Over the next few weeks I’m blogging a series that I’m calling “Stop Thinking About Writing…And Just Write!” Thinking about writing is easy. When I mention that I’m a writer, people often say, “Oh, I’ve thought about writing a book.” My encouragement to anyone who has had that thought is, stop thinking that. Just do it. Writing can be difficult but it’s worth it to give it a try. So here are some of my thoughts on the process. Six thoughts, actually.
#1: Write Every Day
Make success a habit. I’m going to guess that if you’re interested in writing you have at least some creative aspect to your personality, and the idea of routine might be a bad word to you. It brings up these horrible ideas of stifling boredom and sameness and … blah. I feel all those things. I crave freedom and the ability to do what I want when I want to. And yet, I’ve found that my free spirit flourishes when I give it structure and familiarity and yes, even rules. I have very boring daily obligations that must be met so I try to balance that with times when I can just relax and be me and let my creativity flow. So I challenge you, if you’ve never done it before or even if you have, take a look at your daily activity. How are you spending your time? If one thing that keeps you from writing is never having enough time, where can you make some time? Do you have pockets in your day that you can dedicate to writing? I encourage you to find that time every day. A full hour is always best for me but not always possible. If you can squeeze in half an hour to focus on writing when you wake up, or before you sleep, or at lunch, or after work, or any time in your day, do it. Plan to do it every day. Create the systems you need in order to put that plan in motion. Then, when it’s time, sit down with your computer or your preferred writing apparatus and DO IT. Don’t think, “Look at this free time I have. I should do some errands or chores or make a phone call or check social media or sleep …” NO! You will do those things in your other time. When you carve out writing time, use it for writing. Make a habit of it. Because if you don’t, you are not a writer. You’re a poser. That’s right. I said it. Posers think about writing, and say they want to write, and join Facebook groups about writing, and read blogs about writing, but writers write.
Find what works for you. Create a plan for how and when you will write. When you are planning, don’t forget that important word, Why. Keep your identity and your purpose clear in your mind. Why do you write? Why are you writing what you are writing today? Are there other words you need to get out before you can focus on this project? Keep your goals, objectives, and most importantly, your purpose, clear in your mind so that you can confidently focus on your writing. What you write is part of who you are, and reveals who you are to the world around you. You have something to contribute, a unique voice that no one else has. Find it.
Creating a plan is only one step toward creating the habit of writing. If you start your plan and find it doesn’t work for you, you have permission to make adjustments and find what does work. Before giving up a plan, I do encourage you to really try it out first. It can be tempting to give up on something before you’ve really put an effort into it, especially if you’re feeling nervous or uncertain about it. With anything new, commit to working at it for awhile before deciding it doesn’t work for you. Then if you know it really doesn’t, let it go and try something else.
Stick with it. If you don’t feel like getting up, remind yourself that you’re a writer and that you have to get up and write. If you just want to go to bed, tell yourself to write for half an hour and then you can sleep. If your list of things to do tempts you to skip writing for today, add writing to your to-do list and get it done. Life happens. We can set ourselves up for success but we can’t control everything. We get distracted and interrupted. Illnesses, vacations, and events disrupt our rhythm. We can always find reasons not to write, or at least to put it off for now, but let’s not waste the work we’ve done to determine why we write and give ourselves space to do it. Missing one day of writing might not seem to be a big deal, but what if I skip today and then something comes up tomorrow, and I find something else to do the day after that? That carefully crafted creature of habit is easy to destroy. Skipped days turn into weeks and then we’re back to thinking about writing and not actually doing it.
When it comes to pursuing any goal, including writing, we often get in our own way. It’s important to deal with obstacles and objections and keep going, rather than get sidelined by them. If you do need to step away from your writing for some reason, make yourself a promise that you will get back to it, preferably at a specific day and time. Set reminders, create accountability, take care of whatever it is that is pulling you away, and then come back.
Okay writers, I want to hear from you. But I want you to do something important first. Write something. It can be anything. A poem, a journal, a story, a rant about something that bothered you today, a personal manifesto, a love letter. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be something. The more you do it, the easier it will be. Start your writing habit right now. Take a few minutes and write. Be a writer. And then come back and tell me how it went.