also block out distracting stuff that’s going on around you. If you don’t have an iPod or you don’t own the music you want to listen to check out Spotify.com, Playlist.com or Pandora.com for free streaming music. If you’re not sure what kind of music to listen to, think of a movie or video game that’s similar in mood to what you’re writing and check out the soundtrack. The song ‘The Kraken’ from PotC 2 always helps me write climatic scenes and awesome character introductions.
- If you need a bit of help getting inspired and the music isn’t doing it, read a few pages of a book that inspires you or watch clips from movies. There has to be some TV show or movie or novel that you desperately wish you’d written; that makes you hungry to put your own stories on paper. You might just need to remind yourself why you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Just don’t get caught up and forget that you’re supposed to be writing.
- Get a folder together on your computer of images that inspire you. They’ll help you envision characters and image scenery much more vividly. If you don’t know where to look, check out deviantart.com and flickr.com for starters.
- Be comfortable. I love writing in the bathtub. Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve never sunk a laptop. When I’m not in the tub, I like to sit in a clean room, in nice clothes, with my hair done and make up on. Don’t ask me why. I just have to feel prepared for the day before I can get anything done. But if you’re more comfortable in sweats and a ponytail, then do what you’ve got to do. Write wherever you feel happiest– outside, at a coffee shop, in your sun room, or (if you’re lucky enough to have one) in your home office.
- Get off of Facebook. Turn off your phone. Don’t be Googling ‘funny cats’ instead of working.
- Read over stuff you’ve already written. If you’re working on a long term project, read over the last chapter and make some corrections. I bet that before you know it, you’ll be writing.
- Write the fun stuff. Don’t force yourself to write a scene you’re not feeling. I promise, there will come a day when you feel like adding in all the exposition needed to propel the storyline, so don’t force yourself to do it now if you’re tingling to write something else. I like writing emotional confrontations; that is my absolute favorite. But I used to make myself hold off because I didn’t want to spend all my time writing fun scenes and nothing else. Now I wish I’d written those scenes when I was feeling most passionate about them, because I don’t always have the emotional energy to do it. So, if you’re feeling sexy, write a love scene. If you’re sad, write depressing dribble. And don’t make yourself write your story in order from first page to last. You can patch scenes together as you go.
And to avoid giving up before you start:
- Don’t be worried about what’s going on around you. Let your family known that you’re not just goofing around on the internet: you are writing and you’d prefer to be uninterrupted. If you’re sitting in the living room with your hubby or sister or roommates, don’t look at the TV or try to listen to what everyone’s saying. Put your headphones on and focus. You can watch TV and socialize later.
- I often get discouraged by my writing at the get go and give up. I decide I’d rather do something fun than torment myself by trying to write when everything my fingers type is garbage. If you feel like this too, the only advice I can give is keep writing. A lot of times it takes about ten to fifteen minutes to get over hump. The first few paragraphs you write might be awkward or overloaded, but give yourself a chance to get warmed up.
- Do a warm up: If you’re having trouble getting started do a journal entry, write a poem, draw up a quick review of a book you read– anything to get yourself into writing mode.
- If you’re getting interrupted constantly, don’t give up. We all have real lives and responsibilities outside of being a writer. Most of us can’t dedicate 8 hours a day to writing– and if we could, we probably wouldn’t want to anyway. Just write when you can– in little spurts if that’s all you can mange. People have written entire novels on the bus ride to and from work. Don’t say ‘I’ll write this book when I have more time.’ You will never have more time. The older you get, the more responsibilities you have and your personal time will shrink to next to nothing. Write your story now! Wake up an hour before work and write (True story: when I was a kid I got up at 5 every morning to type my story on a word processor before school. I wish I still had that kind of initiative.) Write on your break at work. Write in the ten minutes before you pick the kids up from school. Just sneak in the time where you can and don’t make yourself feel guilty because you had to stop and fix dinner or go to the movies with friends. Social, work and family obligations are all valid reasons not to be writing, so don’t let yourself get frustrated when your writing time gets compromised. Just remember that writing a little is better than not writing at all.
- Set goals, but don’t be outrageous. I did Nanowrimo and won but I can tell you that writing roughly 1600 words a day is a bummer and it’s not something I could manage all the time. I got my book written by making it my goal to write 600 words a day and believe me, I wasn’t anywhere near perfect about adhering to my plan. Make your goals realistic. You know how much you can handle. If you set the bar too high, you’re likely to give up because you can’t attain your own standard. If all you can manage is 3oo words, three days a week, it might take you a while to get your book finished, but it will get done.
And if you completely fail at all of this, just remember: