There are as many different ways to approach writing a book as there are individuals capable of reinventing the process. By no means am I suggesting my way is the only or best way (because that’s ridiculous) but if you find yourself procrastinating, stuck, or just plain unable to get to your writing lately, my hope is that you’ll find a suggestion or two here that can help you out. Because it’s impossible to write a book that you never show up for, today I’m sharing my top five tips for getting yourself to the page
Write Early in the Day: First Thing
It’s true, books can be written at any time of the day. But if you find yourself always making “I swear I’ll will write today” promises to yourself that you never or rarely seem to keep, try writing first thing in the morning. Before you check your phone, open social media, work out, make breakfast…before you do anything that will pull you out of that near sleep/dream headspace, sit down and commit to writing for at least 30 minutes. If you have young kids or have to get ready for a day job, get up an hour earlier than usual in order to give yourself some time and space to create in peace before the day steamrolls all over your creativity.
Create a Writing Habit: Write Every Day
Maybe you’ve simply been away from your story too long. Or too many days pass in between your writing days. Either way, you find yourself having to regularly play catch up with your book to rediscover where you’ve left off. You spend all your precious writing time refiguring where you are and so you’re unable to make as much progress during that time as you could if this weren’t an issue. By committing to a daily routine you will always be up to speed with your story. You don’t have to write a ton of words for this to work, even 100 words a day would keep you in the flow of your timeline and plot. The point is that you’re in connection with your book every day.
Keep Your Book With You: In Your Head And In Your Hands
Even though my writing career has run parallel to working a full-time job and raising a family, when I’m working on a new book, it’s a priority for me. I often will carry my laptop with me and write during my lunch hour at work. When my kids were little, I would often write while they were at sports practices or while waiting for them in that enormous pick-up line at school. Whether you type or handwrite, taking your book with you throughout your day allows you to take advantage of downtime throughout your day. Even if it’s only 15-20 minutes, it’s keeping you in your story and you’ll probably be surprised at how many words you can write during that time. Years and years ago I used to write on a desktop machine…I would always have my most recent couple of chapters printed out and that way I could handwrite the next scene or two onto those pages. I would then type it into Word later in the evening.
Minimize Distractions, Especially Your Favorites
Unless you are published and actively marketing yourself and your book that already exists, social media is an enemy of your writing. Maybe you are the rare individual that is capable of honestly only spending a few minutes on each platform just to keep up, and if so, this advice isn’t for you. But if like so many others, myself included, you find 5-10 minutes of scrolling magically leading to a lost 1-2 hours, well then that’s 1-2 hours (maybe more) of valuable time that was spent wasted instead of working on your book. This holds true for Netflix, Hulu, internet news…however you spend your free time, if you really want to write that book and finish it then you’re going to need to work on developing some internet/media self-discipline. One trick you might try is the If/Then strategy. IF you write for ______ number of minutes, THEN you can watch/check ___________ for ___________ number of minutes. Note: this only works if the reward FOLLOWS the writing. And you MUST stop watching and scrolling when your stated time is up.
Invariably there comes a time with every book (for me it’s usually somewhere around the middle) where we stop and think, “What the hell am I doing? What is this book even about? Why am I wasting my time? This is terrible. I’m terrible. The world is already filled to overflowing with books, who even cares if I write one more?” And at the bottom of this negative spiral is generally when the writing is in danger of stopping. DON’T. STOP. These negative feelings almost always pass, but if we’ve allowed ourselves to wallow (and I have wallowed, believe me) two things happen. One: you step away from the story and lose the continuity and flow. Two: you waste time that could have been spent working on your book. Weeks, months even may pass before you decide you’re being ridiculous. Once the depressive clouds lift from your brain you’ll realize you don’t care how many other books already exist, you STILL want to write THIS book and you’ll get excited about it again. When this happens to me, I return to my pages but discover I’ve lost my way and have to find the thread again. If I hadn’t stopped writing and instead continued to push past my feelings, I could be 1-2 months closer to a completed draft instead of exactly where I was sixty days ago. You started writing your book for a reason. You were excited to tell this story and you believed in it enough to begin. The doubt that trickles in while we’re crafting that first draft seems to be a fairly normal part of the process. Don’t let it sidetrack you and knock you completely off course. Remember, we all have to go back and make our books better once that first draft is complete anyway. And we can’t fix what we don’t allow to exist in the first place.