The Act of Writing

Alright, so our lovely Michelle is on vacation this week, so I’m filling in. I want to talk about the actual act of writing.

If you’re a writer–professional, aspiring, or anywhere in between–then you’ve probably read an advice column/blog post/book or two on writing. More than likely, those pieces of advice all had one thing in common: in order to be a writer, one must write.

Which is absolutely true.

But I think, sometimes, that people–especially new writers–get bogged down in the act of writing. We all know that we need to write. We even have a vague idea as to how. And yet, the act of just getting your butt in the chair and get to work is, well, difficult.

And yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.

But unless you actually get your butt in that chair (or couch or balance ball or wherever it is you like to perch on in order to spill out your words), you’re not really going to do any writing. So, as a person who can have an incredibly difficult time of convincing herself that she needs to actually work on her projects, I have compiled a list of ways I have managed to successfully get myself into my chair in order to write. Some of them may work for you. Some of them may not. I’ve added in my two cents on what I think of them, but at always, your mileage may vary. Try them out at your leisure, and let me know whatever more tricks you have personally come up with along the way.

1) Daily Word Count Goals. Daily word count goals to can incredibly helpful to keep you returning to your seat day after day. However, sometimes there are days that I can barely squeeze out half of the goal, and spend a good deal of time fretting that I haven’t written enough.

2) Daily Writing Time. If achieving a set word count every day isn’t working for you, you may want to try moving to a writing time allotment method instead. Tell yourself that you are going to sit at your desk and write for 45 minutes (or however long is reasonable for your lifestyle) every day. Some days you’ll produce a lot of words, other days you may spend more time “brewing,” which is okay and just as necessary as writing, especially if you a particular tricky scene or plot point coming up in whatever project you’re working on. However, if you find yourself doing more time “thinking” than writing, you may want to move back to a daily word count method.

3) Scheduled writing time. If writing everyday isn’t going to work for your lifestyle, or if you’re are generally busy throughout the week except for specific days, you may want to try scheduling a time to write. Maggie Stiefvater has mentioned a few times on her tumblr blog before that she wrote her first novel entire on Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm. 2 hours a week was the only thing she could afford to give up in her busy schedule, but she was able to make it work for her and finish her manuscript. Of course, this means that you really have to make sure that writing you get done in those small bits of scheduled time count.

4) Deadlines. Deadlines are, by far, the scariest beast I have ever tackled. However, they do end up working. If I set a hard deadline for a project, especially if I have engaged the help of a friend to ask me on said deadline for my work (whether they read it or not), I feel obligated to deliver. And this helps. Granted, it may lead to procrastination for the first few days (weeks, months) and then furious writing as your deadline looms ever closer, but your project will, more than likely, get done. Also, if your goal is to become a published, semi-or-fully professional author, you will be living in an entire world of deadlines, so you might as well get used to dealing with the beasts, now, right? Just make sure that whatever self imposed deadlines you have placed on yourself are realistically achievable, or else you’ll just get panicked and frustrated when you keep breaking them.

And finally:

5) Rewards. Name an arbitrary goal, achieve it, and reward yourself. This one, of course, can and should be combined with every method above, because even the smallest of goals met ought to be celebrated. And the larger the goal achieved, the larger the celebration! Word of caution: do not reward yourself early. I have played this game with myself, and it never works. Make sure that you only get your celebratory treat after you actually accomplish the work, or else your work won’t ever get done. Believe me, this one comes right from personal experience.

Feel free to combine these in any way that works for you. Sometimes people can find a method that works their entire career, and sometimes each project you start will require a different motivational goal in order to accomplish it. Mix and match, and see what works for you. And if you have any suggestions as to ways to get yourself writing routinely, please let me know in the comments.

Now write!

– Eris


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