Sunday, May 15, 2011

Forcing Yourself to Write

By making some hard choices and enlisting the help of the people around you, you've finally managed to carve out a regular writing time.  You've shoved your family out the door, earning yourself a few grumbles and some precious quietude.

The only problem is that this writing time, at its inception, is merely a block of time put down on paper.  To actually use the time to write, that's another thing.

If you're like me, this quiet time may just serve to remind you of how messy the house actually is when its usual occupants aren't physically blocking the piles of dirty dishes and unwashed clothes.  I might even find myself using my infrequent hours of having the house to myself to clean it up.

Don't do it!

Your sudden urge to clean may just be another procrastination tactic.  If you make yourself too busy for your muse to find you -- you'll get to your writing later, you promise her -- you may never find the time.

Now you have the time.  Use it productively.

If you wait for the mood to strike, you will never finish your manuscript.  Writing according to mood leaves you completely at the mercy of your muse, who may be moody, fickle or simply lazy.  In fact, you may have to choke the dear lady into submission, as I have had occasion to do.

My muse is fairly tame.  Most times, she listens to me and I don't have to resort to violent acts against her.  But everyone has those days when they can't, just can't write.  The problem is when those days fall within your writing times.  You have the opportunity to write but you just can't utilize it.

Below are some tactics I've used to force myself to write.

  • Set a timer: Big blocks of time can be intimidating.  You're supposed to spend how much time writing?  If you have two hours for writing today, break that time up into blocks where you want to only be writing, hands on keyboard.  Try setting aside that smaller block by using an egg timer or your smartphone alarm for fifteen or twenty minutes.  Keep your head down for that time.  Put your fingers on the keys.  Write.  Write something, anything.  You may find that time slipping by.  At the end of the allotted small block, take a short break.  Then go back to the timer and set yourself another writing period.
  • Close the door: Even in an empty house, the distractions loom.  Try physically cutting yourself off from that pile of dirty dishes or that phone that may be bound to ring.  It's easier to ignore something when you've given yourself the permission to do so and that closed door is a physical reminder of that permission you've given yourself.
  • Close the windows:  Sitting down in front of your computer may not be enough.  Your computer is full of distractions.  The internet.  Twitter.  Facebook.  They all want your attention and you must push them all aside.  This is your writing time.  Social media can wait.  Make sure that the only window that's up on your screen is the piece of writing you're working on.  Leaving that little tab you can easily click on may be too much of a temptation.  Tell your Facebook and Twitter friends that you will be writing today or for the next few hours.  They may urge you on or even call you out if you log back on.
Yes, my muse may not be in her best shape when I make her do my bidding.  She may be slow to start and lethargic even when she gets going but my theory has always been that writing feeds writing.  Bad writing at the beginning of your writing session may turn into perfectly good first draft pages by the end of your hour, your afternoon or your day.

Do what you must to preserve your writing time and when it comes around, make sure you are actually writing!

Photo courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at

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