Get on Your Butt and Write!
We as writers have ideas flowing around our heads. Some of us have even gotten to the point where those ideas are on paper. But why is it that writers so rarely turn those brilliant book ideas into … actual books?
We all face the never-ending list of ideas that never lead to actual writing. These ideas only lead to ideas continuously building on each other. What needs to happen is something every writer I have met seems to avoid: sitting down and writing.
As simple as that sounds, it can be pretty tough. To help you as you face this common writer’s struggle, this article gives you ten tips on buckling down for the daunting process of actually writing.
1. Give up on perfectionism.
You will not have perfect prose your first time writing. You won’t. I’m sorry that we have that idea in our brains, but it just isn’t going to happen. At some point, you’ll have to transform those wonderful ideas into a messy, flawed reality. It doesn’t matter if you can’t spell. It doesn’t matter what the grammar is like. You can do all of the editing later. For now, just write.
2. Pick a single idea.
Part of the dilemma for writers is that we so often get overloaded with the sheer number of ideas. In response, the best idea is usually to just pick an idea or scene. You don’t have to decide where it fits in the grand scheme of things yet, and you don’t have to plan your entire novel before you can write that brilliant scene that you thought up at three in the morning. In fact, writing the scenes you’re excited about will often give you the momentum you need to figure out the rest.
3. Set a goal.
You can write for a set amount of time, or you can go for word count. Pick a goal that challenges you. Your ideas won’t grow when they are confined by easy limits. Set a goal, but don’t be afraid to change it. If twenty minutes or 500 words is too much then change it to something more manageable; or if ten minutes or 250 words is too easy then push yourself harder, goals need to fit you and your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to change it.
4. Set up an accountability system.
Now that you have your goal, find a way to help yourself consistently meet it. There are a lot of different ways to do this. You can get a friend to remind you everyday to write (you could use email, texting, phone calls, or even in person to accomplish this), or you can set an alarm and stop what you’re doing and write. Automatic email notifications are also helpful, which you can do through Google. Word counters can be helpful especially when working together with others. As long as you are giving yourself something to keep you writing, you can’t go wrong.
5. Set up a ritual.
Many writers, and other people, use a ritual to get their mind and body ready to write. You can, like a good friend of mine does, get a cup of herbal tea. Or you can get a cup of coffee. You can also set aside an area of a desk or room that is meant for writing, so every time you write there it will condition your mind to get into the creative mindset.
6. Block out distractions.
Turn off your phone or at least silence it. Turn off your internet if applicable. Play music from something that, preferably, doesn’t have commercials and put it away from your writing place so you avoid playing with the controls. Be alone. I understand that if you have children or work, then this is difficult. You can write at night or just get some solitude to write.
7. Don’t get caught up in reading/looking up sources.
Yes, other works have value. If you are writing and want to research things, then make a note and continue writing. There is nothing more derailing then getting caught in a good book or a source that is related to your work and wasting writing time on researching the details. Which you will be if you are writing about an idea you have.
8. Always have something on hand to write with.
You can bring a notebook or laptop around with you to keep your mind ready to jot down an idea or a plot point. You can have your notes full of prompts, so that you can write while waiting to do other things.
9. Give yourself a deadline.
Though last minute pressure can help with some writing, it isn’t recommended to use that for getting yourself into the habit. It is, however, a good way to get started on something. So, if you can trick yourself into that mindset by setting a deadline for your own work, then go for it.
10. Find your own way.
This list is not a rule book. These are guidelines and tips. Some of these might not work for you, while others may be the best help to getting you started on writing. Personally, I don’t have a ritual, but I carry around a notebook to write ideas down or continue on whatever I was working on when I left the house.
And remember, if you’ve found something that works especially well for you, share it with the rest of us by leaving a comment on this article!
Standing here at the crossroads, we have to make a choice. Pick one of these things to work on: Set a goal, get a location where you want to write, or carry around a notebook, and start building the habit of actually writing. These skills only diminish from lack of use. Good luck on your writing journey. Now … get on your butt and write!