Sometimes it’s hard

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Readers here at MW have heard before that writing is a job. If you want to write professionally, you need to treat your writing as a business. Which means you show up to “work” every day–aka you get your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. But as much as we say that, the truth is, writing is very different from most jobs. In most other professions, it is possible to “ride the clock,” to show up, answer demands with the answers you’ve been taught in school or through experience. You can’t do that with writing.

You show up to your writing job and you have to create something new and exciting from nothing. Sure, we have craft skills to fall back on, maybe an established series with characters, and even an outline–but every time we sit down we have to create. Let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard to face everyday. Any number of things can get in the way of writing, everything from busy schedules to stress or doubt.

So how do we overcome those things and spend our writing time productively? Well, the answer will be different for every person and likely change from situation to situation. That said, here are a couple suggestions to get you started.

Have defined goals. This can be that you want to get in an hour/2 hours/6 hours (whatever) of writing time everyday. Then you guard that time and give yourself permission to let everything else go for that block of time. Or you could say you want to write X number of words each day and let that goal drive you forward.

Fall in love again. If, despite your best efforts and dedicated “attendance” at work, things just aren’t working, step back, open a new file/grab a sheet of paper, and jot down what got you excited about this writing project in the first place. What makes your story unique. What attracts you to your characters? Get yourself excited with the story again and words will likely start to flow again.

Change your scenery. Sometimes change can refresh a situation that’s gone stale. Try switching where/when/how you write and see if the words start flowing again. (But don’t spend all of your writing time looking for the prefect setting to write.)

Hang out with other writers. Now again, don’t let this eat up your writing time, but sometimes some camaraderie can make the next time you go to sit in front of your computer a little easier. If you have a critique group¬† or just some local writing friends, that’s perfect. If not, check out some online communities. The support and understanding of your peers can go a long way.

Give yourself permission to be less than perfect. The pressure to write the RIGHT words can sometimes get in the way of writing ANY words. The great thing about writing is that you get to edit those words before anyone has to see them. Dialogue just isn’t snappy enough? That’s okay. Unlike real life where we only get one chance to sound brilliant, we can come back to that line of dialogue later and rework it.

Read a good book (though not in your writing time). Like the suggestion to fall in love with your story again, this one is about falling in love with the magic of books. Reading a good book can remind us of why we’re going back to the computer every day (You know, besides the fact that the kids have to eat and the mortgage has to be paid.)¬†

Okay, that is rounding out to a pretty good list, but please, if you have suggestions of things to do to make showing up to ‘work’ each day a little easier, do share.

Good writing everyone!

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7 comments to Sometimes it’s hard

  • Inspiring post, Kalayna, and always timely. I’d like to second the suggestion to join a writers group. I love my WIP and I usually don’t have trouble getting hands on keyboard, but there are times when I do more beating my head against the wall than writing. My writers group meets weekly. I go most weeks and *always* come home inspired. Members give suggestions for making things better and fully explain why things don’t seem to work. We can discuss suggestions in real time. Even when we don’t review something of mine, interaction like that can’t help but rev my engine.If your group doesn’t inspire you, find one that does because it’s truly priceless.

    Additional suggestion: Do research. This may not apply to everybody, but I find that when I get into research, fresh scenes start to pop into my head or I think of ways to improve existing scenes.

    Another suggestion, and my favorite: I call it an “internal writing prompt.” Pick a moment that you know isn’t appropriate for including in the story. Some bit of backstory that keeps popping into your head but you keep shoving away because you know you don’t have a place for it. Open a new file and run with it. Explore your favorite characters. The pressure’s off because this is *just for you*. You can overuse ‘was’ or anything and it doesn’t matter, because nobody’s going to see the scene. Take it as far as you can.

    That accomplishes more than one thing: You get to know the characters better, you have the bones of scene that might wind up fitting into the WIP after all, and you’re writing. I sometimes do consciously work on dialogue and narrative as if it was going into the WIP, but I don’t take it to the same level.It may take a few days, but that always brings me back to my WIP.

  • Hi Kalayna! Thanks for the tips.

    Because of my schedule and my (admitted) ADD, I’ve started scheduling myself writing time. I parse out not only my lunch-hours through the week (m-w: writing; th: blog; f: gym), but also my evenings. It helps me keep track of what podcasts and stories I’ve worked on, and it gives me the small senses of accomplishment that help me keep motivated. The actual WORK doesn’t get lost in the jumble of everyday life, and I can show myself that I’m not just being lazy. I have worked. That helps, because I wasn’t aware, before starting this, that I actually do as much work as I do, and the reason it’s taking so long is because I have a lot of projects.

    Working on so many things consistently has become much easier since I started with the schedule. I also feel better about myself–less scattered. If I decide to skip an evening of writing so I can relax after a stressful day at work, I don’t feel bad because I can look at all the times I’ve actually done it. I can also give up something else (like working on my blog, or hanging out with friends on friday night) to make up for that time. The situation doesn’t become a downward-spiral of self-disappointment and rebellious guilt.

    Thanks for sharing today. :)

  • <> Lovelovelove this! Yes! Do this! Of all your post, this resonated most with me.

    And like your other suggestion about writing an out-of-book scene, if you feel doubt, write a scene that hurts. Write the scene that made your character who he is, the painful moment in childhood that you allude to through the book but haven’t actually writen. That turning point scene. I recently did that with the Jane Yellowrock novels and it was eye-opening and mind-blowing. And it was so good that it has pushed the series into darker waters in many ways. It was stuff I never knew about her. The scene picks apart why Jane is so full of guilt about everything, and has such an overwhelming sense of responsibility for everything. It fulfilled the character. And it made me fall in love all over again. :)

  • Oh! Also, I wanted to say that I totally agree with the “change up your setting” thing. My roommate and I recently decided not to go to the coffee shop near our house, but to one downtown instead, and the change of setting was the perfect jog for creativity.

  • Gypsyharper

    Wonderful post. It’s easy for me to say to myself “if you want to write, you must put your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard,” but harder to actually do it some days. Having some specific ideas to motivate myself to do that is really helpful. Right now I’m using my lunch hour for research – it’s definitely helping to spark some new ideas for my WIP, which was stuck, stuck, stuck! I love the ideas of the ‘internal writing prompt’ and exploring those painful back story moments as well.

    Meeting with a writing group can definitely be inspiring as well. We always do a 10-15 minute prompt at the beginning of our meeting and then read them aloud. I’ve actually got a couple of interesting ideas I want to pursue from those sessions, plus it’s really fun to hear what different people come up with for the same prompt.

  • I don’t have anything new to offer, but I REALLY appreciate all of the tips! The one slight twist I have to setting goals is to set weekly goals rather than daily goals. I’ve found that setting up an amount of time per week to write (or prepare for classes/grade papers, exercise, whatever) works better for me than setting up specific times each day. I tend to resist schedules, so this allows me a little leeway while still holding myself accountable for a certain amount of work each week.

  • sagablessed

    My biggest issue is I need to change the scenery; I did not realise it until I read the post. I have been feeling like I am in a rut, and when I read this…. BAM! I understood why. Nice post, and thank you for it. Goals…working on that one. Life seems to be getting in the way, lol.