How do people do it–write 5,000 words per week, crank out dozens of short stories, or even a novel per year? They must have a secret formula. Some cerebral superiority, or maybe high tech software that prods them when they aren’t looking. The rest of us lowly writing humanoids need a plan. A REAL, honest to goodness plan. So here it is. A plan to help you ditch your crappy writing habits and get cranking.
Take a good look at your habits. Do you spend half of your alotted time screwing around on the internet, texting, or wandering away from your desk to refill your coffee mug? Do you hit your snooze button 17 times, missing your 5 a.m. wake-up call? Be HONEST about your pitfalls. Now work around them.
I can hardly concentrate after eight p.m., therefore, I never schedule writing time in the evenings. Social media is actually FUN for me. This means I have to UNPLUG the modem in my house at times or work in locations sans internet. I love to distract myself with food so I pack snacks to avoid getting up. My phone is my fifth appendage, so I turn it off. I’ve learned to be honest about my habits to create productive blocks of writing time.
Devise a Schedule
Make a list of times you’re most alert–when you can actually feel the creative juices oozing between your ears. If you aren’t able to write during those times every day, choose the next best option and nail the time slots down. Do not budge on those blocks of time for ANY reason.
Be Reasonable. If you can only write for two hours effectively, then don’t set aside four hours. The last two hours of spinning your wheels will leave you frustrated.
Do a Warm-Up
Before each session, do a warm-up activity to gain your focus. Scan through the next couple of scenes (or notes for a scene) you need to revise or write. Then, on a notepad, jot down a rough outline of what you will cover in this particular time block. Spend 5-10 minutes listing important points and then begin. It’s incredible how much a short amount of direction-focused time helps get the creative machine roaring.
If I finish this scene, I get a piece of chocolate. If I finish these ten pages, I get a glass of wine. If I finish this chapter, I get a trip to Tahiti. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.
Schedule a Write-In
Remember those lock-ins from high school? Everyone stayed up all night eating pizza, throwing water balloons, and playing Capture the Flag in the dark. A few unruly teens would stray under the bleachers and grope each other until a teacher came by with a flashlight and flushed them out. Yeah those.
A write-in won’t be as memorable, but far more worthwhile. This is a great way to connect with other writers, break out of writer’s block, or find a critique partner. Gather at least one other writer (or as many as possible) and select a meeting place. Make a chart of individual goals, as well as a group goal. Get the coffee pot going. Disconnect the internet. And GO! Camaraderie may be just the bit of inspiration you need. And, hey, make it a weekly/monthly thing if you can swing it.
Live your Life
If the words won’t come no matter what you do, put down your proverbial plume. Live your life. Do something active. Watch a movie. Read a book. Travel. Fill yourself up with life’s moments; hard work, the dull routine, pleasure. The words will trickle back, slowly, or maybe even flood your being, once you’re full of life again.
The key is to know yourself and try many tricks until something sticks–then make a routine. Good luck with your writing goals in 2012.
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