I’d like to say I have a reason for not posting anything last week, but… I don’t. So, to try and make up for it, this:
Today, ironically, I would like to give you some tips for writing even when you don’t want to write. Just a small disclaimer: as you can probably guess, these things don’t always work for me, and not all tips and tricks work for everybody. But here you go anyway — my ten top tips for getting that chapter, essay, or blog post done…
- Use this thing. It’s great for organising the stuff you need to do, and the idea of your health leeching away if you don’t do something can sometimes be a good motivator. If nothing else, it lets you see what you have for that day that you want to accomplish.
- This one is for if you’re blocked, and it probably sounds obvious and annoying — write something else. It might not help you get that chapter you need to write done, you might never use what you just wrote, and it might seem like a complete waste of time, but it isn’t. The fact is, you’re still writing, still being productive; if you wrote nothing because you couldn’t write what you were supposed to be writing and didn’t want to waste time on something else, you’d find yourself making the same mistake over and over again. Trust me, I’ve done it. If, for example, you’re like me and are endeavouring to write every single day, then establishing that habit is important. Not only that, it can be tough. But if you write something that you enjoy writing, at least at first, you’ll find that it becomes part of your routine, and the idea of not writing anything at all, let alone important things, fills you with guilt. Which brings me onto my next point.
- Guilt is a good motivator. It makes you feel pretty shit, but it works. If you’re not getting done what you want to get done, try telling people that you need to get it done. Tell your friends to hound you about it endlessly. Tell them to threaten you with violence. Perhaps not that last one.
- Dangle a carrot in front of your nose. This very second, I am writing only because I feel bad about not posting last week and because doing this makes me feel productive, being productive makes me feel good, and if I feel good I won’t feel guilty about watching Death Note for the next five hours. Find something you enjoy (that doesn’t involve work, so you’re less likely to shirk it just as you do writing) and only allow yourself to do it after you’ve done a set amount of work.
- Put music on. It may be just me, but, when I decide that I need to do something, turning music on really helps. It switches me from messing-about-on-the-internet z0ne to get-something-done zone. Plus, singing along to it can be a useful but not timeywimey-costly. Again, seamlessly onto my next point (you’d think I planned this stuff).
- Let yourself breathe. And I don’t mean this literally (although you do need to allow yourself to push air through your lungs — in fact, it’s almost imperative). If you’re anything like me, you can’t just keep on going non-stop for an hour or so — you need to take breaks. For me (when I’m being disciplined) this means focussing on my music or staring into space thinking of what I might write next… or what I’m having for dinner. Anything that catches my fancy at the time.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. This one could also be classed as ‘don’t set unrealistic goals’. We all know you’re lazy, and being productive is difficult. While it’s easy to berate yourself for all the things you haven’t done, you need to focus on what you have done, because that is pretty damn awesome — you’ve written a killer first line/paragraph/chapter/draft/plan/character breakdown/novel. Be proud of it.
- Don’t give up. So the sentence you just wrote sounds terrible. So your characters have flung themselves off the tightrope paths you meticulously planned for them, and everything is downhill from here. So what? You can always change things later; for now, just keep on scribbling.
- Be action man/woman/being. Right now, I’m researching to try and betterify the first draft I wrote. To be fair to myself, I have done quite well with my researching… but it’s not getting anything done with the novel. Stop thinking about all the ways it could go wrong, all the things that you need to think about first, and get going! A watched kettle never boils and a thought-of/meticulously-planned-out novel can’t write itself.
- Stop reading this and get going! What are you doing? I told you to be a creature of action, and you can’t do that while sat here reading this. As soon as inspiration strikes, run for your laptop or pad of paper and get going! If you put it off until you’ve done this and that or that and this and also that thing you meant to do yesterday, you’ll never get round to it! Go go go — and good luck!