Monday, April 25, 2011

Hard Choices, or Making Yourself Write When You Don't Want To

Today, I have a choice.  It's the same choice I face every day, in fact.  Should I come home and do what my body and brain tell me, which is zone out in front of the television or computer and wait for bedtime to come?  Or should I force myself, against all of my natural inclinations, to get up off of the couch and do something?

I'll tell you, most of the time, inertia wins.

I've worked a long day at a job that takes some brain power, sitting in front of a screen for much of the time, giving advice, answering correspondence, and generally tiring myself out.

Don't get me wrong, I like my job!  I like it even more for the fact that, without it, I would starve.  But the love of my life is my writing.

If someone told me tomorrow that I would have the choice of doing my job or not, and I would still get paid for it, I would stop showing up to work every morning.  But if that same omnipotent person told me to write or not, and I wouldn't get paid for it either way, I would keep writing.  Actually, that's what I do.  I write.  I don't get paid.  I write some more.  I dream of getting paid (or at last garnering some attention).  I don't get paid.  Oh well.  I still write.

Someone will have to pry that pen (mouse, keyboard...whatever) from my cold dead hand.

So why would I even question giving over the few free hours I have each day to my writing?  I love it.  It gives me pleasure.  It's just who I am.  Yet, every day, I want to stay in front of the t.v.  Every day, I have to fight with myself to write.

When I force myself to write, you would think that would make writing less enjoyable.  It doesn't.

So, how do I force myself?  Here are a few of the tactics that have worked (sometimes!) for me:
    • Make it a habit - Once you start off on Monday with thirty minutes of writing, it's easy to follow that up on Tuesday and Wednesday and so on, until it becomes ingrained.  I've read that it takes anywhere from 15 to 30 repetitions to make an action into a real habit.  Treat it the way you would when you break a bad habit.  Put it in the front of your brain.  Inertia will eventually start working for you, leading your feet automatically to the study/ den and your fingers to the keyboard.  Try it.  Keep at it.  And don't get disheartened when you miss a day (or ten).  Just start over again.
    • Make it routine - Routine and habit are closely related but this is a different tactic from the one I suggested above.  The way I've broken it down is this: habit is about getting your body used to doing something, routine is about slotting the time for that habit into your life.  No time in your busy schedule, you say?  Yeah, right.  If you say you can't find the time to write, I say: do you take a bus or train in the mornings?  Write during that time.  Pull out your notebook or laptop or even your smartphone and type, type, type.  You may get in a page or a paragraph or a sentence but it's something.  If you drive to work, use your breaks, use your lunch hour.  Get into work a half hour earlier and use that time.  Your boss will think you're a superstar.  Do you watch t.v.?  Do you surf the net?  Do you twitter?  Then you have the time.  You only have to carve it out and dedicate it to your writing.
    • Set yourself a reminder - Set your phone or computer with an alarm that tells you when it's time to write.  If you're living in 1985, set your clock radio.  Put the device sounding the alarm far enough from you that you actually have to get up off the couch to turn it off.  Once you're on your feet, you will find it easier to continue on to your writing nook rather than returning to the couch.  Trust me.
    • Tell the world - Your friends and family are just as tired of hearing you whine about needing to find the time to write as you are worrying and whining about it.  Get them on your side.  Tell them what you've set out as your writing schedule and get them to help to remind and encourage you to go.  They will be happy to see you happily typing away.  And not whining as much.  I'm just saying.
These are some of the cheats that have worked for me.  You may find some of them more or less helpful but, please, try them.  Trust me, the couch could use a break.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of luigi diamanti at

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