Make a date with yourself. Yes, I know your schedule is jam-packed. But you deserve a writing rendezvous with yourself. We owe ourselves some creative, meaningful time in our lives. So make a date and keep it. Oh, and show up on time.
- Right brain. Right time. Is there a time of day when you’re naturally more whimsical, more in tune with your inner or imaginative self? First thing in the morning? Last thing at night? Right after your morning yoga? Immediately after your lunchtime jog? Sitting at your son’s hockey practice? If there’s a time when you believe that writing will come more easily, make this your daily writing time.
- A clean, well-lit place: It doesn’t have to be a custom-designed artist studio with an ocean view. But your daily writing spot needs to make you feel comfortable and happy, and it needs to match your personality. Even if it’s just a table in the corner of your shared bedroom, this spot should make you feel free to be yourself. It should fit the creative you. At a minimum, make sure that your writing spot is free of any negative associations or memories.
- Tell your family or friends. You may want to be a mystery writer, but you don’t have to a mysterious writer. Because it’s a new surprising side of you, because it’s a new personal that your family may not have encountered before, you may be shy about saying to your family, “I’ve started writing.” Quite simply, it may make you feel vulnerable. Or you may feel that it sets some kind of expectation for blockbusters or huge advances, or that you’ll start to walk around talking to yourself. Or you may fear that your friends and family will see this as time away from them or a set of shirked household duties. Actually it will. Beginning a writing life means sacrificing or cutting back on other things, including your social life. But share your writing dream with your family, friends, or roommates. A real friend will support you. A fake friend will laugh, tease, condescend, or try to discourage you. Or worse, these friends or family will make it all about them (“but what about our Thursday night movie?”). Believe me, every writer needs a cheerleader or two or three. Also, rearranging your schedule to find some writing time will require the support and cooperation of the other people in your household.
- Same time. Same place. Set up a place where the writing is going to happen. By going to that same spot with the same view and smells and general feel, you give yourself some sensual and spatial prompts to start writing. Yes, we’re Pavlovian creatures, and this is especially true in writing. “Oh right,” you think, as you sit in that plastic seat inside your usual window at McDonald’s. “I’m here. So it must be time to write.”
- Switch off all electronic communication. Take this as fact: e-mail, iPhones, Blackberries, text messaging, and any other electronic-messaging system are the enemies of writing. First, all that time spent reading and responding to messages eats into yours precious writing time. And second, those bleeps and pings and newsy e-mails distract you into completely different mental space—a place far away from your writing mind. However hard it is, even if you are chained to your work or personal electronic device, switch it off. All those messages will be there when your writing time is over and complete.
- Write naked: Say a prayer to the writing gods. Develop a prewriting ritual that works for you—even if it means wearing a Stetson hat or writing naked (not in McDonald’s, please!).
- Set a daily quota or word count. As you look at that calendar or day planner, you may automatically allot a time to writing—a half hour or fifteen minutes or an hour. This works in terms of finding and assigning a regular writing time. But when I’m starting a new project or a first draft, this never works for me. Quite simply, it’s just too easy to say, “I spent a half hour at my writing desk today.” But that half hour doesn’t count if half of it was spent checking the online headlines or just gazing at the computer screen. Make your writing slot work. Set a word quota.
- Praise! Alleluia! Keep a little calendar about your desk or, at the end of your writing session, open up your online calendar or online to-do lists to record today’s completed word count. It will serve as a time sheet—and a rewards system to praise yourself for your excellent discipline.
- Allow yourself to write badly: At least for the early drafts, you need to just write. If you stop to judge, edit, delete, and rewrite, you will be spending all your time playing reader or critic, not writer. Trust me, you and your work will have enough critics later when you finish your final draft and put it out there for public consumption. But for now, for these early drafts, be gentle with yourself. Love your writing. And above all, trust where it’s going.
As writers, we are horribly, horribly hard on ourselves. We stop too often to censure, edit, and worry what the readers, the publishers, or the critics might think. Love yourself. Give yourself a break. Keep writing.
Credit: Writer’s Digest