I’m amending my promise of putting out new posts every week. My new promise is you’ll get them whenever I give them to you. I think a big part of my problem was the pressure. Every Friday would dawn with no words written and then I would stress. And we know how stress leads to performance anxiety which leads to no writing.
These last few weeks I've also been very busy with house projects, prepping for National Novel Writing Month, and dealing with health issues. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I want to talk about that today. I’ve mentioned before how helpful NaNoWriMo can be for writers who are easily distracted or tend to procrastinate. The trick to why it works for many is that it doesn’t give you a chance to stop to second guess yourself. If you want to make the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, you don’t have time to waste. You also don’t have time to procrastinate. And since it has an exiting deadline and a built-in community of accountability, it is a fun, motivational tool for writers. It works great for me. I don’t always produce anything worth keeping, but that’s okay. It’s really about motivating you to show up and just write. It’s about getting yourself to stick to a regular writing habit. And if you stick with it, you’ll see that you can squeeze a writing habit into even the most harried schedules.
If you’ve taken up the challenge or thinking about it (there’s still time to jump on board!), here are a few tips and tricks that help me.
Maybe you already use this trick when you know you’re not going to have a lot of time in the mornings or need to catch an early plane. I’ve been working on this with my son for his school stuff. Set out what you need the night before, so all you have to do is grab and go. Nothing slows momentum down faster than having to spend time looking for your necessary items. Even if you plan on writing at home make sure you’re writing tools are ready to go. Charge up your laptop, make sure your keyboard is at full battery, have your notebook and favorite pens at the ready. Pack a bag of snacks and other creature comforts, so you have no excuse to wander away or become distracted. I keep a writing travel bag stocked with hair ties, lotion, lip balm, gum, etc. to keep sensory distractions from keeping me from being at my best.
Remove Yourself From Distractions
This works for some and not others, but it is very necessary for me. If I try to write at home, it’s all too easy to let myself get up for a dance party break or lie to myself about only watching a half hour of Netflix as a “reward” (spoiler, I never stick to my half hour limit). Another hazard for me when writing at home is that suddenly my usual aversion to house cleaning and organizing suddenly seems to vanish and I find matching socks to be the most pressing thing to do at that moment.
I take my writing travel bag, a non-distracting playlist (I love writing to The Hobbit soundtrack because there are no words to throw off my train of thought), my phone, and portable keyboard. I leave my laptop home to prevent the sudden burning need to organize my photos or clean up my desktop rather than write. You’ll have to find what works best for you. I use to bring a tablet with me that only had Ulysses on it and nothing else - no social media, no email, no Google. It worked great but has since become too outdated for Ulysses (*shakes fist at Ulysses*). Now I just write on my phone and control my playtime on it with the Pomodoro Method.
Use The Pomodoro
I talk about this so much because it works. I use it for everything from picking up my house to folding laundry. Set a timer for an amount that appeals to you, typically 20-25 minutes, and then just write for that amount of time. Sometimes having too much time to write can be as detrimental as too little. An entire day off is full of possibility, and many of us tend to push writing off for either more fun activities or a more pressing to-do list. And then there’s the hurdle of a blank. Where do you start? Having an urgent deadline of 25 minutes can be just the kick in the pants you need to get over those obstacles and get into writing. I also use this method to give myself breaks or to get settled in my writing spot. Depending on how much time I have to spare, I’ll let myself goof around on my phone for 20 minutes before I start writing. Rewards are great, but sometimes I have to get the fun stuff out of my system before I can get to work.
Get A Buddy
Find an online writing friend at NaNoWriMo.org or connect with someone at you local Write-Ins. If nothing else, ask a non-writing friend to check in on you once in a while to keep you accountable. A little bit of pressure from an external source can help keep you motivated when you struggle to keep yourself on track. Write-Ins are extremely helpful for me because just the energy of writing with other writers pushes me on. I tend to write so much more when I’m writing with a group than when I write solo. Don’t mistake this for a collaborative effort. Everyone works on their own projects, and there is little to no socializing. It works because I’m less apt to slack off when everyone else around me is hard at work. It’s a form of positive peer pressure that encourages good behavior.
Even if you have nothing to write about, just write. The story will come, the muse will appear, you just have to be consistent. Easier said than done, trust me, but it really works. This is the one Golden Rule, Secret Trick, Magic Spell of writing that every new writer is desperate to get their hands on. Every successful author gets asked for the secret to how to get where they are, and the answer is so painfully simple. Just write. Write terrible. Write whatever nonsense comes into your head. Write out the rushing streams of consciousness that randomly pops into your head. Write out all the things you should be doing instead of writing. Write out all the reasons you deserve to be writing instead of all those other reasons. Eventually, the writer inside you will take over, and a story or essay or memoir will appear. It will get easier and faster the more you do this so in the beginning it will feel like you’re just wasting time but keep at it. If you write, then you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing just that you keep writing.
Good luck, Writer!