Image: Hypnotic spiral
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I love writing. Mostly. I do it every day. Usually.
When you make a living as a writer, you have to do it every day--even if you don’t feel like it. And, believe me, there are days when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I forget that writing is like any other job. Some days you wake up happy to be employed, and other days you’d rather lie in bed and watch a season of Mad Men on your iPad. It’s okay to not want to work. But, like any other job, we have to figure out ways to do it anyway.
The blessing and the curse of being a freelance writer is you don’t have anyone holding you accountable on those less-than-productive days. So I’ve picked up a few tricks that keep me on the right track when those days inevitably come.
Jedi Mind Tricks
If I know I must write, I’ll often unconsciously figure out ways to escape situations that usually lead to writing. The laptop stays in another room. I resist getting dressed because that leads to professionalism. I avoid the upright chairs in the dining room at all costs.
Yes, I’ve become adept at avoiding writerly situations so I have to trick myself into thinking that I’m not actually assuming the writing position. I can start by holding the laptop on the couch. Or maybe go for a run, which means I’ll have to shower and get dressed (all steps leading to the eventual goal).
Another mind trick I perform is telling myself that I’m only going to write one paragraph and then stop. In the back of my mind, I know that getting over the first hump will break the resistance. One paragraph usually leads to more.
By entering the writing process from the back door, I’m less likely to put up a fight.
On the other hand, sometimes a writing ritual is just what the doctor ordered. Mine is always a cup of steaming hot, black coffee and headphones. If I sit down at my table and sip coffee while listening to music for a few minutes, my mind usually begins to respond to the stimuli that it remembers from past experience. The words soon follow.
Also, I just love coffee. It’s a reward for the weary mind.
Speaking of which, I’ve written many a paper strictly because of the reward system I put in place granted myself breaks at certain checkpoints. In fact, that was pretty much how I survived graduate school.
My reward system worked particularly well when I used to smoke cigarettes. Two pages and then a smoke. That’s motivation right there. I gave up that habit so now I have to find other rewards like walks or desserts. It really does help keep me going when I have something to look forward to.
Good Prewriting Strategies
Nothing makes writing harder than staring at a blank screen with no idea what to type. Talk about paralyzing. I’ve found that if I lay out some good notes before beginning, it makes the actual writing part much easier. Seems obvious, but I didn’t always do it.
I’m always on the lookout for tools that make prewriting easier and more fun. I’ve actually just learned about an extension for Google Chrome that does just that. It’s called Dash Notes and it saves your finds to the new tab page in your browser. Gone are the dozens of open tabs I used to keep. Dash Notes pins everything for future reference in neat little tiles. When it’s time to write, all of my notes and web pages are organized neatly for me. Pretty useful little writing tool.
Those are a few of the ways I keep the words flowing even when I don’t feel like it. What works for you?