Can we be real for a second?
Sometimes it’s more fun to talk about writing than to do the actual writing itself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the words are flowing and you feel like a genius and you think, “Look out, Hollywood, you have no idea what’s coming your way, this is sooo gonna lead to a seven-movie deal and a house on an island.” And then other times, you’d rather clean a 400-foot litter box than write one more word.
Oh, it’s fun to talk about the book you’ll write some day. It’s fun to call ourselves writers and talk about our story ideas, that’s for sure. But there are times when you sit down to write…and then jump up and do about 80 things besides putting words on the digital (or literal) page.
But here’s the secret: once you start the writing process, you’re almost guaranteed to keep writing until something decent appears. And even if the words don’t come out looking decent (even if they come out looking so ugly, you’re scared that looking at them will turn you to stone), hey, that’s where editing comes galloping in.
So the trick is to just do it to it, right? To just start the darn thing?
But sometimes that’s the biggest hurdle. So I trick myself occasionally into starting. (I’m way too naive to realize I’m being tricked, even by myself.)
Here are five things I do to jump start my day’s writing process, and maybe one or two of them will work for you. Sometimes doing just one gets me going, and some days I’m a complete monster and have to try almost all five.
1) Make your bed. Look, I know there are some of you out there that have your bed made before your feet even hit the floor in the morning. (The Army called – they miss your work ethic.) And there are some of you who probably haven’t made your bed since you were 7. No judgments either way. But I’ve noticed something interesting: the second I get my bed made in the morning (or afternoon, sometimes coffee and Twitter come first), I feel different. Just looking at that newly-made bed gives me energy and I kind of want to do other productive things. Just try it.
2) Brew up your favorite drink. Or pop open a can, or open the bottle (again, no judgments on this blog). Whatever you love to drink, drink it while you work. For instance, before starting this blog post, I made a pourover cup of strong black coffee and brewed two mugs of hot tea. As soon as I sat all three of those delectable drinks beside my laptop, I was good to go.
3) Plan rewards for reaching certain goals. This may sound crazy, but sometimes I won’t let myself do certain fun things until I’ve accomplished at least something writing-related that day. Like right now, for instance. There’s an Xbox One game I’d really like to be playing – it’s poetry/fairytale-centered and I have a little tutorial pulled up on my phone to help me get all the achievements as I go along. I’d also like to put on Bob’s Burgers for a little while because something is wrong with me lately where I can’t stop watching that show. But, strict dictator that I am, I’m not going to do either of those things until I finish this blog post and then edit the first two chapters of my novel. Whatever works, right?
4) Look at fun ways to spend authorly riches. Hey, we can dream right? We all know that writing isn’t actually a get-rick-quick sort of deal, but the more books/stories you put out there, and the better they are, the better your chances of making a good living from this hobby/torture we all love. My personal favorite indulgence is travel, but you can pick anything you want, you grown-up person, you. There is nothing that makes me want money more than getting online and looking at beach condos, cabins in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Broadway shows in NYC, and so on. There are so many wonderful things out there that I want to see and do, but it’s up to me to go see/do them. And first, I have to make the money to go. Trust me, ten minutes on Priceline and I’m full of inspiration and energy to polish up my book and make it agent-ready.
5) Tell someone you’re working on your book/blog/whatever you’re writing. This is the meanest thing I do to myself, because I know that once I tell someone that I’m editing/writing, I’ll feel enormous amounts of self-hating guilt until I actually break down and, yep, edit and write. It’s the same trick people advise you to use when losing weight – if you tell your Facebook friends, co-workers, whoever that you’re planning to lose 20 pounds in 6 months, then you’d best get moving buddy, because they’re expecting you to be looking fine in half a year.
Those are just a few ways I motivate myself to start writing, but I’m sure there are hundreds more I’ve never even thought about. I’m always looking for new ways to force myself into being a functional human being, so I’d love for any of you to share any of your tricks with me. Do you try any of these things on yourself? Do you go gentler on yourself? Tougher? Let me know!