I’ve been zooming through writing my novel lately and I thought I’d share some tips to my readers (as always) on how I’ve managed to keep the pace up these past couple of weeks. Remember, it’s not about “talent” necessarily, or having a “magical” fairy sprinkle fairy dust on your laptop, and then suddenly everything clicks and you’re no longer a blocked writer. No, it’s about having as many tools at your disposal and maximizing your resources to get your novel going. So, let’s get to it.
You’ve managed to put aside everything that was getting in your way, and somehow you’ve found yourself writing again and keeping up with a consistent schedule. But you’re starting to panic. This can’t last very long, you think. I’m gonna get blocked again! Don’t you worry, my writer friend. Here are my 10 tips on how you can stay on the writer’s fast track, once you’re on it:
10. Don’t Stop. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOP WRITING. Even if the slightest thought comes into your mind that says: Eh, why don’t I just skip one day? What’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is that you’ll stop writing and will have trouble starting again. So, unless there is some emergency, do not skip a day in your writing routine! If you keep a 5 days a week 5 hours a day schedule, keep it that way. Don’t go over or under. Why? Because you’ll throw yourself off-balance. Why will you throw yourself off-balance? Because the writing routine you have set for yourself is actually working for you. Why change it? Which brings us to…
9. Keep Doing What You Are Doing. This might seem obvious, but when it comes to our own lives sometimes we can suffer from tunnel vision. We fail to see how the way we live today was any different from the way we were living yesterday. But if we examine our past carefully, we can see that we have made some slight (if not radical) changes to our lives that have now allowed us to write with renewed vigor and consistency. We tried meditation, or exercise, or therapy because we thought it would help us be more creative. Now that we are more creative we credit our luck instead of our ability to be proactive. But it isn’t luck that’s helped you. You actually did something right. The way you are living your life now is fruitful for your writing, so whatever you do, don’t change what you’re already doing!
8. Cultivate Trust In Yourself. If you are writing consistently, it’s probably because you have grown trust in yourself already. Keep that up. Keep trusting your talent, choice of career, your decision to spend time writing. Keep a guard out for those nagging doubts, those negative, self-defeating thoughts. If you find yourself bogged down by self-loathing, just turn to those negative thoughts and do what I do, tell them to SHUT UP. Say: “You’re not helping me, so leave me alone! Today is going to be a good writing day, and I’m not going to let YOU ruin that for ME!”
7. Leave Room for Breaks. In this world where workoholics are consistently enabled, it’s hard to be the voice of reason and a healthy lifestyle. Let me remind you that even though you are a writer, you are not a machine. You may be your own boss at this point in your life, but that still doesn’t mean you are allowed to break every labor law. Give yourself the weekend off at least. You need time to rest.
6. Cultivate Your Love for Writing. Yes. Your love for writing needs to be cultivated. I’m starting to learn that if you hate writing, chances are you are not doing it right. I say this with all due respect, and with full acknowledgment that I’ve hated writing many times. What I have learned is that you won’t keep up a consistent schedule unless you really cultivate a love for what you are doing. That includes a love for your novel. What helps me is always reminding myself that I am the VERY FIRST reader that I need to please. That puts me in the mindset of writing something that would be fun, something I would love to read. If I want to cultivate hatred for my writing, then all I have to do is write the novel I think my future agent would want to represent, or my future publisher would want buy. That mindset makes writing everyday a pain. So take my advice, and don’t do it.
5. Stop Playing The Writer’s Self-Deprecation Card. “I am soo irresponsible. I am so out of the box. I’m so not structured like everyone else. I’m soo weird, etc. etc. etc.” I hate to break it to you, friend. You are not irresponsible. Nope. You are taking big risks to follow your dream in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. That doesn’t sound irresponsible to me at all. You live outside of the box? You’re weird? Nope. There are hundreds of people out there just like you, doing what you are doing, loving writing as much as you do, and are exactly as scared as you are that someone might find that out about them. That doesn’t make you weird. It makes you pretty normal.
Oh, and the no-structure thing? You have got to be kidding me. My friend D just pointed this out to me the other day. She said that writers are the most structured people in the world. Why? Uh, you have to be pretty darned structured to sit down for years on end to write a novel and then wait until it gets published. Writers have no institutional structure overseeing them, so they often have to establish their own individual structure to accomplish their goals. Establishing your own structure is so much harder than working with a pre-established way of doing things. So, you might say you’re a crazy, careless artist that no one understands, but sorry, bro. No one is buying it. Instead of all that self-deprecating talk, why not give yourself the props you deserve?
4. Delete Your Facebook and Twitter Account.* That’s right. I said it. It’s a waste of time. You need to minimize distractions, and give more time to your novel.
“But how am I supposed to establish my web persona, and get all social networky? Isn’t that the wave of the future?”
Relax. I didn’t say give up ALL of your social networks. Just the one’s that are a MAJOR waste of your time. Obviously, I didn’t delete my blog and I don’t plan on it. Why? Because blogging is actually useful. I end up networking with other writers, and really that’s the only kind of networking I should be doing anyway. So spend less time facebooking and tweeting and more time making new writing friends across the blogosphere. Hey, you might not only make new friends who understand you and actually take the time to get to know you, but they might actually end up inspiring you and teaching you something you didn’t know. It happens to me all the time.
3. Increase Your Seriousity. I’m introducing a lot of new concepts here, but hey, why not? I coined a word: Seriousity. It sounds cooler than it really is. Seriousity is the level to which you take your career seriously (and by “career” I mean exclusively your dream career, not your “back-up” career, or the career your parents wanted you to have.) Increase your Seriousity by telling everyone you know about your passion, even complete strangers. When they ask you what you do, tell them that you are a writer. Make every action you take that relates to work correspond at all times to your career as a writer. Let that new guy or gal you’re dating know that you are a writer, and defend yourself if they snicker–and don’t call them back when they ask you for that second date. Let the people you work with know you are a writer. Finally, if the time is right, dedicate yourself full-time to the pursuit.
2. Set Small Achievable Goals. The smaller the better. You finally got that paragraph right? CONGRATULATIONS! Let’s break out the champagne! No need to wait until the novel is finished. Every time you finish a chapter, send yourself a note of encouragement, congratulate yourself on how far you have come. Note each little step as a CRUCIAL part of the overall goal. Make it easy for you to win. The more you reward yourself and the more you feel you have accomplished, the more willing you are to keep working.
1. Always Keep Your Balance. This is probably the theme of all 10 tips. Keep your balance. Make sure your mind is at peace, your body is healthy, your relationships are attended to–make sure every part of you is golden. You’re the captain of this ship, after all. If you can’t tell the difference between North and South then not only will you be lost, but your novel will be lost, too. So keep the ship steady by keeping yourself balanced.
Good luck to you, and I’ll see you at the finish line!
*I have since changed my mind about this. Keep your Facebook and Twitter accounts, but only use them for professional purposes and as an extension of your blog if you have one. For instance, use it to inform your readers about a special up-and-coming post they might be interested in reading. A “personal” or “private” Facebook and Twitter account I still do not recommend, however.
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