Like so many things that fall victim to our modern action-packed lifestyles, writing can all too easily be consigned to the wish list of life.
Though I live to write, and I am practically super glued to my blogs and the novel I am working on, I have been guilty of seeing writing as an extravagance I will indulge when time permits. But as we all know, unless something is made a priority, time will never be found to do even the things we love doing.
Regardless of what causes us to forgo our love of writing for paying bills, or taking out the garbage, we need to make writing less an aspirational pursuit and more of actual activity. That will only happen if we take deliberate steps to weave it into the fabric of our day, and write come what may.
So here’s five things I have found that works wonders for me and will hopefully kick start your writing momentum into the New Year:
1. Make writing a part of your day-to-day life.
In the same way you make time to eat breakfast or watch that favourite TV show, make time to write. Set aside a particular time, and make sure that it’s inviolable in terms of any competing priorities gazumping it.
Here’s an example of something similar being built into my everyday routine that worked a treat. I used to struggle to exercise, always making excuses that I was too tired, or that there was a threat of an impending zombie apocalypse to get out of doing it. But when I finally decided enough was enough, I got up an hour earlier each day, stuck to my decision to exercise then, and lo and behold, I had an ongoing exercise regimen.
This can work well for your writing too, and in fact, I have done much the same thing with my writing time. It now happens far more than it ever did before, and it’s simply because it’s as much a part of my life as exercising or eating breakfast.
2. Write regardless of inspiration.
I am not sure if it’s because I am a hopeless romantic, but I always imagine that every time I write, it is because I am divinely inspired or in ‘the zone’.
But the truth is I often struggle to get going, even when inspired by an idea, and it takes time to get up a creative head of steam. The key here is to keep writing and don’t let the fact that words aren’t divinely flowing from you dissuade you from writing that day.
Maybe everything you write that day won’t be the best thing ever committed to paper. Perhaps it will be like dragging blood from the proverbial. Or maybe, and this has happened to me more times than I can count, you will break through the struggle barrier and write something amazing. You can never be sure that’s what’s going to happen, but I write on the difficult days as if it will.
3. Don’t wait for an idea to strike before writing.
This may sound like odd advice. Why bother writing at all if you don’t know exactly what you’re writing about?
Well because sometimes when you simply start out writing with nothing but a murky concept, and maybe not even that, you can surprise yourself with the ideas that form. Vague ideas can be firm concepts quickly when your creative mind starts firing away, which it usually does when you start playing around with words, no matter how directionless initially.
I found this borne out when I was involved in NaNoWriMo last year. For those that aren’t familiar with it, you commit to writing a novel in the month of November, come rain, hail or shine. The focus isn’t on producing a polished manuscript but the raw guts of one, and the encouragement is just to write. It is scary and challenging, but ultimately liberating, as many times you are just forced to write and see what happens.
4. Try writing something other than the Great [insert country here] Novel.
If you’re anything like me, you will subconsciously see your novel as a high and lofty calling and all other writing as somehow inferior by comparison.
But that’s not the way to think about it. Sure you want to get the novel written, and every day it doesn’t happen is a day you’re name isn’t writ large across the New York Times bestseller lists. It’s great to make it a priority and if it really matters to you, it should be.
That doesn’t mean though that anything else you write isn’t as important. I have come belatedly to regard my blog writing as every bit as important as the novel I am trying to finish editing. My blogs give me the chance to flex my creative muscle and, by so doing, the novel, when I get the chance to work on it, benefits. Writing blogs, funny short stories, whatever you want to, is every bit as important as the main writing goal you may have at the time, and you should value it every bit as much.
5. Get your friends and family involved in the process.
I don’t mean have them standing over your shoulder watching every keystroke with fevered intensity. That would be weird anyway and at six in the morning when I am usually writing, it would be damn near freakish.
No, what I am suggesting is letting them know that you are writing as much as you can, and that you have x or y goal in mind. You may fear being that creatively exposed to someone, but not one of my friends nagged or cajoled me to keep writing any point. What they did do was ask me how I was going from time to time and those gentle enquiries kept me motivated in part to keep working away at my manuscript.
It was invaluable encouragement and made such a difference to my writing.
So there you are. They’re simple things but they can make a profound difference to the way you approach your writing. Hopefully you will find your writing became far less aspirational and much more actual, and that can only be a good thing.