Online advice mostly arrives at the same conclusions: schedule your writing sessions, work in short bursts and above all – cut out distractions. In other words: make time. Deep down, we know what to do. Yet we resist. Why? Since no one asked, here’s my two pence on the subject…
Make time assumes that if we weren’t so busy wasting time at work, sleeping or watching Netflix we would have penned ten bestsellers already. Make time assumes that the only thing between us and creative success is a rearranging of priorities. But maybe there are other forces at work?
What about the gravitational pull of poverty, depression, anxiety and self-doubt? It’s hard to believe in your creative abilities when you’ve given up on yourself. An anxious mind will find the task of completing a novel overwhelming. Writing is another unjustifiable luxury if it doesn’t pay the bills. Make time is hopeless when an omnipresent, self-sabotaging voice discourages you from ever trying. Under such profoundly negative forces, the short-term dopamine hit of a Netflix binge becomes inevitable.
Being shamed for these addictions doesn’t help either. I’m no expert, but kindness and understanding might go a long way. Over the years I’ve developed some gentle habits that have helped me set pen to paper, which I’d like to share with you today.
I used to come home from work no better than a zombified Podling stripped of its essence. Yet I’d force myself to plough on with my manuscript, hating every second. I longed for the comfort of a good book but believed that if I wasn’t putting words on the page then I was a failure.
Yet my desire to write comes from a love of reading. And only by reading do we learn our craft as writers. As Stephen King says:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
Rather than go cold turkey on evening entertainment altogether, an hour of Netflix could be replaced with an hour of reading. You’ll get energised for your own story and be entertained into the bargain.
2. Expand your definition of writing
Writing is more than pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Some of my best ideas happen when I’m walking, showering or doing the dishes. If you allowed for time spent daydreaming, you probably spend more hours writing than you think.
Brainstorming is another great activity to try when you feel low on inspiration or motivation. Grab a notebook, pen and large cup of tea, set a timer for twenty minutes and start asking questions. It’s amazing how much of your story you can uncover in a short time. Then, when energy and time allows you to write, you’ll find all the pieces are in place.
Keeping a writer’s notebook does two things for me. First, it helps me believe in my creativity - there’s no bigger confidence boost than a notebook bursting with ideas.
Secondly, it silences my inner critic. I record bits of dialogue, description and ideas without questioning if they’re good enough – it’s only a note to self!
4. Keep a diary
Another option is to keep a diary. Maybe you struggle to write because you’re afraid of what someone thinks? A diary for your eyes only removes this obstacle. Journaling your thoughts is also a good way to purge any self-doubt that might get in the way of your writing.
5. Be kind
The most soul crushing thing you can do to yourself is demand perfection. The more you write the more you’ll improve. It’s a case of closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, and that only happens by creating a body of work. Fill up those notebook pages. Don’t let perfectionism slow you down!
Writing affirmations help counter your inner critic. Pin this above your desk:
6. Only you can write this book
If you have a scarcity mindset (like me) it’s easy to feel like everything’s been said already, there’s a limit on achievement or another writer’s success pushes your dreams further away. Nothing could be less true.
I love the saying a rising tide lifts all boats.
Humans have yet to tire of stories. Appetites for new tales only increases. Try to see the success of other writers as a win for yourself. And remember that whatever it is you’re creating will be a product of your unique influences and experiences. No one else can write your book.
7. Little and often
You’ll be surprised how quickly the habit of writing little and often boosts your confidence. Twenty minutes here and there or an hour every weeknight is less daunting than Sunday writing marathons. If you only wrote one page per day that’s thirty pages at the end of the month. Multiply that by the number of months in a year and you’ve almost got a novel. Encouraging, isn’t it?
I don’t think this post is anything ground breaking but I hope it’s at least shown that there are kinder routes to developing a writing habit.