Some days the writing comes easy- I can’t help but write. I scribble ideas and excerpts in the margins at work, on napkins at coffee shops, on scraps in the parking lot. Other days it’s a real battle. (Let’s be honest, most days are like that) I avoid writing till it’s too late and I’m tired; or I sit down and stare at a blank page, frustrated. In those instances, it’s important to set myself up for success by blocking out the things that might break my focus, and using any means to make writing fun and easy, er, easier.
So if this scenario sounds a bit too familiar, here are my own personal five easy steps to a better writing session. Maybe they’ll help!
1) Add Some Allure-
This is going to seem overly obvious, but when I buy things to make writing more fun, I am more likely to write! (crazy, right?!) I think I used to avoid or feel guilty about buying the fancy notebook or the nifty pen because I knew it wasn’t necessary- it certainly wasn’t going to improve my writing. But when you’re going to sink a lot of time and energy into something, you should splurge! Get that leather-bound number with the fancy clasp or the gold-leaf paper and don’t be afraid to fill it with your messy, haphazard first drafts. Get that twenty dollar pen with the luscious purple ink! I even went so far as to drop eighty dollars on a spiffy little Bluetooth keyboard that attaches to my hand-me-down iPad. Now I can edit on the couch without heaving the laptop out of my office, and guess what? I edit more! Take your writing seriously- if you have the money to buy yourself a neat toy, do it! I know I don’t need any of it, but I also know it definitely helps. Make it fun!
2) Do NOT Edit-
I know I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress it enough. When trying to write a first draft, it is imperative that you do not go back and self-edit. I know it’s tempting; it was an incredibly hard habit to break. I, like most writers I’ve met, am a perfectionist. I write something and immediately want to start dissembling it, searching for the perfect word, the ideal phrasing. It absolutely destroys any momentum I’d worked up and progress skids to a halt. I’ve learned that I have to suck it up and push through. Never reread, never look back, no changes or corrections, no matter how small. I have to get that rough draft down and on paper with all its imperfections before I can allow myself to dig in and start pruning and polishing. Editing has to be it’s own separate step or I’ll never finish.
3) Positive Reinforcement-
Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, my writing sessions naturally occupy the same space as my free time. That means writing is directly competing with my more frivolous, effortless hobbies. (video games, reading, youtube, pointlessly wandering the internet, etc) This means the only way to ensure writing actually takes place is to do it first. I don’t allow myself to do anything unproductive until I’ve gotten something on paper. And the times I haven’t done this are proof of its effectiveness- If I let myself play before I work, I’m far more likely to see a big fat zero on my daily word count. So I let all my other hobbies become rewards for writing. I draw a lot of my inspiration from what I’m reading and what I’m playing, so these hobbies are actually an important part of the creative process, so long as they don’t encumber that process. Write first, play later.
4) One Small Step At A Time-
After work, the commute, feed the pets, dinner, clean-up, and whatever else life throws at me, there’s often not a ton of time left in the day. Sometimes I only have ten minutes of writing in me before I feel burnt out and desperately need to enter the wind-down stage of my evening. And I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that. I set a monthly word goal that breaks down into small, bite-sized daily sessions; but some days I can’t even muster up enough creative energy to make those meager goals. So long as something, anything, hits the page each day, I’m happy. And I still sometimes miss days entirely. Which is less happy. But each and every day is a new start and a new chance, and I can’t carry those failures with me- they’ll only weigh me down. I have to keep moving forward, one little step at time. Which means tiny writing sessions nestled in the nooks and crannies of my daily life.
5) Stay Focused-
Even when I’ve successfully willed myself to sit down at my desk or hide away with a notebook, distraction still threatens to disrupt my work. Music is a must so I always have a pair of headphones handy. (I talk about my theory for selecting writing music here.) Then there’s the ever-present lure of the internet. When I’m on my laptop, I turn off my wifi. Since I use my phone to listen to music, it’s always near me while I write, tempting me. To solve that issue, I use the app Forest. I highly recommend it- not only does it lock me out of my apps while not disrupting my music, but it also serves as a handy little timer for my session. (Plus I get to grow a cute little forest of productivity, so bonus)
And that’s how I do it! I hope some of this stuff helps. Happy writing and good luck!